“I have something I want to share with you. I’m not very comfortable with this kind of language, but – well, here goes – the Lord spoke to me last night”.
I was all ears. I sometimes close them when others say something similar. Neither this women who was speaking to me nor I are fans of “easy-believism”, especially when it takes the form of sharing with a happy smile that God told them what they most wanted to hear. But Debbie, that’s what I’ll call her, had remained faithful to God during good times and bad, aware that the spirit of entitlement that plagues every Christian needs to be resisted. God’s ways don’t always make sense to us. We can’t count on God to respond favorably to every item on our wish list. Entitlement thinks otherwise.
Debbie was stunned by what she heard from God, stunned both by how foolish she was and grateful for God’s call to yield to her God-honoring desires that remained alive within her. Before (with her permission) I tell you what she heard from God, let me first tell you why I do so, I fear being misunderstood by something I wrote in my most recent book When God’s Ways Make No Sense. Debbie’s story clarifies what I meant. In Chapter Seven, I refer to myself as a Christian deist. Deists believe God made everything, set up natural laws like gravity, then washed His hands of any further involvement with what might happen in the world and among the people He created.
I am emphatically not a deist. I believe God is involved, interested, caring, compassionate, and sovereignly engaged in all that happens. *But it doesn’t always look that way.* Nothing escapes His attention, and nothing blocks the advance of the good story He is telling, not the holocaust, not a failed marriage, and not a stubbed toe. All things do work together for good to people who love God and remain confident that a larger story is unfolding in every detail of the smaller story we can see.
But such confidence finally depends on faith, not visible evidence. The lie of deism sometimes, too often, looks to be true: God seems distant and uninvolved. But things are not as they seem. Appearances really are deceiving. But now and again, always on God’s perfect timetable, we get a glimpse of His lovingly purposeful involvement in our lives, His commitment to our deepest well-being.
This is where Debbie comes in. For years she privately struggled with an addiction, a bad habit that curved her energy in on herself, an addiction that brought temporary but intensely pleasurable relief from the felt emptiness of life with all its worries and disappointments. It felt like she was struggling against her sin with no help from God. Was deism true? Was God really uninvolved in her struggle?
But then, after years, after God’s “little while”, she heard Him speak, meaning words suddenly rose up in her mind, uninvited but clear and powerful:
“Debbie, you are sacrificing the joy of giving yourself fully to your husband, children, and friends for five seconds of deliciousness.” Those four words hit her like a liberating thunderbolt.
Five seconds of deliciousness; five seconds of enjoying narcissistic contentment and unmitigated pleasure that left her alone, uninvolved with either God or others; five seconds that numbed the deepest thirst in her Spirit-indwelt soul, to love well. How foolish! She felt both broken over sin and released to live, to love.
I’m no deist. God is always advancing the plot of His story. Sometimes His ways become obvious. Trust Him when they don’t. Celebrate when they do.