This past Sunday, New Years Day, our pastor was talking about genuine faith and what it means to be a genuine follower of Jesus, whatever that means. At the end of the service, we were led in the song “I have decided to follow Jesus.” As is often the case, I don’t usually sing that song. It’s not that I’ve decided against following Jesus, it’s simply that I’ll sing that song on my own terms not as part of some expectation that my new year means a new commitment of some sort. I don’t need a new year to make that kind of decision.
As I thought about that service I wondered how many people would sing that song, make some type of new year resolution to “follow Jesus” without ever really taking survey of what that might entail. After all, it is no easy task being a disciple of the Son of God. That thought process got me to thinking about something I’d written a year or so ago entitled “The Truth About God.”
If the truth were told, would any one really tell the truth about what they think about God? I do not mean antagonistically, but candidly. We have many naysayers and theistic bigots, but that is not my concern. I am talking about theists – People who believe in God but have not become so numb to thinking about Him that they can no longer speak candidly about Him.
One book that has occupied space on my shelf for over twenty years is Thomas John Carlisle’s You! Jonah! It is a collection of poems about the life and times of Jonah, God’s favorite prophet, I am sure. There is one poem in there that is very short, entitled “Question”. It goes like this:
I hate God’s enemies
With perfect hatred,
Why can’t God
Do as much?
Now that is being candid with how you feel about God. That is telling the truth about what your head is telling your heart and what your heart is actually feeling. That doesn’t mean it’s right – even godly. It just means it’s candid and real. For some people that would be tantamount to blasphemy. However, I rather think God is capable of handling that kind of openness. After all, He knows it’s lurking in our hearts and minds anyway, so why not just get it out in the open? I expect He might even respect that, instead of some form of spiritual espionage where we attempt to disguise those kinds of thoughts or feelings.
There is another poem called “Two-Way Conversation”. It reads as follows:
At least Jonah
Talked back to God.
Do not even
That’s absolutely accurate in every syllable. When was the last time you talked back to God? Not in a “don’t you sass me” sense, but in the “Hey, wait a minute!” sense. Are you afraid you would offend Him, insult Him? Yes, that’s it! We are afraid we would insult God. That is why we don’t talk truthfully to Him. That is why we don’t talk candidly to Him. That is why we don’t talk back to Him. After all, we would never talk back to our parents, so what in heaven’s name makes us think it would ever be appropriate to talk back to God?
Again, I ask, if the truth were told, does any one talk truthfully about God anymore? Not in the sense that they have an “axe to grind”, whatever that means. Not in the sense that they want to give Him a piece of their mind. But in the sense where we say, “You know what God. I have no idea why you are doing what you are doing. Or not doing. This whole mess makes absolutely no sense. Sometimes it’s embarrassing. I make no pretense about my relationship with you, yet I find myself in a situation that quite frankly sucks. Those around me are wondering, what kind of God it is that I profess to serve. And I don’t mind telling you, I ask myself that from time to time as well.”
As social beings we are fairly proficient about circumventing personalities. We can talk about our boss, our co-worker, our neighbor, even our pastor. However, to talk to them directly about something, especially the truth is – well – just not the same. The people of Israel complained to Moses, not God. They voiced their displeasure to someone who eventually had to go to the source in order to get anything accomplished. It is true, that God had put a bit of “fear” in their hearts; “…For God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.” (Ex. 20:20) But that did not mean they couldn’t voice their unrest to Yahweh Himself. Let’s face it. Their life in Egypt was not that difficult compared to what they were currently experiencing, or about to experience. So it does not stretch the imagination too much to figure out why they might be a bit on edge. My gosh, this was even new to Moses!
Have you not been in a situation where you followed what you believed was God’s leading, then ran into obstacles that you had not anticipated or expected would be there in following His will? Only to find yourself frustrated and wondering, why is God doing this? Then someone comes along and quotes Romans 8:28 and thinks that’s going to make everything okay. But, you want to say – “That does not help! I hate that verse right now and would really appreciate it if you just kept it to yourself. God and I will be dealing with this on our own terms!”
If the truth were told, does anyone ever tell the truth about God? Does He care about my situation in every detail? Or does He care about my situation at all? In the scheme of things, really, does it matter to Him? I would like to think so. I would like to believe He knows my name. That He is aware of my joy, my sorrow, my excitement, my sentiment. Or, is He just concerned about how I fit into the grand scheme of things, not the fit I am in at the present time?
If we are open with ourselves, we enjoy hearing the general platitudes that come from the pulpit or those we read in magazines or devotionals, because they help us mask what we truly feel. They help us balance the angst in our soul — That which wants to burst to the surface is continually being suppressed by a favorite verse, trite sayings, warm prayers or soothing choruses. When in reality we want to shout, to scream, to – yes – throw a tantrum of sorts. Not in public of course – that would be foolish – but in those private places, perhaps the company of a few. Some place where we can burst forth with “I have something to say God!”
He was a man of prayer,
To take God
I know, you are undoubtedly thinking the flames are hot and my name is on the elevator door. However, that may not be the case. For I have nothing to lose. If I cannot speak truthfully about God, then He is not God. If I cannot speak openly and candidly to God, then He is merely an idol and one not worthy of worship. It is not as though I am the first.
”But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue my case with God.” (Job 13:3)
“O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you and watch.” (Psalm 5:3)
Yes, we may be few and far between. But I am not certain that’s because it’s not allowed. It may simply be because no one wants to venture down that road because some one may accuse them of being “untrue”, “unfaithful”, a “reprobate”, or even worse, a genuine disciple of Christ, who struggles to know what God is doing and perhaps why He might be doing it. It’s not that I want to increase myself on the god-ward side and, like my original ancestors, become like God, but rather simply to have some sense of peace about it all. Can I have peace without knowing? Certainly, I can. And most of the time I will and I do. But sometimes – well sometimes, I just want to speak the truth about God.
You don’t mind, do you God?
 Thomas John Carlisle, You! Jonah!, (William B. Eerdmans Publisher, Grand Rapids, MI, 1968)
 Ibid, 43
 Ibid, 42
 Ibid, 30