Have you noticed how often we tend to interpret our faith as we want it to be, rather than as God reveals it to be? I think of it this way. We have adopted the lifestyle of a tourist who only wants to see the highlights of the city.
Forget all the back alleys of New York. Show me Times Square. Let’s just jump to the Empire State Building. We focus on how the Christian life “ought” to be. (As if the tough parts are electives.)
A broad chasm stretches between the God we want and the God who is. Between the life we want and the life God wants for us.
As tough as it sounds, the only way to bridge this gap is the cross.
Welcome to Normal
It’s not as though God has duped us. Rather, it’s that we have selective hearing and a limited perspective. God told us the truth. Nevertheless, we’re surprised when normal includes some serious struggle.
In reality, the surprise should come if we do not experience trouble (1 Cor. 7:28; 1 Thess. 3:3-4; 1 Pet. 4:12; 1 John 3:13).
Between our reading of God’s promises and our enjoying God’s fulfillment of those promises come “a time of testing” (Luke 8:13). The testing, according to Jesus’ parable of the soils, came after the seed was sown.
- After we’re given God’s Word, a time of testing comes to see if we’ll believe it. It happens to everybody.
- And even when we remain faithful to God’s Word, that often doesn’t remove the test.
It’s amazing that the same Peter who bristled against Jesus’ cross—“Lord this shall never happen to you!”—would later write, “Do not be surprised at the fiery trials that come upon you.” What transformed this man, who wanted nothing but glory from Jesus, into a man willing to be crucified upside down for Christ in Rome?
Failure, heartbreak, and bitter tears—that’s what. God allowed him to experience reality, and it broadened his limited perspective.
It wasn’t that Peter’s ambitions were wrong. After all, Jesus did promise the disciples that they would reign on thrones (Matt. 19:28). Peter’s problem came in how those dreams were to come about. The cross never figured into Peter’s plans, and so every single time Jesus brought it up, Peter bristled and forcefully rejected it.
Broadening Your Limited Perspective
When we pray for God to bring relief, or change, or a certain result from a challenging situation, we have to remember that what we’re asking God to do—even though it may be completely within the bounds of Scripture—comes from a limited perspective.
We look at the situation and evaluate it in such a way as to think: Lord, bring about this result in my character. Help me be more loving, patient, self-controlled, etc.
Obviously, God wants us to be these things, but He may have another result in mind altogether.
- He sees the blind spots in our character—those areas our limited perspective doesn’t even know to pray for.
- So He shapes the situation to unearth the defects buried deeply beneath layers of immature jealousies, lusts, and longings for relief.
Sometimes God’s greatest acts of love come in saying no to our requests, because He wants to give us much, much more than answers to third grade questions.
He wants to grow us up to be like His Son—and the Father will never stop this relentless pursuit in our lives.
Tell me what you think: What has God used to broaden your limited perspective? To leave a comment, just click here.
This post is adapted from Wayne’s book, Waiting on God: What to Do When God Does Nothing.
• What do you do when the life God has promised you looks nothing like the life he has given you?
• If you find yourself waiting on God—or if you don’t know what God wants you to do next—this book offers a wise and practical guide to finding hope and peace in life’s difficult pauses.
You will discover what to do when it seems God does nothing.