How Could I Have Gotten it So Wrong?

553db62f-d3ff-45ba-9eda-0770aa6751e6When was the last time you came to the realization that you had been wrong the whole time? Was it a misunderstanding with your spouse or a friend? A decision at work or about your personal finances?

I don’t do it enough…think about the way I’m thinking…the way I’m believing…

Have you got God all figured out yet?

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. – I Corinthians 13: 12

Mirrors back then were not like the one you have today or the ones we use to see distant galaxies. They were like looking at shimmering puddle of water.

We all carry around so many biases in our thinking.

  • Confirmation bias – the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions.
  • Self-serving bias perceiving oneself responsible for desirable outcomes but not responsible for undesirable ones.
  • Just-world phenomenon – the tendency for people to believe that the world is just and therefore people “get what they deserve.”

We end up believing that we know much more than we really do. Sometimes we run the risk of making big assumptions about how God thinks and will act. We interpret our circumstances with a biased thinking that clouds our faith.

Do you imagine that Jonah (the rebel) believed he was being delivered when he found himself inside that big fish? Did Zacchaeus (the spectator) really think Jesus would find him up in that tree and they would actually sit down to dinner? What about that woman (the outsider) who went to draw her water at the well and had a conversation with a stranger who challenged all of her assumptions about life?

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine…”  – Isaiah 55:8

  • I thought all the big plans for the future were null and void and then, over time, began to just want today.
  • I thought I was in exile, but then came to see that I was kept safely away from the devastating storm.
  • I thought I was all alone but then one day awakened to the realization that I had been in conversation with someone deep in my heart every single moment.

While I’m not a Christian fatalist, I don’t believe everything happens for a reason…Nor am I one who holds God responsible for all that occurs in this world. I’ve made too many messes to ever think I could get away with blaming Him. I do think God loves me. I know that he will guide my steps. I believe that he will take care of me – keep me from drowning, even when I’m too afraid to walk on the water.

My experiences here in this world can never become absolute reality. This mirror is too dim. I make so many mistakes. But I really can take hold of the promises that God has made and then make it day by day. In so doing (it’s a practice) this will transform the way I think about myself, my circumstances, and all the people I meet along the way.

And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.  In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises.  – I Peter 1:4-5

What kind of response does God deserve today?

Faith and Fatalism

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Americans like explanations. It’s an important part of our pragmatic culture.

I often notice that when we don’t know the reason why we often spit out some sort of fatalistic explanation. It doesn’t hold much theological water, but it makes us feel better in the midst of those storms of uncertainty.

  • “This just must be what God meant to happen.”
  • “Somehow it’s all going to work out in the end.”
  • “I trust that all these things that are happening to me are God’s will”

There are lots of problems with this kind of thinking and believing. Let me just present you with a few examples from the Bible that challenge us to be actively engaged in our life of faith and might perhaps help us understand why things don’t always work out the way we hoped…

James 5:16 – Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.  Seeking forgiveness and praying for others produces results. It changes the way things are. Our spiritual activity can alter the course of our lives.

Mark 6:5-6 – And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.  Jesus is ministering in his own hometown and he can’t do what he wants to do – perform miracles, change people’s lives, show people how much God loves them. Why? Because they don’t believe. Our lack of faith can prevent God’s plans from happening.

Luke 18:1 – One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. This is the story about the persistent widow who badgered a mean and heathen judge day and night for justice. He finally gave in just because she was bothering him. Jesus says, So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! He concludes by warning that he fears he will return to earth and find that not many will have kept the faith. Justice comes as a result of our persistence. We are persistent because we have faith. We have faith because we put it to use by being persistent (??).

The Christian faith is not a fatalistic experience at all. Jesus taught that we are to be fully engaged in bringing about transformation in our own lives and in the lives of everyone around us. It happens because we have faith, faith that acts. And maybe it doesn’t happen, not because that’s the way it was meant to be…but because we didn’t have the faith.

If you’re praying for rain, then why aren’t you taking an umbrella with you each day?

 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? – James 2:14