One of the people I listen to is Tim Keller. He is a pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. I like both his teaching style and his depth. I was listening to one of his sermon’s about struggling with personal issues. What leaped out at me was the simple idea: it’s complicated. He did a great job of illustrating how sometimes a physical condition will impact our emotional wellbeing, how sometimes our emotional wellbeing impacts our physical wellbeing and how a moral issue can harm our emotional wellbeing. Our tendency is to try and make it simple. The medical doctor will try to connect everything to the physical ailment. The counselor will tie everything to an emotional issue. The religious person will make everything a question of morality or the amount of a person’s faith. The reality is the water is muddier than that. Even as I listed the simplistic ways doctors, counselors and religious people handle situations, you were most likely thinking of examples of people who don’t fit that mold. Tim Keller was primarily focused on passages in Proverbs. The title was called the “Wounded Spirit” and it podcasted on August 5, 2011. I would like to take his idea and take a broader look at our relationship with God.
If we were honest, we tend to oversimplify God’s view of us and our circumstance. We will keep God at a distance because we already know the “right answer.” We see the problem as being more complex and we are not sure how we can follow the “right answer” given the situation we are in.
Exodus 1 tells the story of midwives put in a situation where they were told to kill Hebrew boys as they were born. They did not kill the infants (right answer). However, they lied to Pharaoh about it (wrong answer?). What if they had told the truth? Pharaoh may have simply killed them and replaced them with midwives who would follow his orders. This was an incredibly difficult situation. The Bible does not try to make it simple. God blesses the midwives for protecting the children. So, does this mean it is okay to lie? Of course not. It means sometimes life is hard and there are not always simple answers. However, God was right there helping those women walk a difficult road.
Fast-forward to Jesus and we see an interesting pattern. There is no pattern. For two blind men Jesus touched them and they were healed (Matthew 9:27-30). For one man he spits in his eyes and only partially heals the man and then completely restores his sight (Mark 8:22-26). Another time he put mud in the person’s eye and the man washes out the mud in a pool (John 9:6-7). Why the differences? I don’t know but I am going to give Jesus the benefit of the doubt. I bet there was special significance for each one of them. In fact, study Jesus’ life and you see over and over again he treats each person in a way the person needed to be treated. His focus was on the person and not just taking care of the problem.
I have to pause. I have just taken one story from the Old Testament and briefly touched on the life of Jesus. The Bible paints a very realistic picture of life. As you take time to read and study it, you will find a rich and deep understanding of life and an amazing picture of God.
What does this mean for our day to day lives? I believe the implications are huge. As we invite God into our situation, we can have confidence God understands the complexity. God may simply touch an area and we will see a dramatic change. God may give us a partial glimpse at what he is doing and we will have to wait to get a clearer picture. God may have us go and do something before we see God’s work. If you are like me, it won’t always make sense. However, if I can give God the benefit of the doubt and assume he is more concerned about me than just solving my problem I get pretty excited.
This also helps me stay balanced as I help others. Where am I being too simplistic? Am I focused on the person or just solving their problem? Am I looking to God to give me wisdom and insight? Do I have confidence God understands the complexity of the situation better than I do? If we can remember to keep ourselves balanced and focused on the right things we will find ourselves in step with God and a blessing to the people around us.
See how easy is it is? Just repeat after me: It’s complicated.