When Our View of God Clashes With Reality

quote on God's faithfulness

Sometimes our expectations lead to our greatest disappointments. They can hinder us from truly knowing one another.

They can hinder us from truly knowing God as well.

Have you ever had someone grow attached to the person they thought you were? Not who you were but an individual they’d conjured in their mind? I have, and the situation didn’t end well.

I met Anna* at church. Though we had numerous mutual friends, children close in age, and had been part of the same faith community for years, we didn’t really know one another. But then, after having read material I wrote, she initiated a conversation. We soon developed a relationship and began to go on walks and talk over coffee. Our interactions, though brief and sporadic, were pleasant enough, until I ceased meeting the woman’s expectations.

She acted as if I had deceived and cheated her.

Have you ever experienced something similar?

Have you ever felt that way about God?

I have. My relationship with Christ has swung from one side of the pendulum to the other, finally resting back in center. Early on, I viewed Him as hard and exacting, the One with the power and authority to send me to hell and who would be quite justified in doing so. I knew Him as the Rule Setter but struggled to see Him as loving and compassionate Father.

Steadily, one sermon, Bible passage, and Christ-centered interaction at a time, He transformed my thinking so that I began to view Him as my Savior and Friend. And for sure, He is both of those, but somehow, in the softening, I lost sight of the fact that His merciful side doesn’t negate His awesome sovereignty as the One who formed and retains full ownership of all creation, myself included.

As a result, I began to expect blessings and abundance. Oh, I never would’ve said that, if asked. I understood, at least in theory, that life held no guarantees and often horrible things happen to really good, God-loving people. I had read the book of Job, after all. But when that somebody was me, I grew sulky, frustrated, and at times, downright angry. I accused God of holding out on me, of not caring, and of not listening.

But really the problem lay with me. I allowed my self-created ideas of who I thought He was hinder my intimacy with the God who is and always will be:

Always good, faithful, loving, and true.

One day, when our daughter was young, I asked her to help me unload groceries from the car. She huffed and said, “If you really loved me, you wouldn’t make me do this.”

I’m not sure if she really believed that or was simply trying to talk her way out of what she clearly deemed to be a rather torturous event. I suspect the latter. But she was so melodramatic about the whole thing, it was all I could do to keep from laughing. Once certain I could respond with appropriate sternness, I replied, “It is because I love you that I must insist you unload them all.” Then, pocketing my keys, I left her to it, adding, “I’m raising you to have a servant’s, not serve-me, heart.”

Then I went inside.

I wonder how many times God whispered similar words to my huffing and hemming heart over the years. “I know you want that promotion. I know you feel I’m being unfair withholding it from you, but I would rather raise a daughter who trusts in Me more than her paycheck.”

“I know you don’t enjoy having chronic illness. I know it hurts and is hard. But I want you to experience My strength made perfect in your weakness.”

Or perhaps most challenging, “I know you don’t like to see your daughter struggle in this way. I Know it breaks your heart, and it does mine as well. But you must entrust her to Me. I’m growing her, patiently and faithfully, just as I have you all these years.”

I’ve seen enough of His heart, of His faithfulness, to know just how true that is. I’ve come to trust Him, to see Him as Father and Savior and Friend and King. I still have areas of deception He’s working to rectify with truth, areas of misconception His grace will expel. But for now, I’m resting in this:

He is good. He is loving. He is faithful, and He is enough. Regardless of what my fickle feelings or faulty perceptions might tempt me to believe. And perhaps that’s the most glorious lesson He’s taught me—to question everything else but Him. To say, like the apostle Paul did in his letter to the Romans, “Let God be true and every man a liar.”

When our view of God clashes with reality, it’s an invitation to get to know Him better.

*Name changed for privacy purposes

Let’s talk about this! When have circumstances challenged your view of God? How did you respond? Did your understanding of Him deepen through that event?

If you haven’t yet, make sure to check out Wholly Loved’s Bible reading plan, available on the YouVersion app, 30 Days of Emotional Health. You can find it  HERE.

