Is God Shockable?
I am convinced that when for any reason a Christian becomes discouraged in his spiritual life he is forgetting or falling victim to his own ignorance of what God is really like.
It has been said that discouragement is the devil's best weapon with the follower of Christ. I agree. But one clear realization about God can make this so-called weapon forever useless: God is not shockable!
Christians waste time languishing in pools of depression over their spiritual states because they occasionally know periods of doubt. I am inclined to believe that anyone who never doubts is not really thinking. God is not confused by our honest doubts. Why should we be confused? There is no way to learn truth unless one first approaches the subject with some doubt or uncertainty. Scientific discovery would stop abruptly if every scientist suddenly decided that he had once and for all settled all questions involved in the physical universe.
Jesus Christ is every moment ready and willing to reveal Himself to those who seek honestly to know Him, but He is in no way surprised or shocked at the doubts which sometimes interrupt our daily discovery of Him.
The more I read of Him in the Gospel accounts, the more I am convinced that He prefers to be confronted by an honest doubter who wants to see Him as He is. Over and over He made it clear that He is concerned with clarifying central issues for each individual on a personal basis. He went the whole way with "doubting Thomas," but He said some of His most disparaging things about the "hypocrites" who followed the pattern of established religious worship merely because it was established.
He is not shocked at our doubts, but I do believe He is grieved when we become bogged down by them. He is not discouraged with us when we are discouraged with ourselves.
Once and for all, we should have it straight that God is never surprised, discouraged or shocked by us.
He is realistic with us at all times.
This in no way gives us license to side-step His demands upon our lives. But it does wipe any further need for discouragement out of the picture. Once I saw clearly that no matter how I felt or what I did, it in no way changed Jesus Christ, I was set free from ever again being discouraged with my own sweet spiritual self! I was off my own hands as never before. I was suddenly on Jesus Christ as never before.
"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." He didn't wait for us to improve ourselves. He died for us as we are. And since His death was motivated by His love, and since "God is love," how could our doubts and depressions possibly affect the flow of this love toward us? God does not go away from us during our disobedient periods. It is we who get lost in the maze of our own introspection.
It is extremely important for both new and older Christians to know that God is not shockable.
We shock one another, but God is unshockable simply because He knows us as we were yesterday, as we are
today and as we will be tomorrow. He is fully aware that we are still mere human beings. And even though He longs to see us come to the place of realizing our tremendous potential with our lives linked to His, still He waits always nearby, until we do see. The Christian life is not a subjective struggle to reach a place of high grace. It is the simple seeing that grace in Jesus Christ has already reached to us in our present condition.
Out pour our prayers of much talking as we ridiculously remind God of what He already knows about us. "O God, I am such a weak person. My need is so great." True. And this is a right prayer. But when we begin to dwell on our weakness and to stay in the rut of discouragement as though He didn't know about it at all, we are wrong.
If you do something which shocks you and sends you into a fit of depression about yourself, you are saying in effect that you are surprised to discover that you are not the tremendous Christian you thought you were. This is pride. The smooth Christian life is one which sees its need, accepts it and goes on depending solely on the fact that He is always at work through His Holy Spirit, untangling and redeeming the source of the trouble.
The forgiveness of Jesus Christ is an active thing. It is in no way passive. Some of us are inclined to consider forgiveness lightly. We are passive in our asking for it and we are passive almost casual in our acceptance. This is not dealing in forgiveness from the standpoint of the Cross, either from His side or from ours. When we see our dreadful need, we are rightly dismayed and sick at heart. But this is different from being shocked and discouraged.
When we begin to see ourselves as we are, in contrast with Jesus Christ as He is, our need can seem to smother us at first. We are not to stop here in our insight, because
if we do we skid inevitably into the rut of discouragement with ourselves.
It is here that we must look at Him as He is, and realize that if we did not have this disease of sin within us He would not have needed to go to the Cross. We do have it, He did go to the cross and forgiveness remains costly to God; but it remains. Not as a "thing" to be dealt with passively or casually. It is a part of the Person who gave Himself.
When we ask a human being whom we love for forgiveness, we experience shame, remorse, sorrow. But when we know forgiveness has been given by that person, our hearts leap up with hope and gratitude. Hope because we know that loved one has confidence that we will not do it again; and gratitude because the loved one loved enough to give up any right to hold our sin against us. This is not a casual process. It is an active, pain and love filled exchange.
God is not surprised and He is not shocked by us in any way. He is concerned and ready to heal, give and forgive with the recklessness of love found only in the heart of God. And then He wants and has every right to expect us to go on. No one can go far with a heavy burden of discouragement and "disenchanted self-love" chained to his back. Jesus said, "Come unto me, all ye that... are heavy laden and I will give you rest."
Who can rest when he is not relaxed?
If you are biting your spiritual lip and clenching your spiritual fist in despair and disillusionment over the way you have turned out, you cannot rest. If you are straining every nerve to live up to someone's idea of evangelical conformity, you cannot rest. If you are "trying to be a good Christian," you have missed the point of Jesus' lovely offer. The Christian life in its truest sense is a life lived in expectancy from God. We are confronted in the New Testament with the absolute demands of God's
Kingdom. But the mood of the New Testament is not the mood of so many evangelical Christians. It is not a mood of condemnation. The New Testament makes plain the rightful demands of the Saviour God, but it does it in a mood of hope and expectancy from that God. Every claim of Christ upon the life of any person is rooted in His love. He has not laid down abstract laws to cause us strain. He has given Himself to us, so that we can rest.
