For 50 years of my life, I believed a lot of things about God. As I’ve learned more about who He really is, I’ve had to give up much of what I believed and accept things I once found rather unpleasant or puzzling: His discipline, His requirement for strict obedience, how He will turn away from those who reject Him, His definition of sin, His one plan for salvation, how giving Him control of my life frees me, why He lets bad things happen. Discovering who God really is has brought great comfort to me. That surprises many who have decided the God they read and hear about is not someone they want to get to know. When I first surrendered, I, too, was convinced God’s ways would not work!
When I picked the things I wanted to believe about God, I was often disappointed in Him. Like most of the world today, I chose to believe in a God who was a combination Santa Claus/killjoy keeping track of all my transgressions and punishing me as payment for what I’d done. He was there to give me a comfortable, happy life because I am basically a good person. My life was made up of too many things that I knew I shouldn’t be doing, so I could not believe in a God that would discipline me or allow me to suffer consequences that resulted from living the way I did. I feared the “wrath of God” I had heard about. December, 2009, I opened that Bible: I was surprised by His patience as I read Exodus; surprised at how His heart broke when people turned from Him in the book of Kings and Chronicles. I came to understand His grace and mercy. When God disciplines me or allows suffering in my life, I now see how He uses it to teach me things, to mold me into a person He can use to care for others. He doesn’t require that I pay each time I sin. He provided for payment of all my sins with one punishment – Jesus on the cross. I don’t even have to suffer the punishment! Knowing Him has freed me from overwhelming fear.
Every time I prayed to this God I had made up, my expectation was that He would change the situation. When things didn’t change, it affirmed my belief that God really can’t be relied on to help us deal with day-to-day stuff. Now that I know Him, I see how He works in my life every day. Sometimes He changes a situation; sometimes He changes my attitude. I can put things in better perspective, knowing He will use absolutely everything in my life to do good for me and those who love Him. I know He allows only those things that will help me reach the goal He has set for me, not necessarily the goals I have set for myself. I can rely on Him. He does care about me in a very intimate way. Knowing a personal God provides a shield against the world. I can go to Him for the smallest troubles. When I am hurting He shows me ways to use it to grow stronger. Knowing Him helps me live in a cruel world because I know God’s plan.
Most of my life I have experienced a deep yearning to “go home.” Until recently, I didn’t understand why I felt this way, but I have never been able to shake this feeling. As I came to understand God and His plan for this world, I realized I’m homesick to be with Him. The world tells us to live opposite of what God tells us. When we understand how He wants us to live and why, being in this world is quite a challenge! Once I realized that I feel out of place because I am out of place, I lost my pervasive sense of hopelessness. This life isn’t all there is; there is something better to look forward to. I may seem backwards and naïve to most people but the Bible describes Christians as aliens in this world – that describes my experience here pretty accurately! I am an alien in a strange land. I know there is another place, a better place, and I long to go there.
About a year ago I had to undergo tests to determine whether or not I had cancer. My symptoms were painful and I was convinced the doctors would find that it was terminal. I began the process of accepting that cancer would be the way I would leave this world. I felt overwhelming sadness at the thought of leaving my children and grandchildren. As I waited for the results, I remember feeling fear only once – the night after the test, lying on my bed in the dark. But as I thought about what I was going to experience, the reality of death, I had a strange reaction – relief! Then it hit me: I’m going home! I was going to be in God’s presence, to see Jesus sooner than I expected. I decided whatever I was going to go through, I would use it to lead others to Him. As the days went by waiting for the results, I welcomed the challenge of meeting this trial head on, eager to watch Him work in my life, a sense of wonder about actually being in His presence. The test results were negative and I experienced a certain amount of disappointment as I let go of these thoughts. But I learned that I do not fear death and I look forward to what comes next. Before I studied what God tells us about eternity, I could only hope that what I had decided to believe about it was true. KNOWING what death holds has certainly given me a new attitude about it!
Fear, anxiety and depression no longer eat up extended periods of my life. Chaos has disappeared. I no longer feel life is just happening to me or that the world is out of control. When I face a decision I’m not sure about, I see what God has to say about it and obey, even when I don’t understand (that comes AFTER I obey). I did make the mistake of thinking that if I’m not joyful and peaceful all the time I haven’t fully turned my life over to Him. Then I heard a sermon reminding me that this world will not be 100% peaceful or joyful, which helped me adjust that unrealistic expectation. But I don’t stay in bad places very long. I sit down with God (read His Word and pray) and find comfort as He reminds me and teaches me who He is. He promises an abundant life and that’s exactly what I get when I live life the way He tells me to live, even when I don’t understand. I know how this world is going to play out and that God is ultimately in control of it all.
Deuteronomy 4:29 says: “…seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Before you accept things the world tells you about God, do your research. Knowing Him will bring much more comfort than any set of beliefs you have decided upon.