The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

The Benefits of Betrayal: How God Uses Traumatic Experiences to Strengthen Our Bond with Him

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AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

Building a relationship with a nonhuman, all powerful Creator is an entirely different affair than developing a solid friendship with another human being. For one thing, humans are limited, whereas God is unlimited. This greatly changes the kinds of things we can expect to receive in the relationship. You can’t look to a human to satisfy your every need. That would be like trying to pour a gallon’s worth of water out of a single cup. You can’t expect a human to be totally trustworthy or dependable. Humans are frail. They easily crack under pressure. The most noble man could be persuaded to compromise his character under the right circumstances. The most devoted spouse could be tempted into having an affair if they were put under enough strain.

We all have needs which humans are incapable of fulfilling but at first we don’t realize this. We go into human relationships with expectations that are way too high only to end up crushed and disillusioned when people fail us. Once we’ve been badly hurt, we never want to be hurt again. Yet we are extremely needy creatures and our needs cripple us when they continue to go unmet. We MUST find a source that can give us the things we need, and ultimately this is what will drive us to God. Our Creator is the only One who can truly satisfy us. Once we’re told this, we get back out those lofty expectations that we used in human relationships and we expect God to be everything that we want Him to be. But then He’s not. He doesn’t always answer us when we pray, He doesn’t allow us to see Him or sense His Presence in some affirming way. He is far more mysterious and strange than we were expecting. He does things to us which we do not like. Then the day comes when He does something that we REALLY do not like—something that completely violates who we think God should be. Now we feel greatly betrayed and betrayal leads to feelings of hate. If God really loves us, why would He treat us like this? We feel there is no reasonable answer to this question. And yet there is…

To understand why God intentionally shatters our trust in Him at certain points in our walk, we need to start with the fact that God is not a human being. When you relate to a human, you are relating to a creature who is your equal. If they seem to have power over you because they are your parent or pastor or some other authority figure, their power is very limited, and their superior rank is based on temporary things which could change at any moment. The balance of power is never a fixed thing in human relationships. The dominant person could suddenly be forced into a submissive role at any time. A man might terrorize his wife through physical beatings until the day that he gets in a car accident and ends up paralyzed and totally dependent on her to take care of his basic needs. We humans are never secure in our power positions. We automatically assume God isn’t entirely secure in His, either. We think He can be dominated by Satan or overwhelmed by our sins. The popular theory that God has no relationship with evil is based on the assumption that He is a limited Being. Yet He is not limited, He is unlimited, and this really changes the dynamic of the relationship dance.

When we enter into a relationship with God, we’re not working with Someone who we can manipulate in any way. There is no point in trying to negotiate with God, because He is not the bargaining type. All the ways we’re used to interacting with humans are based on the fact that humans have needs which we can leverage in order to maintain some sense of control in the relationship. God has no such needs, and therefore we have no control over Him whatsoever. We are not used to a relationship in which all of the needs are on one side and all of the power is on another. Yet this is how it is, and a key element of becoming intimate with God is learning how to get comfortable with being totally dominated by Him.

When we start out with God, He does not start right in with the domination lessons. He intentionally holds off, giving us time to get used to this new relationship and allowing us to hang on to some wrong ideas about how He operates. We humans are fragile creatures and we can only handle so much change at once. We feel intimidated and threatened by things we do not understand, so God shields us from His wild side at first. But at some point, we must start being educated about the vast differences between Him and other humans. We must also be guided away from the belief that we can control God and we must learn to stop trying to interpret Him using human standards.

A shocking act of betrayal on God’s part will immediately raise up many serious flaws in our view of Him. Once these issues are brought to the surface, they can be dealt with. Growing intimate with God requires a willingness to submit to Him in ever deepening ways. It’s rather like a man who is wading into the ocean. Every step he takes brings the water higher up on his body and reduces his sense of control. We think we have submitted sufficiently to God just by sticking our toes into the edges of incoming waves. Yet total surrender requires complete immersion and a relinquishing of all control on our part. On earth, an ocean is a very dangerous thing. It contains powerful currents which can easily kill a man by sucking him under and holding him down in places where he can’t breathe. When we enter into a relationship with God, we are uniting ourselves with a Being who is far more powerful than an ocean. God is an extremely dangerous, unrestrainable Deity who is bound by nothing. The only reason we’re even comfortable with Him at first is because we are completely denying the reality of His wildness and volatility. Most Christians today—even seasoned Christians—are still denying the truth of God’s absolute power and autonomous will. Yet if we are going to get closer to Him, we need to move away from denial and start considering some shocking truths. By shocking us with treacherous acts, God forces us to face truths that we will never face voluntarily, such as:

  • We cannot restrain God.
  • We cannot direct Him.
  • We cannot predict His next move.
  • We cannot understand Him.
  • We cannot make Him adjust to us.
  • We cannot count on Him to do what we want.
  • We cannot protect ourselves from Him.

All of these truths are very upsetting to us. They grate on our pride, they intimidate us, and they cause us to feel terrifyingly vulnerable. What is really happening here is that we are being stripped of all sense of control in the relationship. This is vital, for God will not be intimate with anyone who refuses to embrace His total domination of them.

