There have been times, too numerous to count, when I went one way, suspecting the Lord was heading in the same direction, only to find out the heart-breaking reality that God was going a different direction.
People seek to confirm their worldview (belief system) in their experiences. Christians are no different. I am no different. I’m constantly looking for events, I call them “God-sightings”, that evidence what I already believe. We can become so reliant on such events that the events themselves become the anchor for our faith. This is understandable, but very dangerous.
C.S. Lewis Misinterpreted God
I am haunted by the words of C.S. Lewis in his A Grief Observed, (loosely quoted):
It is not as though I have quit believing in God, it is that I have come to the point where I say, “So God, this is who You really are.”
In 1956, at the age of 58, Lewis married Joy Gresham. At first, it was a benevolent legal marriage due to Gresham’s need for British citizenship. However, they eventually fell in love.
After finding out that Gresham had contracted terminal bone cancer, they sought a Christian marriage. In prayerful hope they lived together as husband and wife. The cancer went into remission and they praised God for the unexpected. God had done something wonderful, an anchor in their experience. It was a reason to shout praises to God for His lovingkindness.
Sadly, the remission was short lived. The cancer took her life just three years after the wedding ceremony conducted at Joy’s hospital bedside. One year later Lewis writes, A Grief Observed. The praise he gave God turned into confused bitterness for a time. Even C.S. Lewis, one of the top ten theologians of all time, misinterpreted God.
I Misinterpreted God
I often reflect on the journey of my sister’s death. Like C.S. and Joy Lewis, we thought we’d received a “message” from God, but we were wrong.
To make a long story short, my sister was suicidal for about two years.
She lived near me in Frisco, so when there was a problem, it was up to me to come to the rescue. I broke down her door and rushed her to the hospital when she overdosed on sleeping pills, took her kicking and screaming to the local psych hospital to admit her twice, and traveled to her house on 16 other occasions when we couldn’t reach her.
Once, we couldn’t find her anywhere. She wasn’t at home or at work. I didn’t know what to do. She’d had a particularly bad day and was very suicidal. I got in my car and started looking for her. I randomly pulled into a hotel off the highway. It was nothing short of a miracle; I found her in a room with a six-pack and a gun. I was able to stop her… this time.
I found my sister, in a hotel room, with a six-pack and a gun.
In the middle of this tragic situation, my family and I believed God was answering our prayers as we pleaded for her life. We had a “divine” comfort that she wasn’t going to die. Otherwise, how do we explain such a miracle?
Because, we were going left and God was going right. Despite the praise (which, looking back, seems like a kind of “arm twisting” to gain divine assurance), Angie took her life three months later in a different hotel room that I couldn’t find. Sadly, this isn’t the only time I’ve come face-to-face with the issue of suicide.
Our Only Sure Anchor?
I could tell many more stories. But these should suffice as illustrations of how careful we must be not to let our experiences be the anchor of our faith.
I could also tell stories about the times God went right, and I tracked with Him. As beneficial as that would be, I’ll save those for another time. This is about the times we misunderstand what God is doing and purchase too much equity in that particular stock.
In the end, I’ve learned that the only sure anchor for my faith is the resurrection of Christ.
Christ isn’t Lord because He rescues people from cancer, saves the depressed, or fixes their finances. Christ is Lord because He rose from the dead. It’s that simple.
I’ll have many other anchors. So will you. But none compare to the resurrection of Christ. Hold onto those other anchors loosely. God can be praised in all things, but not necessarily in our interpretation of all things.
The lyrics to The Frey’s song “You Found Me” come to mind. In a Psalmist-like rendering of confusion, the words spoken to the Lord (with which we can all identify) ring loudly:
Where were you when everything was falling apart?
All my days were spent by the telephone that never rang
And all I needed was a call that never came
But the call had already come; two thousand years ago on a cross, on a hill, and in an empty tomb. It was, and is, a call to all of us.
How about you? Have you had times when you felt God misdirected you? Please share.