Well, summer is nearly over. Today is my last day in The Sticks. Tomorrow, I’ll be back in Brooklyn for my sophomore year of college. For my sophomore year of college. Sophomore. Year….of college.
It’s weird to think about the fact that my first year, the year I thought would be the most difficult out of the four, is over, and that God got me through it without a scratch. Yes, there were difficulties (lots and lots and lots of difficulties). There were a rather excessive and embarrassing amount of mental breakdowns as well as existential crises, but God pushed through them all, even to the extent of pulling me with Him when I was so consumed by my own thoughts and emotions. His truth stood firm, even when I didn’t.
I did many things I’ve never done before, ate many foods I’ve never even heard of, had adventures that were both frightening and exhilarating (along with one or two that were more or less life-threatening), met many wonderful people, and saw God work in areas of my life and situations in ways that I never thought were possible. I was loved and adored and cared for by people and I never expected that to happen. Of course, how many people say “Oh, it started out with me not wanting to fall in love and then it just happened!” No, that is not what I’m talking about. I AM talking about the love of God’s people, and how, regardless of background, skin color, or situation, we were unified in an amazing way. It was really cool to see 🙂
That’s what I saw this summer too at Camp BaYouCa. I never thought a group of people could come together and comfort each other and encourage each other and grow the way I witnessed this summer. I mean, humans mess up, they’re flawed. Honestly, I struggle with the thought that we’re all incapable of ever loving each other at all, with God or without. But because we did have God, and because we knew His love and were secure in our purpose given by Him, we rose above sickness, fatigue, emotions, drama, conflict, stress, and, yes, even weather to unite for the growth and love of the campers and each other.
One thing after camp, however, happened that I didn’t expect. When I say that you can doubt the Bible with full confidence that it can stand on its own, that God can defend Himself without the help of humanity or other books, I mean it with every ounce of my being. I do not mean, however, that you should play with or invite doubt into your mind and heart just for the sake of being hospitable and letting it prop its feet up while you make it a cup of coffee. No, doubt is meant to be fought, not played with.
Well, I learned this lesson the hard way.
I began reading through the Old Testament and was confronted by a brand of doubt I’d never encountered before, which festered in me a kind of distrust of God that I’ve never had. The lie Satan was feeding me was that God had somehow changed or lied to me or deceived me because of what I’d read in His word. This was obviously a lie, but I couldn’t get past it.
This morning, however, I was pushing through a Bible Study by Cynthia Heald titled Becoming a Woman of Faith. Interestingly enough, I started this study before this struggle came about (and if that’s not God watching out for me, then I don’t know what is). Anyway, one of the questions was “when you’re in the wilderness, in what ways do you tend to trust God or test Him?”
My answer was this: “I always tend to get caught up in the ‘why’ of things, the reasons and explanations behind what God does…but it always comes back to the fact that I will never, during my life here on earth, know the ‘why’, and my comfort never comes from getting the answer I want, demand, crave, but rather who God is, what His word says, remembering that He’s both justice and mercy, wrath and love, friend and enemy, comforter and avenger…”
And then it clicked.
Oh my goodness! God is both! He’s all of these things—wrath, love, mercy, justice, comfort, etc.—all the time, perfectly, whole, totally solid in who He is. He doesn’t need to change or grow for the sake of anyone. God never changed. Everything He did in the Old Testament was totally in line with His character, from the covenant He made with Abraham to His deliverance of Joshua’s army despite the deliberately diminished numbers to the destruction of Jericho to the strengthening of David to the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart to the execution of Ahab and Jezebel. God does what He wants, whether I’m okay with it or not. I know that sounds cold-hearted and hard, but what kind of God would He be if He bent to my every whim and changed His actions and character based on what I felt?
Romans 9 says this:
“What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, Who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever He wills.” (v. 14-18, ESV).
Wow. So, God does what God does and He doesn’t bend to anyone else’s will. How reassuring is that? Very! Because it means even when I don’t agree with something God does or I don’t understand it, it doesn’t matter; God’s not going to change. If God changed because of me, that would me I have some sort of influence over God, which would make me God, and, considering my everything, I’m pretty sure it’s totally obvious that I’m not and never will be God. Just as when circumstances are changing, I can run to God for comfort because He remains the same, when I don’t like or don’t understand why God has done something, I can be reassured that He hasn’t changed, regardless, that He has a backbone and will do what He pleases and doesn’t need me to do it.
Of course then I felt like an idiot because I believed, even though it was for only a moment, that God somehow owed me an explanation or an answer, that He should give me reassurance and that I deserved His honor and love and grace and mercy and He wasn’t expressing it in a way I liked. How dare I! How dare I totally ignore every thing God has done for me, including pushing aside my sin and my imperfections and my mistakes so that He could be with me. How dare I forget for one second how absolutely pathetic and insignificant and powerless and lost I am without Him. Ridiculous.
Romans 9 also says this:
“You will say to me (Paul) then, “Why does He (God) still find fault? For who can resist His will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show His wrath and to make known His power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy…” (v. 19-23)
“But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?” Yeah, who on earth do I think I am to challenge or demand an answer from God? Although God is gracious and loving and caring and understanding, He’s still God. He’s still the Creator of the universe, the One who gives me each and every breath I take, the One who dreamed me into existence, the One who wills rain to fall and thunder to roll and lightning to strike, the One who threw Lucifer into Hell, the One who went to earth in the form of a man while still also being in Heaven and died on a cross, beat death, resurrected Himself, all for the sake of showing His love to a bunch of ungrateful, selfish, flawed, perverted, messed up humans that constantly forsake Him and deny Him the praise and reverence He deserves and spit in His face.
That’s God. It’s only a small glimpse, but it’s Him. He has not changed since before the beginning of time, and He never will change.The only reason why I felt like He changed was not because He did, but because I had. He wasn’t the one who moved, I am. I had begun to look at His word as less than it was and I’d forgotten just how powerful God is and just how small I am. I’m such a stooge. I really am. Here truth has been sitting smack dab in front of me this whole time and I’ve been wandering around in circles for what feels like forever but has really only been a few days. I’m just silly.
And now that I’m done being a total doofus and I’ve remembered who God is, remembered who I am in Him and why I’m going to New York City in the first place, it’s much more exciting and exhilarating to go forth without knowing, to hope without seeing. I can have hope, because I trust God to be God, to be sure and strong when I’m not. His word is solid, perfect in what it says and powerful as the word of God.
God’s got the future covered. He knows what’s going to happen, and I don’t. God is the only One I have to worry about impressing, and He’s simultaneously the One who loves me despite myself. God is the One who justifies, who builds up, who satisfies, who saves. And He will save me and deliver me in times of trouble. He will protect me in times of danger. He will come through when no help can be found. His is the only cause worth pursuing in this life. He’s the only One who can fill you up and never leave you empty. This is my God, and He is a consuming fire, the strong tower, the rock, the warrior, the hero, the king, and He will not be defeated, not be compromised, not be changed for anyone’s sake, not even mine, because He’s greater than anything that could happen to me on this earth, any doubt that could plague my mind, any fear that could arrest my senses, any heartache that could shatter my world, and any enemy that could threaten my safety and even my life. He is God.
“You are My witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after Me. I, I am the Lord, and besides Me there is no savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange God among you; and you are My witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and I am God.” —Isaiah 43:10-12, ESV