In order for us to never feel betrayed by God, He would always have to stay in alignment with our expectations of Him. The problem with this is that our expectations are seriously flawed. They are far too confining for a limitless God to abide by. We want things that are not good for us. We are like children who want to eat only candy and never vegetables. A good father cares about his children’s nutrition. He is going to refuse to let them direct him on the subject of what they can eat. Instead, he insists on directing them and he gives them nothing but vegetables until they are so hungry that they finally break down and eat something that they intensely hate. And because the vegetables are what they really need, they end up much better off for submitting to their father’s authority. God goes through this same pattern with us countless times as we mature in the faith. We want something that He knows isn’t good for us and He withholds it. Sometimes the thing we want would be bad for us at any time, other times what we want would be good some of the time, but not at the present moment. For example, there’s nothing wrong with having a strong emotional sense of God’s Presence being close beside us. This is a wonderful thing for sensual creatures like us to experience and God enjoys giving it to us. But if He gives this to us too often, we never learn to develop strong trust.

Strong trust cannot be anchored on feelings and sensual feedback—it must be anchored solely on God’s Character. It must become so anchored on Him that it can persist in the face of contrary sensual feedback. Strong trust knows that God is present even when emotions are screaming that He is far away. Strong trust does not rely on senses to define reality—it relies solely on God. The only way to develop this kind of trust is to go through “dry spells”—periods when we experience no warm fuzzies in our relationship with God. To survive such a period, our trust must find a better foundation to cling to, for the sensual foundation it was leaning on has crumbled beneath it. Once trust re-anchors onto God’s good Character, it is in a position to grow much stronger. But to really attain more strength, it must now be put through a period of countering emotional feedback—times when it is bombarded with sensual “evidence” that God is the opposite of everything He says He is. By intentionally doing things that will cause us to feel deeply betrayed by Him, God forces us to really scrutinize the foundation of our trust. We must decide if we are going to believe the things He says about Himself—that He is good, that He is faithful, that He is for us, etc.—or if we are going to throw out everything He said because our sensual experience of Him isn’t lining up.

To reach deeper levels of intimacy with God, we have to let go of this need for our experience of Him to always feel like a logical match to the things He says about Himself. God is good, but there are many times when He will behave in ways that seem very evil to us. God is trustworthy, but there are many times when He will do things that we don’t understand. Our trust in Him must become strong enough to allow room for Him to behave in ways that seem illogical and contradictory without us immediately questioning His entire Character. God is far too huge and complex to be understood by our limited minds.

In human relationships the concepts of trust, understanding, and control are quite intertwined with each other. When one of these principles is threatened, a domino effect of destruction results. For example, if a friend suddenly starts doing things that make no sense to us, we will suddenly feel like we can’t trust them and then we will feel unsafe around them. A lack of understanding leads to the loss of trust and control. If our obedient dog suddenly tears away from its leash and starts snarling at us, our sudden loss of control will inspire immediate feelings of distrust and confusion. And if a man finds out his wife is having an affair, the broken trust results in feelings that he no longer knows her the way he thought he did, and that he is vulnerable to being harmed by her. A loss of trust results in a loss of understanding and control. These three things are married together in human relationships, yet with God, they must be completely separated. Trust cannot be based on understanding or control, it must learn to stand alone and we must learn how to be content with trust being the only thing that we have.

In our relationship with God, we do not have any control, and we cannot even begin to fully understand Him. Yet as we progress, we learn that we do not need either of these two things in order to attain rich soul communion with Him. God can satisfy us in a way that no human ever can, but in order to get close to Him, we must be willing to learn an entirely different way of relating. God often uses shocking, traumatic experiences to blast us out of deeply entrenched human patterns of relating. It’s rather like using dynamite to blast a tunnel through a mountain. Simply chipping away at hard rock with a pickax isn’t going to get you very far. And telling humans to stop rooting their trust in their ability to understand doesn’t work very well, either. God says that we can’t control Him, but we don’t really believe Him until He suddenly pulls the rug out from under us and starts demonstrating His ability to wreck our lives, trash our faith, destroy our health, etc. What specific examples God uses with us will be different in each case. And though we will initially respond to His actions with hatred, doubt, and panic, if we wait for Him to finish what He’s started, we will end up in a far better place.

It is very possible to trust God even though you don’t understand Him. When we finally abandon all hope of control in our relationship with Him, we are shocked by the end result. Instead of feeling totally lost and terrified, we end up overwhelmed with peace, joy, and a profound sense of freedom. We were designed by God to feel most content and secure under His total domination. When humans dominate us, we feel stifled, threatened, and fearful. Relating to God is a different kind of dance. There are different rules, different consequences, and a whole new definition of wisdom. These two systems can’t be blended. We must stop treating God like a human if we’re going to progress with Him. If we try to treat humans the way God teaches us to treat Him, the results will be disastrous. God is not human, yet He is the One we were designed to be with. He is amazing. Pursuing Him with all that we are is the wisest choice we will ever make.

FURTHER READING:
Knowing without Understanding
Faith in Crisis: How to Grow Through the Storm

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