Have you ever had an experience which made you wonder if God was unsafe?
Dare I ask, if He was good?
I became a voracious reader after our move to Congo. In part, this was because I had little else to do to pass my time. The late 1970s had not seen the invention of VCR or DVD machines (my children can hardly imagine anything so awful as my brother and sister and I having to wait to see a Charlie Brown special just once a year with commercials!). To pass many hours of trying to keep my freckled skin from the heat of the equator sun, I would hole up in my bedroom with a good book. My favorites in elementary and middle school were the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I was heartbroken to find out that Mr. Lewis had passed away five years before I was even born. That made it impossible for me to send him a letter of appreciation over his wonderful books that provided so many hours of entertainment for me. I could easily lose myself in the characters of his stories.
I now read those same books to my children. My son, Chase, is especially enthralled with them. Going to see the movie, Prince Caspian, was a highlight for all three of my kids this spring when it was released. The incredible genius of Lewis was that the same books which touched me so deeply as a child continue to touch me in a different way as an adult. A truly gifted writer, C.S. Lewis had the ability to write profound spiritual truth encapsulated in a child’s way of thinking. One of my favorite passages from the first book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is when the sisters, Susan and Lucy, asked Mr. Beaver who the lion, Aslan, was.
“Is-is he a man?” asked Lucy.
“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly.
“Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion-the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver. “If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion-the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
(Taken from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, copyright 1950, Macmillan Publishing Co. New York, NY)
Some of my biggest disappointments with God have come from misunderstanding who He is.
GOD IS NOT SAFE, BUT HE IS GOOD
I have been lulled into thinking that He is somehow obligated to me and my life’s happiness. When life is going along the way I want it to, it is easy for me to buy into this false idea of what God’s goodness looks like. I have come face-to-face with a side of God that is anything but tame. He has allowed horrendous things to happen in our family. Does He cease being good? Mr. Beaver understood that Aslan was not tame, but he was good. He was the King. The King can do whatever He pleases, right? He is not obligated to His subjects. But I have believed that He is obligated to me. I spent the better part of the years between my eighteenth and thirtieth birthdays deathly afraid of Him. He was a righteous Judge, just waiting to zap me. I loved Him, but my fear of Him had led me away from communing with Him on a regular basis. Without the foundation of God’s word, I was a sitting duck for the lies of the enemy. I couldn’t see the tenderness of God then. I couldn’t believe that He could really work all things together for my good or that I had been called to a purpose, His purpose, which was bigger and higher than anything I could imagine (Romans 8:28).
Back then, I couldn’t believe that He knew the plans that He had carefully thought out for me. Or that those plans were to prosper me and not to harm me and, instead, those plans had the power and ability to give me a future and a hope. Now I do know that hope. That hope allows me to know that even though my God is not predictable, He is always good. I didn’t suddenly become smart. I started hiding God’s word in my heart. I started asking Jesus to make me desire Him more than anything/one in this world. I asked Him to teach me, He Himself. I started seeking Him out because He told me to do that. And then He did an amazing thing-He let me find Him.
My children and I started reading Prince Caspian recently, the second book in the Narnia series, and I read another passage that has continued to help explain how I see Jesus, the Lion of Judah, now. This time, Lucy was not hearing about Aslan the lion from someone else. She had experienced the lion herself. Because of that distinct difference, Lucy had the courage to ask Aslan directly something that puzzled her:
[Lucy] never stopped to think whether he was a friendly lion or not. She rushed to him. She felt her heart would burst if she lost a moment…
“Aslan, Aslan. Dear Aslan,” sobbed Lucy.
“At last.” …She gazed up into the large, wise face. “Welcome, child,” he said. “Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you’re are?”
“I am not, but every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
(from Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis, copyright 1951, Macmillan Publishing, New York, NY)
I THOUGHT I KNEW WHO GOD WAS
Before nearly a year of unemployment for my husband in 2012 following two other layoffs, I thought I knew who God was. I thought my formula of obedience plus service equals blessing was air tight. I have been shown how profound my misconceptions of God and blessing have been.
Seeking out the Lion of Judah makes Him larger to me than He was even a year ago. Although my greatest desire is to grow in wisdom, He has never lacked in that area. He is wisdom in all its fullness. No one is His counselor. He is the One who tells the waves where their boundaries are on the shore. He is the One who continues to hold all things in this universe together, regardless if I acknowledge that or not. The more I walk with Him, the more I know that I do not understand His ways. He is the ultimate adventure. I can never get to the end of Him. He is at once both a mystery and the greatest security I have ever known. Life with Christ demands that I take up a cross and that He doesn’t have to explain His methods to me. But underneath it all is the assurance–that blessed hope–that although He is not always safe, He is always good.
Jesus, keep this finite mind of mine free from the burden of trying to figure You out. My peace will not be found in explaining all that You allow to my satisfaction. My peace comes from the knowledge that You are always good, no matter what happens. Give me the faith to rest in that. Make Yourself larger and more real to me every year of my journey with You.