And join our Facebook community on Facebook to connect with other women and find encouragement as you grow in your faith. Join by clicking the button below, and make sure to follow us on Instagram. And if you’re a book lover, you can follow my author page on Amazon HERE. Contact me HERE to book me for your next women’s event or Bible study.

Wholly Loved Ministries
Closed group · 466 members
Join Group

 

A place for women to come together, share their struggles, celebrations, and insights, and inspire one another to be all God created them to be.

 

How Prayer Quiet and Calms Us

Purple flowers with yellow background and text from post

If God is sovereign, why pray? If He already knows precisely how everything in all the world, my life included, will play out, what’s the purpose in laying my requests before Him? Why not simply bow my head, say, “Thy will be done,” and move on to more productive matters like serving in soup kitchens, orphanages, and nurseries?

I suspect we’ve all wrestled with these questions. I have. I’ve even brought them to God in prayer, as ironic as that may sound. And as I sat in His presence, He met me and showered me with His love and grace. My requests became conversations, my fears and anxieties pathways to certainty, and my unmet earthly desires avenues to becoming filled with something more sustaining and satisfying than anything I might acquire apart from Him.

Yellow background with text pulled from post.Through prayer, God redirects, instructs, and fills my heart while purging it of everything that gets in His way. He reveals hidden motives, undetected sins, and bits of deception that, if not dealt with, hinder my faith, my journey, and my relationship with Him. Often, I begin with a frustration or concern, but as His love reigns over me, it overpowers every angst filled thought with truth.

When I fear financial difficulties, He reminds me He’s my provider and that all the world, a thousand banks included, sit under His command.

When illness steals the health of those I love, He assures me He holds all of eternity, their life included, in His grasp.

When I’m watching someone I care deeply for flounder and fight their way to maturity, He gently directs me to Philippians 1:6, which tells me He is working, at this moment, to grow them in Him. He won’t let go, leave them as orphans, nor will He let up until His will, in their life and mine, has come to pass.

There’s such peace in knowing that. In recognizing that God has a good, loving, and hope-filled plan for each of His children and is fully capable of bringing it to pass. When I pause to reflect on that truth, promised numerous times throughout Scripture, my soul quiets itself like a weaned child resting in the arms of its mother.

You may be familiar with that reference of a content and satiated toddler, and of the story behind the man who wrote it. It’s found in Psalm 131, written by David, Israel’s second king. Anointed as a youth, he endured years of persecution and betrayal before seeing God’s plans unfold. In the waiting, he fled his homeland in fear for his life, hid in the wilderness, caves, and acted like a madman. But though sorrow and fears assaulted him, they never remained. God never allowed them to take root. Instead, as David sat in the presence of the Almighty, loved from the hairs on his head to the tips of his toes, God led him on a gentle but empowering journey to faith.

Psalm 59 is one of my favorite examples, written after David, afraid for his life, flees a murderous king by climbing out his window. His prayer begins with desperate pleas but ends with courage, confidence and peace.

“Rescue me from my enemies, O God. Protect me from those who have come to destroy me. Rescue me from these criminals; save me from these murderers. … I have done nothing wrong, yet they prepare to attack me. Wake up! See what is happening and help me!” (Ps. 59:1-2, 4b).

Can you sense his desperation? It’s as if he’s saying, “Don’t You see? Why have You allowed this?”

But then, in the middle of his turmoil, God draws him deeper into His embrace, and David’s heart overflows with praise. “You are my strength,” he says “O Lord our shield” (vs. 9a, 11b). “My enemies come out at night, snarling like vicious dogs as they prowl the streets” (v. 14). In other words, they’re real and terrifying, but David knew God was greater. “As for me, I will sing about Your power. Each morning I will Psalm 59:17bsing with joy about Your unfailing love. For You” not castle strongholds, weapons of warfare, or armed soldiers “have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress” (v. 16).

