Hey Shovel Bud,
How are you! I have questions! Like congestion towards the end of a bought of the flu..things are "breaking up"! lol Jim I need some help challenging the thought that God abandoned me in a sense. I know, I know..here we can always say the often quoted out of context scripture "never will he leave me nor forsake me"[which is the only scripture of its kind!]No my question is behind that. My sense of abandonment and or doubt in His existence has a root stemming back from my days of early adulthood. I know this event in my past has an effect on my "today" no matter how small or varrying in intensity. It just bothers me. I guess we have all had times were God seemed to be missing but I think this stands out to me as a very painful and very real experience for me that Id like to come to terms with. In my prayer[s] at the time I often pleaded with God to simply impress upon me His grace and or "Law" and how to think? I found myself coming to a point in my life were I was running out of "grace" for things that were spriging up into my life.[though I was the most "clean" living guy I knew..my standards were just heavenly high!] To that point in my life I had alot of cleansing that had taken place. Emotionally,mentally and even physically. Little did I know that I was actually very "bound" up and didn't know it![even thinking I was "free"] Jim is it possible that when I came to a point of asking God :"is it by grace? Or by Law"? that the very question itself was pointing to the fact that I was really under law?[walking in a law experience]I say that becuase up until then I was taught to remain in certain teachings and understandings and I almost wonder if I was searching for the "right" understanding of God? My fear at the time was that I was going to miss what God was saying.[I was taught we can harden ourt hearts and become deaf to God] I was very insecure with God in seeing the influence of Law in the T.V. shows,churches,books and my own living situation were they had church at on Sunday, but all the while knowing it was by grace that I stood. My fear was that it is possible I had MISUNDERSTOOD and had taken advantage of God's grace, just like the unbelievers I would see pass by me everyday completely oblivious to reality. That I did not "hear" Him correctly, did not believe Him correctly and could not understand Him correctly!I was taught that it was reallllly hard to hear God. This made me sick. What was I supposed to do? My prayer went like this: "Dear God I am experiencing alot of fear right now. I feel like trouble is closing in on me. I can see that I need to KNOW whether your ministry is one of grace or law becuase if I dont know soon, I will begin to get really mentally F'd up here. Will you impress it uponme or convinve me before I suffer?" The bottom line is at least in my mind, I asked..and did noit recieve. The only way to protect my heart was to believe God must not be real..or God was indeed a God of Law. Jim can you help me make some sense of this? Any imput at all or even similar experiences would be comforting to me to hear.Oh and keep in mind I have obviously grown a lot in my understanding since then but only now have i seen clear enough to even express it in this way. A!!
Hello my friend!
I'm not sure if this will help, but it is what came to mind as I read your questions.
When I was in my first year at the local community college in Virginia (just before moving to Florida) I had to read a short story called, "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall" (which obviously had an impact since I still remember a title like that, eh?). It was the story of an old religious woman who was close to death. I don't remember much of it except that she had learned to survive one or more serious jiltings in her life by hanging on to the hope that her true lover (Jesus, I'm pretty sure) would come for her at the end. As she laid in her bed dying, she was sustaining herself by this hope, only to realize that he was not coming. This final disappointment was pictured by an image of her dying spirit reaching over to extinguish the candle on the bedside table.
I remember this story because it bothered me so much. I imagine like many religious people I hated it because of its tragic godless ending. I couldn't see anything else. Actually, the story is probably an excellent picture of the religious rationalization of disappointment. Sure, its point hangs upon the belief that there is no one waiting for us at the end, nevertheless it underscores lifelong religious attempts to deal with disappointment by pushing it off until it is swept away at the end. I didn't understand that at the time, though it may have played a part in my own breaking free of this particular religious bondage. While for many years I would have considered the atheistic demand to be part of the entire package of the story I, too, came to realize how the religious mentality uses the premise of God to handle the stuff we people don't want to deal with. I realized that I didn't have to fall into either end of man's reasoning: that of using the future God for a crutch, or of using what I saw of the religious mind as a proof that God was just the product of religious imagination.
What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? Romans 3:3
I came to love this statement when I realized how it encapsulated the whole of Israel's history in rejecting their God. Religiously, I used to picture Israel as a mostly believing group even though the record reveals incredible unbelief. The sense of Israel as a believing people usually consisted of a small handful against the majority. I often recall the scene where only 2 men witnessed to the faithfulness of God in bringing them to their new home ... and Israel - all 2 million of them - turned away. And Paul wrote, "If SOME did not believe". There's just something there that witnesses to my own heart of the reality of the God who is not defined by the religious mind. Religious projection has nothing in common with faith, even though it makes up the basis of religious believing.
I do understand the old sense of doubt that STILL surfaces now and then. I go through periods where I ask myself if I still believe, especially in view of the dissipation of my former religious "proofs". How can God be true if most of the world rejects him, either by direct rejection or by religious BS? How can he be true if I supposedly know him in truth and yet he doesn't seem as real to me as to some who are caught up in law? You want to know what I find so amazing? In witnessing to others as to what I DO know of him (in whatever circumstance that may be) I see him clearly. Despite everything of my past that might only add up to the logical conclusion that he is not real or is not there for me I keep seeing beyond the confines of my own logic. The miracle of sight is not so much in my explaining what I could not see nor what I now see ... but in the simple reality that I SEE.
For you to have asked whether it is by grace or by law may indeed testify to the fact that much of your experience was based upon law, but more importantly, the fact that you asked that of yourself witnesses to me of something greater at work in you whereby you could see the confusion of trying to live between the two. Your experience is a testimony to the miraculous working of his life in you. :)