I think I always trusted that you could wrestle with God, but felt there was a warning, or at least a caveat. If you wrestle with him, you’ll come away with a limp. So, if you want the easiest life, just trust him implicitly.
I remember a time when I felt uncomfortable and said to my kids, “Please follow me.” They slipped in behind me and we left the theater without another word. In the car, I thanked them for obeying without question. My daughter reflected on that, saying it was weird to be thanked—because it never occurred to her not to obey.
When I consider the situation, I assume they were uncomfortable as well. I don’t think they were always unwaveringly obedient. Unquestioning submission is helpful in certain situations where a parent or military commander does not have control. But I don’t think it’s something to strive for, or to be expected. Because when you’re raised to be overly obedient, you have a hard time learning to distinguish who can tell you what to do later in life.
To a human mind, obedience from others might feel like trust. Or even love. Obedience is a facade of trust, though, because you can obey mindlessly. Even if you come to a place where you implicitly trust whatever someone says, it isn’t proof of love or trust. It could just be fear of punishment. Fear of walking away with a limp.
However, I think when you really love God; you do really trust him.
Interestingly, though, I don’t see God asking us to trust or to follow without question and reasoning. It might seem like we are sheep because he describes himself as the Good Shepherd. But I don’t actually see any indication that he wants us to act like ignorant animals with our heads down, only thinking of our needs, destroying our path, biting each other, and mindlessly responding in obedience when a staff snacks us.
There’s definitely more than one way to question the Almighty God. In Luke, when Mary asked, “How can this be?” she received an answer and her praise song is recorded. When John the Baptist’s dad, Zacharias asked, basically the same thing around the same time, he gets in trouble and his voice is temporarily removed. So an insolent heart might affect the interaction.
But…think about this: Zacharias still received the blessing of his son, got his voice back, and finished in praise like Mary!
I don’t know that an easy life without wrestling wounds, questioning, or needing correction is the goal. Don’t be afraid to fall into the hand of the Lord, because his mercy is very great, but may we never fall into human hands!
Obedience with some details
God tells Ananias in a vision to go get Saul in Acts 9:10-19. I love his reply. “God, I’ve heard about this guy. Are you sure? He has authority to put me in prison.” God replies, “Go. He is my chosen instrument.” He replied with a challenge because of his fears. But when he got clarification, he went.
Peter does something unthinkable in Acts 10. He goes inside the home of a gentile. (Possibly an ancestor of a modern Palestinian—essentially making it possible for you and me to be a Christian.) Peter sets aside racial superiority and, dumbfounded, says, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.”
But Peter didn’t start that way. First, he received a dream. One so shocking it created offense. Peter was incensed and declared that nothing unclean had ever touched his lips. God rebutted him and gave the information he needed to walk into the waiting circle of gentiles.
I found an intriguing idea about doubt helping you maintain your faith in an article regarding a classical education school in town. They found their graduates were more likely to pray alone, to read religious material, to practice their faith… But also more likely to doubt their faith than evangelical and homeschool peers. The higher percentage of admitted doubts encouraged them because it meant they had “…a healthy level of curiosity and are willing to express doubts and find answers.”
I think there’s a link with not allowing yourself to question God because of fear of him, fear of others, or fear of what you’ll find, breeding a fundamentalist version of faith based on “intolerance, tunnel vision, and dogmatic rigidity.”
The key is finding the answers. Not staying numb, distracted, lazy or fearful.
Wrestling with God
Peter was prepared by the miracle he witnessed of the fish when he was first called to follow Christ. He was prepared by the dream when he went into the home of the gentiles. And Ananias asked for clarification. There are times in the Bible when only a command and an action are recorded, but we don’t know what groundwork was laid to create that trust or what dreams and visions built the faithful one up to that point.
For the most part, I try to keep my darkest wrestling and greatest fears pulled back from others. Is this the best thing? Would it have helped my young children if I had been more open about confusing things? I guess I would have first needed to be honest with myself.
I want to be quick to follow the Lord. Even to jump without asking for questions—so it’s hard to get my mind wrapped around not being required blind trust as sort of test… with correction waiting on the other side.
I see it working that way in the world, but not in scripture. I haven’t experienced it with God either. He is not scrambling for a semblance of control like a military leader, or a parent who doesn’t have the words or patience to explain more than, “Because I said so.”
I can think of times when God told me to move, and I sat still. I’m more likely to look back on my life and consider opportunities where I hesitated, and possible blessing was lost. Humans are prone to measure success through the temporary, worldly terms of what we can see.
I can wonder if I missed a blessing while arguing, but the love and trust I’ve developed after questions are answered make a better bedfellow than unquestioning obedience.
Growth through reasoning with him might be a more valuable treasure than avoiding a limp.