AUDIO VERSION: YouTube Podbean
If you keep jabbing a man with a sharp stick, how would you expect him to react? You’d expect him to get madder and madder until he finally lets you have it. When he calls you a bunch of nasty names and demands to know why you’re acting like such a creep by poking him with your stupid stick, would you find his attitude unreasonable? Not hardly. As another human, you know how painful it would be to get jabbed with a stick like the one you’re holding. You know that if it was you on the receiving end of those pokes, you’d be just as upset.
Now in such a scenario, there’s only one reason you’d be poking a man with your stick: because you’re trying to get him to flip out on you. We see this kind of behavior at work with bullies all the time: they keep inflicting emotional or physical pain on someone just for the sake of getting that person to fly off the handle at them. When humans treat other humans this way, they have nasty reasons for doing so. When God treats humans this way, He has very good reasons.
Our stick analogy brings up two important points about how God reacts when you completely lose it with Him. First, He is not at all surprised by your behavior. God understands you infinitely better than another human does. God even understands you far better than you understand yourself. So when your meltdown is over and you feel terribly embarrassed and ashamed of your “unreasonable” behavior, God doesn’t find it unreasonable at all. As your Creator, God knows where all of your sensitive spots are because He gave them to you. He controls how much tolerance you have for various kinds of pain and stress. When you find yourself being pushed past those limits, it is not an accident. It is very intentional, which brings us to our second point: God provokes us on purpose.
So then, what form did your tantrum take? Did you cuss God out? Did you call Him a bunch of sordid names? Did you throw things at Him? Did you swear that you no longer want anything to do with Him? You’re in good company. Dramatic meltdowns among Christians happen far more often than you think, yet they don’t happen as often as God would like. Now wait a second—since when does God want us to flip out on Him? Well, God wants a real relationship with you, not some shallow, two-faced pile of ritualistic hypocrisy. When you’re secretly seething at God yet you stand in church mechanically belting out the praise songs, He is shaking His head in frustration. When you lie your face off about how much you aren’t being stressed by the trial He’s putting you through, He finds your avoidance of honesty to be utterly useless. God wants sincerity from you. He wants you to drop all the charades and come to Him just as you are, willing to receive the love He has for you. But you’ve got it in your head that God is some unreasonable tyrant who doesn’t know the first thing about compassion, therefore you’d better tiptoe around Him and watch what you say. How can any relationship worth having form while you’re so guarded?
You’ve never created a living, conscious being out of nothing at all. You don’t know what it’s like to dream up a creature who you would love to interact with and then bring that exact creature into existence. This is what happened when God made you. You are His very good idea come to life. Because you can’t imagine the experience of creating you, you don’t come anywhere close to understanding how much God loves and wants you. This isn’t some one-sided relationship you’re in where you are the only one who really cares. You are being pursued by a very passionate and determined Love. He is going to do whatever it takes to tear down the walls between the two of you and get you to the point where you’ll be content to relax in His lap and let Him hold you instead of cowering in a corner afraid of Him beating on you. As long as you are afraid to be totally honest with Him, that awkward tension is going to be hanging in the air, stifling your communion. This is no good. God wants you to understand that He loves the complete package of you. When He holds out His arms to you, He isn’t saying, “Set your flaws aside before you come to Me.” He wants you to run to Him without any hesitation and feel safe to express whatever emotions are churning within you. Anger, confusion, frustration, despair, doubt, fear—it is all just as welcome as your praise and admiration because it is all a part of who you really are.
So how does God get you over your fear that He will kick you away the minute you are totally honest with Him? By provoking you into a complete meltdown. As long as you think there is some “unforgivable behavior” that could instantly sever the bond between you and God, you are not going to totally lower your guard. There will always be that sense of strained distance as you carefully avoid praying about certain topics or feeling certain emotions. But happily, God knows you inside and out, and He knows exactly what you think is “unforgivable.” Maybe you’re terrified of cussing Him out because that’s “blasphemy.” Maybe you’re afraid of using a snarky tone because that’s “irreverent.” Whatever you’re so afraid of becoming is exactly what you need to become so you can see that the whole house won’t crumble the moment you flip out on God. You are far more secure with Him than you realize, but you’re afraid to believe it, so God takes on the job of convincing you.
