desert

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Free Advice Friday: I believe in God. I just don’t think He is good and kind.

Published June 14, 2013 by joypatton

Okay…so I stole this one from The Wally Show on WayFM.  Wally used this comment from his email as a 10-second topic about whether God is good.  He asked what you would say to this person, so that got me thinking…

What if the only part of planet earth that you experienced was the desert?  Everyone told you that the earth was beautiful, full of green and blue, but all you ever knew was brown and hot.  They also told you the earth was round, but from where you stood it only looked flat.  At some point, you would have to decide whether or not to believe what they said.

Then imagine that one day you went to outer space and saw for yourself what was true.  That the earth was round, that it was beautiful.  You would see that it wasn’t just one giant desert as your experience told you, but that the desert parts were outnumbered by the beautiful greens and blues.  You would be able to see the whole picture.

That’s how it is with God.  “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (I Corinthians 13:12)  Some day we will know how the deserts fit into God’s beautiful plan, but now we know in part.  We are finite, and God is infinite.  We only see from our small perspective, but God sees everything, beginning and end at the same time.  That would be why He is God and I am not.

What’s interesting to me is that it requires some degree of faith to believe that God even exists.  So why not believe that God is also kind and good?  Both require faith.  At times I feel like God isn’t there, and I feel like he is an apathetic and indifferent to my suffering.  But those are the times I must rely on the Truth that I know from His Word.  That is when what I know in part overrides what I feel. Faith is believing what we cannot see.  I choose to believe that the earth is round, even though I haven’t been to space to see for myself.  I trust the pictures and words of others who have been to outer space, just like I trust the pictures and words God gives in Scripture.  Personally if I’m going to believe in God, then I will believe that he is good and kind.  When I judge God as evil and unkind, I make myself god, and I believe that I know more than God.  How absurd for the finite to judge the infinite!

My prayer is that God will show Himself to you.  That God will show you that He is caring, kind, fair and good.  That you will come to know him as a loving Father, not a tyrannical king.  That you will come to see that the Creator knows you fully and loves you completely and unconditionally.  That you might have a small glimpse of what God sees when he looks you and sees the bigger picture of your life.

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Lessons from the Wasteland: Follow me.

Published September 10, 2012 by joypatton

The first steps into the wilderness were timid and terrifying.  Looking back over her shoulder, she watched the peaceful meadow evaporate into mist.  Her old life was gone, and she couldn’t go back.  Into the dry desert ground she stepped.  The sand swirled around her, and she couldn’t see anything up ahead.  She wondered where this journey would lead and if it would be worth it.  This wilderness seemed so terrible that she wished she could stop and let it swallow her whole.  She dropped to her knees, discouraged, empty and alone.  And then she heard his whisper, “Follow me.”  She looked up and saw nothing but wilderness sprawling before her.  Questions and doubt chasing each other in her head as the wind chased the sand.  

As her head dropped back down, she saw a footprint in the sand.  The wind began to slowly take it away piece by piece, but before it disappeared she planted her own foot firmly in its place.  “This is the way,” he whispered.  “Walk in it.”  As she looked down again, she saw another print and quickly placed her other foot inside.  This was how she walked for hours and days.  Sometimes she would hear his voice whispering to her not to give up.  Sometimes she felt his gentle hand in the small of her back, guiding her every move as they danced through the desert.  Many times she looked for him in the distance or looked for a sign that she was on the right path, but the nothingness was all that answered her.  She continued this way looking for each step until one day she saw the grass between her toes.  

She looked up and the sand was gone.  She could see the path clearly ahead.  She turned and looked back at the wilderness.  She was surprised that she didn’t want to leave.  She was afraid that she would forget how to follow.  She was afraid that the beauty of this new world would distract her from his voice.  Yet as she turned back toward the beautiful sunlight, she heard him say, “Follow me.”

“You know who you are, don’t you?” my counselor asked as he looked at me.  Of course, I knew who I was.  I was a mom, a wife, a writer, a speaker, a teacher.  That’s who I am, but I knew he was asking me a trick question.  “You are not all of those things.  You are simply one thing: a follower.”  It was true.  All of those other things could evaporate in a second.  I might never get to speak or teach women again.  I might tragically lose my kids or my husband.  But one piece of my identity that I will never lose is that I am a follower o f Christ.  Because even if those terrible things ever came to pass, I know that the only way I could ever make it out would be to follow him.  I must also accept that following him might mean that he leads me into some of those wilderness places.

After all, the Israelites were led into the wilderness.  They didn’t end up there by accident.  And Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted (Matthew 4:1).  And yet God was there.  For the Israelites their only job in navigating the wilderness was to follow a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  They didn’t have a map.  They couldn’t see the Promised Land from where they stood.  That’s why following requires faith, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).

In the wasteland, God teaches me how to follow.  He teaches me how to trust him for every bit of bread from heaven.  He proves to my wandering heart that he is indeed trustworthy.  I learn to hear his voice, to see his hand.  In the wilderness, it is quiet and desolate.  My usually busy life can’t drown him out.  Like a sheep, I learn to listen to the voice of the good shepherd.

When in his good timing and by his grace the wilderness comes to an end, I must move on without forgetting the sweet lessons from my beautiful Shepherd.  I can hear his voice more clearly and my heart knows when he is leading.  I’m afraid I will forget and try to do things on my own.  But I know that when I do, I can repent, turn around, and find him waiting there.

 

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