I love that last line and the promise it provides. God is our refuge and safety, and we can always rest in His love. As we come to Him with our heartfelt concerns, He quiets the angst within and replaces it with unshakable confidence and peace.

Though He may indeed answer our prayers as we hope, He anchors us in something infinitely deeper, more solid, and more enduring—Himself and His unfailing love.

I don’t know your requests or how God will answer. But I can promise this:

He sees you. (Psalm 34:15)

He hears you. (Psalm 34:6)

He loves you unfailingly. (Psalm 57:3)

He will fulfill His purposes for you. (Psalm 57:2)

He surrounds and defends you. (Psalm 34:7)

When your heart breaks, He holds you close. (Psalm 34:18)

He is faithful, strong, attentive and true. (Deut. 7:9, Ps. 28:7, John 3:33)

Let’s talk about this! Do you have any favorite Psalms, most specifically, those written by ancient Israel’s King David? If so, which ones and why do you treasure that passage? Have you ever used one of David’s prayers as a guide or springboard for your own? Share your thoughts, stories, examples, and questions with us in the comments below, because we can all encourage, challenge, and inspire one another!

Logo image for Wholly Loved's Bible reading appBefore you leave, I have fun news! Wholly Loved Ministries’ Bible will soon have a 30-day Bible reading plan available on YouVersion! I’ll share the link when I have it. In the meantime, I encourage you to join our closed Facebook group. It’s a safe place where women can share their struggles, fears, doubts, and celebrations. to join, click the button below.

Wholly Loved Ministries
Closed group · 457 members
 

Join Group

 

A place for women to come together, share their struggles, celebrations, and insights, and inspire one another to be all God created them to be.

 

God Among the Bullet Points

planner and pensEvery birthday and New Year, I’m forced to take stock. Have I lived the past year well? Am I moving forward in faith? Can I reasonably recover from all my mess ups and mishaps and perhaps behave differently the next time around? Unfortunately, I fail much more often than I’d care to admit, but despite my mess-ups, mishaps, and downright failings, one thing remains certain and unwavering, as my guest today discovered while doing a little life-check of her own.

God among the bullet-points

By Jessica Brodie

Ever try to sum up your life in a bullet-list? It’s a weird, sometimes painful, sometimes hilarious exercise in self-absorption (if I’m generous, self-healing) that I tried one lonely New Year’s Day 13 years ago.

It went something like this:

  • Born January 19, North Miami, Florida
  • Lived with parents in small house near grandparents
  • Earliest memories: books, brown shag carpet
  • Age two, moved to better house
  • Favorites: banana trees, stripy sneakers, books, spiky grass, swing set, Mom’s typewriter
  • Afraid of everyone and everything

I should mention I was a full-fledged grownup when I did this, well into my career, married…old enough to have achieved some maturity. And at the end, I had a neatly printed six-page document filled with all the dysfunctions and quirks that had comprised my life. Right there, in black and white, I could see exactly how far I’d come.

Take that, Mean Girls of the Sixth Grade. Harrumpf.

Sure, I’d had my share of embarrassing failures and broken hearts, but a few lines later there was the college scholarship, the promotion, the kiss. Life went on. Ups, downs—they littered the page without discernible pattern.

“That’s just life,” I’d concluded—random, messy, beautiful, full of chance and happenstance, with me in the starring role. I saw how time and again I’d navigated a difficult circumstance with a solid, moral decision or confronted a tough issue by standing strong, staying true. I congratulated myself on my perseverance and gumption.

Ah, younger me.

I knew nothing.

See, all that time I thought I was steering myself through the tough times. But it wasn’t. It was God. Now I see the light.

Thirteen years later, I’ve had two children and gained two stepchildren. I’ve become a daily reader of Scripture rather than a casual Bible-thumber. I’ve experienced loss, single-momhood, near-poverty, and wealth. I’ve been to Africa and walked with lions, seen miracles happen before my eyes and within my body.