Something we take for granted in life is depth perception—the ability to see the world in three dimensions (3D) and thus determine the distance of various objects. It is your depth perception that enables you to smoothly go up and down a flight of stairs. If all the stairs appeared flat to you, you would trip and hurt yourself. So when do our brains first acquire this ability? It seems to turn on when we are mere babies, but when exactly? This is the question researchers set out to answer.
Now studying cognitive development in babies makes for some very interesting experiments. Since babies can’t talk, researchers have to find other means of gauging their reactions. To study depth perception in babies, a team of psychologists built what’s known as a visual cliff by getting a thick pane of clear glass and setting it over a checkered cloth. When the baby first crawls out onto the pane of glass, all is well. But after a little distance, the sheet of cloth that is under the glass drops a dramatic four feet. Now the glass is supported so that the baby could crawl all the way across it without falling, but because the glass is so clear and the checkered pattern is so distracting, the sight of the checkered “ground” suddenly dropping down makes it look like the baby is at risk of crawling right over the edge of a cliff.
To motivate the little darlings to be adventurous, the researchers had a parent stand on the far side of the glass with a toy or some other enticing object. To reach mom’s waiting arms, the baby would have to risk crawling out over that fearsome cliff edge. Results showed that when they came to the apparent drop off, babies ranging from 6 to 14 months of age were quite hesitant to cross. They’d cautiously tap the ground and seem to realize that the glass surface continued on, but the sight of the checkered ground suddenly dropping away beneath the glass told them there was trouble, so most refused to venture out any further. When the cliff effect was removed and the ground appeared to be of the same depth the whole way, babies crawled over to meet mom without problems. This experiment demonstrated that human babies rely on their sight to guide them and that they can perceive depth very early on.
There are many “visual cliffs” that we have to cross in our relationships with God—situations in which He urges us to venture out in trust and count on Him to support us. God assures us that we can be totally honest with Him, yet when angry feelings arise, we feel like we’re too close to the edge of that cliff. We fear that if we don’t retreat and find a way to stuff our feelings down, we’ll fall off the edge and our relationship with God will be lost. Yet God is standing on the other side of the apparent plummet, holding out His arms to us and urging us to continue forward on the road of total honesty. He tells us not to be afraid of our doubts, for they cannot wrench us away from Him. He tells us there is no need to hide our anger and pain from Him because He is far more compassionate than we realize. At some point, we need to lock our focus on God’s waiting arms and venture out beyond the edge of that scary cliff. When we can’t muster the courage to do this, He sometimes uses force—provoking us and provoking us until we finally explode at Him in rage. This is when demons rush in to try and convince us that we have indeed fallen over the edge and that irreparable damage has been done to our relationship with God. But no, it hasn’t. We haven’t fallen, for some invisible force is keeping us safely suspended in the air. God hasn’t turned away from us, instead He is holding us gently in His arms and whispering His love to our souls. Sometimes we can learn to see this the first time. Sometimes we have to be driven over that terrifying edge several times before it starts getting through to us that our worst fears are not coming true.
You can never damage your relationship with God by being totally honest with Him. On the contrary, honesty is what makes the whole thing stronger. Demons know this, which is why they put so much energy into convincing you that God will cast you out if you ever dare to be real with Him. But no, He won’t. Nothing pleases God more than when we stop with all the false pretenses and really open up to Him. He already knows us inside and out, so it’s not like we can ever shock Him with our true feelings. He knows us and He draws us close to Him just as we are. So for those of you who have recently flipped out on God, it’s time to look up and realize that He hasn’t gone anywhere. He is still right there with you and there is no need for cowering in shame or making endless apologies. We can’t control the way we feel. God puts us through a lot of painful experiences in this world and He doesn’t want us driving ourselves into exhaustion trying to pretend we’re not upset. Instead, He wants us to open our minds to the possibility that maybe an all-knowing God can’t be shocked as easily as we think He can. And maybe the One who created us to be such frail little creatures doesn’t hold our frailty against us. God loves you as much now as He did before your meltdown, and driving you into that ugly episode was His way of helping you understand His love a little better than you did before.
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