At a recent ladies’ retreat the speaker asked, “What are the hardest truths to believe about God?”
Before moving overseas, I thought I had a pretty good handle on Christianity. If you’d asked me about hard truths just 3 years ago, I might answer: Um, interpreting the book of Revelation?
Moving overseas complicated a lot of things. Sunday school answers quickly failed. Hard truths? Oh, yes. I’ve got ‘em…
About a month ago my son and I rounded a corner and walked into a crowd of about 50 men. A shop owner explained, “There was an accident. They are going to beat up the driver.”
My six year old shouted, “Let’s go, Mommy. I’m really scared!” I grabbed his hand. Run!
We began to move away. This wasn’t the first time we’d been on the street when violence erupted. Get out. Get to safety. Don’t let your son see this.
But this day, I froze. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t run away.
“I’m so sorry.” I said, “I know this is a lot to ask of you, but we need to stay. We need to call the police if they fight, I’m not sure anyone else will. We need to know the man in that truck will be ok.”
My son started to cry and I started to pray. God, are you really big enough? Are you big enough to meet my son in his fear, and stop that mob of men, to care for the man in the truck, and to make me bold?
Thankfully, this story ends without a fight. After a few tense moments the group disbursed. “Mommy, you were really brave,” my son said as we walked away. I didn’t feel brave. I felt scared and irresponsible.
That evening after the event in the street, I said to my husband, “It was right to stop and make sure the man would be ok, I know that. But what about our son? I’m not sure it was right for him.” We discussed some of the different scenarios we’ve faced on the street and the inevitability of encountering more. “You could look for a safe place he could wait so that he doesn’t have to see everything,” my husband suggested. We agreed our son should have a chance for debriefing and set up a counseling Skype call.
What are the hardest truths to believe about God? These days, for me it’s the most basic truths:
God, are you really big enough? Do you really see it all? Are you really at work here?
In his book Prayer, Tim Keller writes, “It is remarkable that in all of his writings Paul’s prayers for his friends contain no appeals for changes in their circumstances. It is certain that they lived in the midst of many dangers and hardships. They faced persecution, death from disease, oppression by powerful forces, and separation from loved ones. Their existence was far less secure than ours is today.”
Keller then explains it isn’t wrong to pray for protection or ask God to supply our needs, and that Paul also instructed believers to pray for these things. So what is it that occupies Paul’s recorded prayers for his friends? Keller writes, “It is to know him (God) better.”
God, are you big enough? is simply another way of saying, God, I need a profound sense and deep experience of the reality of your presence. I need to know you here.
The Big If
Is God present? Yes, of course He is. Can I know and be changed by His presence? Yes, of course I can.
Here’s where those yeses become real – If God is present, sees all, and is at work in all, then I can trust Him. That’s a mighty big if.
If God is present: I can trust Him with my son – God’s love for him is deeper than my own. I can trust Him with the man in the truck – God cares for him infinitely more than I do. I can trust Him with the mob of men – God’s sees and loves even them. I can trust Him with myself – God lives in me.
At this point in my life, these are the hardest truths about God for me to grasp. I wish a single event could cement in my mind and heart that God is indeed present and that I can indeed trust Him. But the cathedral of this truth isn’t built in an instant. Instead, it rises slowly through prayer and response, moment by moment, and brick by brick.