I’ve lived. And in living, I’ve come to understand how little any of it has to do with me or the choices I made. I’ve also come to see how lucky I am God has allowed me to experience this grand, majestic ride.

Recently, I tried that bullet-list exercise again—but this time, instead of chance and happenstance, I was struck by the master pattern I saw: God’s hand on everything. Every. Thing.

Why had I ever thought my life was random? It was a magical, God-orchestrated symphony. In every moment, big and small, God was there—guiding, maneuvering, until whatever He’d planned had been fulfilled … then leading me onto the next step.

That infertility struggle that seemed to last forever? Now I saw it so clearly pointing me toward humility and submission to God’s will.

That tough job where I felt so utterly alone? God was helping me rely on my internal chops—and Him—to be a better leader.

Today I look at my list and don’t regret any of the mistakes and painful moments I see. My only regret is all the time I wasted from worry.

And I see what I should have been doing all along: resting securely in the knowledge that God has our roadmap already printed out for us in the form of the Holy Bible.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” He tells us, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).*

Try the bullet-list for yourself and see if you, too, can tell all that God has done and is doing in your life.

*Bible verse taken from Biblehub.com

***

Author Jessica Brodie's headshotJessica Brodie is a Christian author, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach. She is the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest continuously published newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her blog at http://jessicabrodie.com/.

***

Let’s talk about this! In her book, Victim of Grace, author Robin Jones Gunn talks about taking an annual “Selah” where she hits the pause button and sort of takes stock of her previous year and what God might want to do in the year ahead. This really struck me because I have a tendency to stay so busy doing, I can miss observing all God has done or might want to do. Jessica’s post today encouraged me to hit the pause button this week, to take some time to prayerfully look over past journal entries, to meditate on Scripture, to contemplate all God has done.

What about you? Do you normally take time to remember and contemplate? If so, when and how? If not, how might doing so increase your sense of peace and awe for God? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

Before you go, I wanted to invite you to join me and my Wholly Loved sisters each Wednesday for our new video devotions–short, transformative nuggets designed to help you center yourself in Christ and His truth. You can watch our first two HERE and HERE, then return to the Wholly Loved site each Wednesday for another inspirational message. And if you haven’t done so, make sure to sign up for my free quarterly newsletter to receive inspirational content, recipes, short stories, and more sent directly to your inbox. As an added bonus, subscribers cover image for study based on 1 Timothyreceive a free 36-lesson study based on 1 Timothy (sent separately). You can sign up HERE.

For those in the Omaha/LaVista/Lincoln area, join us for one of our upcoming conferences. You can find out more HERE.

Must We Always Learn the Hard Way?

Today I’m on Ink From Earthen Vessels. I’d love it if you’d join me.  We’re talking about learning to trust. A few years ago, I trained for sprint triathlons and part of my training involved long runs. These runs served two purposes–they increased my endurance and confidence. At the beginning of my training, lacing up my shoes for an hour-long run, completion seemed improbable. But each day, I added to my mileage, running hills, adding in swimming and biking, until a two-hour session became routine.

The result? By race day, staring across the wind-stirred lake, the task ahead didn’t seem quite so daunting. I’d done it before, many times. Maybe not in a lake, but I knew what it felt like to push past exhaustion. At the end of my swim, as I jumped on my bike with rubbery legs slightly numbed from the frigid water, staring at the mammoth hill bearing down on me, I focused on my past training–the countless laps, hills, and miles I’d pushed through day after day. Contrary to what my brain tried to shout, I could do this…because I’d done it before.

I believe our faith grows in much the same way. Standing before that first trial, all we see is the bouldered road ahead, but after years of following our Savior and experiencing His strength made perfect in our weakness, the boulders appear to shrink and the incline seems to level.

Philippians 4:6 says: Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. (NLT)

When praying for aid, take the time to count your blessings, to remember all God has done and the many times He showed up. I believe your concerns will appear to shrink in light of God’s faithfulness.