With all due apologies to Jonathan Edwards, I used the title of his most famous sermon as the basis for this post out of respect for the powerful truth of his message and the imagery it projects. Lately, I have been encountering a lot of Christian friends and colleagues who have been facing trials and adversity, and I have noticed a powerful falsehood that I, too, have been prone to fall to. It is the concept that we have to work hard, be good, do good deeds, prove ourselves and beg God to respond to even the smallest of our requests. We have this sense that if we could just show Him that we are earnest and sincere enough, worthy enough, and are a net positive contributor to all things spiritual and good, then He would be forced to at least consider our requests and may judge us as enough of a value to respond…and this is a complete lie that we live with. Whether part of our work ethic, our desire to prove ourselves, or whatever, we have lied to ourselves and convinced ourselves that if we are good enough, then God is obligated to respond to us and that if He doesn’t, then it is because there is something we didn’t do right or sincerely enough.
I liken this to the orphan or foster child syndrome where they do not necessarily feel like a true 100% part of the family, because they were adopted into the family. For right or wrong, there is a strong connection between this syndrome and active dysfunction ranging from hiding and hoarding food, clothes and other items; emotional manipulation; deceit and other such activities. The reason lies not in the fact that they are not a part of the family, but that they don’t believe or accept that they are a part of the family unconditionally. As a result, they engage in destructive behaviors that ultimately can result in greater estrangement from their adoptive families.
We are like this with God, or at least I have been throughout many periods of my life. I felt a need to prove myself worthy or to demonstrate through my actions and fervent prayer that I really hoped He would deign to help me. I saw Him as reluctant to answer my prayers and to help in my life, because I knew how unworthy I had been and I didn’t really believe that He meant what He said about grace, the forgiveness of sin, and His desire to take care of His children as a loving father. As I started to explore this, it struck me how much that would hurt me if my kids responded that way to me, and I am not near as perfect a father as He is. What I realized is that I was responding to him as an “orphan to a reluctant God” rather than a child to a loving Father.
I can’t say that I am completely changed in my beliefs and actions. I want to be, but this is a difficult area for me to completely work through and it is taking some time, but I am not where I used to be, and I think that is perfectly fine…so long as I keep moving. In any case, for those of you out there that might be struggling with the same concept, here’s hoping this helps you and that we can all get to the right point someday. Have a great evening and talk to you again tomorrow!