I love stability. In fact, as I write this I’m sitting in a brand-name coffee shop in Chippenham, England, sipping coffee from a white mug with its round lady-in-the-middle logo. It’s the same mug I’m familiar with from my regular coffee house near Russell Square in London, and the same mug I’m familiar with from my favorite coffee shop in Vancouver, Washington. It’s not that I’m fascinated with their coffee: I’m not. Instead it’s that I always know what to expect and I can use the same swipe-card in each place. I love stability and the coffee just plays a supporting role.
So here’s the question of the week: why is God so disruptive?
What I mean is this: if I love stability and God loves me, why won’t he let me live in an ongoing, comfortable stasis? For some reason he always seems to be stirring the pot of life. And it’s not just me. God regularly allows cancers to kill, cars to crash, floods to ravage, quakes to shatter, wars to spread, relations to break, and businesses to die. In sum God is all too ready to allow tragedies and totally unexpected events to force us out of our cozy nests into the unhappy downpour of change. But why?
Some of my friends have solved this problem of painful change by claiming that all these disruptions are outside God’s control. But that’s nonsense. God claims to have every hair on each of our heads counted, and to be the one who rules everything from alpha to omega. I accept that in full. If anything might be said about our collective view of God and human circumstances, it’s that our grasp is all too small! In the Bible God takes full ownership of every event that has ever occurred, even when they involve evil, whether we’re speaking of wars or tsunamis. It’s all part of his turf.
Let me add, though, that he is never the source of evil. That comes from us, from the fallen angels, and from the curse on the cosmos that Adam got started. Rather, as in Job’s case, God owns such tragedies and even uses them to bring about his ultimate good purposes. But it’s all terribly disruptive in the meantime.
So here are some thoughts; and I welcome others to comment, too, in the space below.
First, it was God himself who created a longing for stability in our hearts. So he’s tender to the discomfort that any death or profound instability brings to us. I can think, for instance, of how Jesus—the triune Son—wept in the face of death just before he raised his beloved friend Lazarus from the grave. And how God offered Israel their own land where they could grow crops, build homes, and live with all sorts of blessings from God. And even now Jesus has gone ahead of us into heaven to prepare a place for us to live with him in the eternal security he offers us in days to come. So he not only made us long for stability and secure relationships—he promises us that it’s coming.
Second, and crucially: he won’t let us find rest if that rest is not with and in him. He loves us too much for that. Our appetite, in sin, is to serve and worship the creature rather than the Creator—and God refuses to support that addiction [Romans 1:25].
To that end, one Bible metaphor is especially shocking. God is like a dangerous lion ready to tear his unfaithful people in judgment “until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me” [Hosea 5:15]. The prophet then calls his audience to a proper response while also highlighting God’s motive: “Come, let us return to the LORD, for he has torn us that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up” [6:1].
If we put this in temporal terms, God is saying that our immediate disruption is a price he’s ready to have us pay in order for us to start asking much bigger questions about life and meaning if our present comforts are keeping us from an authentic love for him and for others.
There are other reasons for God’s disruptions, of course. In again noticing Lazarus, for instance, his two sisters both expressed a belief in Jesus but their faith seems to have been limited to his ability to heal those who are still alive—and not a faith in his power over death. So Jesus let their brother die before raising him to life. This was a real disruption to them, yet one that certainly extended the range of their faith.
So I have some answers to offer those whose lives are disrupted. But I still love to sit here and sip my secure coffee. So, to all like me, let’s use our coffee breaks as times to enjoy God’s love while maintaining a loose grip and tender hearts.