John Knox wrote, "The God who asks everything is eager also to give everything. His moral demands are absolute, but He forgives to the uttermost." He took on your total personality when He took you to Himself. He didn't just take your good intentions or your bad ones. He took you. All of you. As you are. And with your total personality, He is constantly working His great redemptive work whether you see results or not.
It is a comfort to receive greeting cards and hang up plaques which remind us that God understands. He does. But how much better for us to accept the fact of His understanding once and for all and proceed from there!
Comfort is a needed thing for us all. But it is only a part of the wonder which can be ours when we realize at last and put to practical use, the fact of His total understanding. To say that someone understands does not necessarily mean that he approves. But it does do away with the highest barrier to any relationship the possibility of recoil when one person involved is shocked.
Much of my mail comes from young people who are afraid to confide in their parents or ministers or teachers. "I know I should tell my mother about this, but she would be shocked."
An alcoholic man wrote not long ago, "I went to my minister for help, but he was shocked that I'd be so low and ungrateful as to keep on drinking after such a wonderful girl as my wife agreed to marry me."
I love to answer letters like those, because I can assure
these people that Jesus Christ never recoils from anything. If this had been in His nature, He would surely have recoiled from the shame and horror of His Cross.
To you who are new Christians, my heart reaches through the pages of this book to assure you that although you may shock your spiritual human friend (because after all he or she is only human) you do not, you cannot, shock God. He is always there with His heart and His mind perfectly open to you. Not necessarily with approval or sanction of what you have done or thought, but open to you as you are in your need. We are shocked by things we cannot imagine ourselves doing. Jesus Christ was tempted in all points as we are tempted, when He was on earth. He was sinless, but temptation does not shock Him. Not only because He was tempted Himself, but because the great Creator did become our Saviour and He knows human nature as no one else can know it. It is not hard for Him to imagine our doing anything.
He is a realist.
Since He created the human mind, the unreality of neuroticism is no mystery to Him. He longs for us to be honest with Him and with ourselves. With His strength to use, we can face ourselves more realistically. And reality is the key to allowing Him to make progress with us. He will be realistic with us at all times. He can be no other way and remain true to His nature, which is an all knowing one.
O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me.
Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising,
Thou understandest my thought afar off.
Thou compassest my path and my lying down,
and art acquainted with all my ways.
Psalm 139:1, 2, 3 (KJV)
If He seems not to be answering your prayers in a certain area, nine times out of ten it is because you are not yet being realistic about something.
Jesus Christ is never satisfied with a superficial invasion of our lives. He does not approve of an adulterous relationship, but just breaking it off is not enough for Him, because He knows the inner damage can go on with you unless you see realistically why it should be broken off. He will not force you to break it off, but He will enlighten you so that you will come to see it His way, if you will be honest with Him. He knows that to hold lustful, covetous thoughts about a wrong relationship can be just as damaging as the relationship itself. And in all of His dealings with you, He is primarily concerned about you, not about your keeping certain laws for the sake of the law itself.
Other Christians may be shocked that you are involved in a particular situation. But happily, some are more realistic about the nature of sin and of God. A young woman once told me about a talk she had with an elderly lady who had lived a moral Christian life. The young woman confided to her that she was struggling to break off an illicit affair. "I'm sorry to have to burden you with this story, and I suppose you're shocked, but I do need help."
"Shocked?" the old lady chuckled. "No, dear. Sin is sin. Your affair is no more shocking than my critical tongue can be!"
This old saint had seen reality in the light that shines from the Cross of Calvary for anyone who will look.
A sincere, hard working W.C.T.U. woman approached my mother not long ago with a severe reprimand because she had not been active in the work lately. Mother had a legitimate reason, but in order to reassure the lady, she tried bringing up my interest in our farm for alcoholics. She also told of having tried to help an alcoholic friend, hoping for the old lady's interest. Instead of interest
Mother got a snort of disapproval! "I wouldn't have one of those drunken people in my house for a minute!"
This does not mirror the general attitude of the good ladies in the W.C.T.U. by any means. But it did show that even though our doctrine may be "correct" and our energies spent in "good causes," if we are still shockable by anything human nature does, we are missing the point of Calvary.
No one ever needs to fear God's recoil from anything. Or anyone.
The thief on the cross who turned to Jesus found this to be true. The Lord knew this man's heart and knew why his criminal record was what it was. He was not shocked that the man dared to ask from a criminal's cross to be remembered when Christ came into His Kingdom. Jesus was nailed to the same kind of cross. He could not reach His hand to the fellow, it was nailed down. But He was still Love. And His love reached out and assured the thief that with no further delay or ceremony, he would be with Him that very day in Paradise.
He moved toward the penitent thief that dark afternoon with all the love of His breaking heart. But to those who know Him as He is, this is just what one would expect Him to do. After all, God is love. And love is always in motion toward the loved one. To be shocked is to recoil.
Love never recoils. It reaches out to heal.
Chapter Six || Table of Contents