Seriously God? Wk 3: God, You Let Me Down.
We are in the third week of our message series for Lent called Seriously, God? Making Sense When Life Doesn’t Make Sense. It is a series that makes sense in today’s confusing world.
Two weeks ago, we introduced three principles to keep in mind through the series.
One, it makes sense that God doesn’t make sense to us because God is all-powerful and all-knowing; of course, he does not always think as we think and act as we would act.
Second, when God does not make sense, we can grow in our understanding of God because he has revealed himself to us through the scriptures and the person of Jesus Christ.
Third, be careful not to confuse God not making sense with life not making sense.
Last week, we looked at how to make sense of it when God says no. Jesus shows us that God’s No’s are to help us live in true freedom—freedom from being enslaved to our desires, evil, and the opinions and whims of other people. If you want to review any of these ideas, you can find them on our website saintmary.life
This week we examine the times we feel as if God let us down: the promises of life where maybe we feel like God did not deliver; or when God allows major problems in our lives that derail our deepest desires. We set our hearts on a dream; we face insurmountable problems, and maybe we feel God does not care. We set out in a direction that seems wise, and then a massive storm or situation crashes into our lives, and God does not seem to care. Also evil still seems pervasive in the world. Because God allows evil in the world, and the other things we mentioned, we may sometimes begin to doubt God’s goodness.
Throughout the first book of the bible, Genesis, we learn the problem of evil can’t be solved simply by wiping all the evil, or bad people, off the earth. The problem of evil, the problem of sin, goes much deeper. Evil lives in the human heart. The human race doesn’t know its Creator, its Maker. This grieves God’s heart because God desires every human being to know him.
Therefore, God decides to form a right relationship with one person. And through this one person, he is going to bring blessing to the whole world. Rather than solve the problem of evil in one fell swoop, God will begin with one person and spread out his righteousness and goodness.
The person God chooses is Abram who is later called Abraham. There is something about Abram—a fact that needs to be deeply understood, or the rest of his story will not make sense. Abram was childless, and Sarai (sar-eye), his wife, was unable to have children.
This can be difficult for any couple. You or someone you know may struggle with infertility and desperately want a child. It is heartbreaking to want a child and not be able to have one.
As challenging as infertility is in our culture, it was more tragic for Abram and Sarai. In their worldview, bearing children was everything. In our culture, we emphasize personal achievement and finding satisfaction in completing work and personal goals. In Abram’s world, children were essential. Your value and worth, and in a sense, your immortality came from having children with generations to follow you. There was no sense of personal achievement as we would understand it. In ancient times, all the hopes and dreams of a man and his family rested in the first born son.
But Abram had no son. He feels deep desperation from this lack of a son. Abram comes from a wealthy family, so he lacks nothing materially. But he desperately and painfully wants a son.
So here we have these two main characters, God and Abram. God has a plan to bring humanity back into right relationship with him. And there is Abram, who simply wants a son.
God had promised Abram he will make of Abram a great nation; God will bless him; God will make his name great. In all three of these promises, Abram would have understood God was promising him a son. For a nation to come from Abram, and for God to make his name great, Abram would require descendants which require a son.
Abram doesn’t begin following God simply because he feels a need for God. He needs a son, and he follows God because he hopes God will give him what he desires.
Many of us begin a relationship with God because we have desires that do not include God. We come to God because we hope he will deliver something we want. God humbles himself so much that he accepts us all the same. How amazing of our all-powerful God!
Abram, like us, can be wishy washy. He will believe God, and kind of do what he says, but then he will hedge his bets. Abram becomes Abraham, our father in faith, but if you read the story carefully, you see that he is far from a perfect father. Abram doesn’t entirely trust God, and we see how his lack of trust delays his desire for a son. God must wait to give Abram his son because Abram will not fully trust him. To bless the whole world through Abram, God must bring Abram to a deeper faith.
Years had passed from God’s original promise of a son, and Abram had begun to fear that his dream of a son would never come to fruition. There can be great fear that our hopes and dreams for the future will not come to fruition. It is natural to experience that fear, but God invites us instead to turn away from our fear to faith and trust in him.
God tells Abram, do not fear. There will be a great reward for placing your faith and trust in me. Abram says to God, what can you give me? In other words, God, you can’t give me anything. You have not proven yourself to me. I still have no son. You haven’t delivered; consequently, I have no legacy.
You may be feeling like that right now. You hear God say fear not, but you think God hasn’t come through. God, you promised I would have a blessing in my life. You promised it would be worth it to follow you. You may feel like God promised you a child, or a sense of purpose, or a job that you loved.
In those times, we need to check and make sure it really is a promise of God. But if it is, in fact, something God promised us, then it is okay to tell God we feel let down by him. It is okay to vent to God; God can handle it. That’s what Abram does.
And God does not criticize Abram. Instead, he gives him a sign. God takes Abram outside and has him look at the stars. In an age without electric lights, the night sky had countless stars.
This interaction helped Abram put his faith back in God. Notice what it says, “God credited it to Abram as an act of righteousness.” In other words, this is what God was after. Simply believing God, has value to God. Trusting God puts us in right relationship with him. Any right relationship is built on trust.
Like God encouraging Abram, and helping him grow in right relationship built on trust, in the gospel we heard today, God encourages Peter, James, and John because they are losing hope. That is why Jesus appears as dazzling and God says this is my Son. He wants those apostles to trust him, hope in him, and believe. Just like with the apostles, and Abram, God wants a right relationship with you built on trust. Saint Paul tells us, in our second reading, when the world disappoints and hurts, remember our citizenship is in heaven. This is not our home.
When there are storms and problems in life that get in the way of our heart’s greatest desires, we often ask: Why God? A better question might be, “What God?” “What do you want me to do now?” “What does trusting you in this situation look like?”
When friends betray us,
when darkness seems to win,
the pain serves to remind our heart
this is not our home.
. . .
Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops?
What if your healing comes through tears?
. . .
Pray for wisdom,
his voice to hear.
We cry in anger
when we cannot feel you near.
All the while
you hear each desperate plea
and long we’d have
faith to believe.
Pray this week for the grace to place your hope and trust in God.
Read chapter two of Seriously, God? and continue the conversation in your small group.