What To Do When God Gets On Your Nerves?
By Rev. M.D. “Doc” Bass Special To THE CALL
Kansas City CALL Newspaper Inc
No. It’s not a rallying cry for more “war in heaven,” like the failed insurrection of Revelation 12. The terms of that war might help us rethink the beef we have with God over our disappointments and a few unanswered prayers, many of which amount to little more than nag letters begging God to undo the consequences of bad moves we made in disobedience. What’s left are what Paul might call the “common” issues of faith we’ll all wrestle with ‘til Jesus comes. As the title for a book I wrote a few years ago, some just heard, “God Gets On Your Nerves.” It was anathema at book signings and sparked pushback over my audacity to speak words like these in public. It disturbed some faith and threatened some theology. Then the protests broke out: Some believers posted up as if ferocious warriors in the “good fight of faith.” Some loudly insisted, “God never gets on my nerves!” They meant well. But somebody wasn’t being straight. And what they didn’t know was that part of the inspiration for the book had come from some insightful but emotionally charged Bible study I’d been in with believers just like them, where we’d considered ourselves “heirs” to what I Peter 3:7 calls the “grace of life.” One question was whether we had all come by this “grace of life” equally. By implication, had God been fair in distributing this “grace of life”? Did some get a pass, while others didn’t? Nothing was malicious. People were just challenged not to be so quick to play bulletproof, but to be more honest about how our emotions tend to conspire against our faith and have us poking at God, using denial, pretense and false bravado as a cover for our complaints: In front of God and everybody, one “sanctified” lady confessed that over the course of six miscarriages she had grown bitter with God – especially when the last pregnancy seemed successful up ‘til 40 days after the birth of a child she then had to watch succumb to its death. To another believer, somehow it just hadn’t seemed fair that between the two of her children, one of them thrived to achieve a modicum of success while the other struggled all their days with mental illness, desperately clinging to those “prickly threads” of life. Now, multiply those struggles by countless others. Add those expectations that are uniquely shaped into entitlements by the privileged, who, when slighted by life, feel especially robbed of their portion – what they feel are things they actually “deserve” of this “grace of life.” All of them are lumped together, nonetheless, as complaints against God that even go as far as blaming Him for more than we can bear. So, what do you do when God gets on your nerves? Complain Right We have to dig them out, of course, but enough clues are in the files that show us how to sanitize our beef with God like David did while demonstrating his integrity as he hid from King Saul in the cave of Adullam. (That was before he became scandalous as a murdering adulterer.) “I poured out my complaint before Him,” he wrote in Psalm 142:2. But he wasn’t whining. He went on to show he still had enough faith in God to reach beyond the “trouble” he was in with his “persecutors” and show enough reverence to ask for deliverance from this trouble so “I may praise your name” [vs.7]. As dark as it was in that season of his life, and as close as he came to crossing the line and killing the King who sought his life, in the humility of his faith he still believed the righteous will one day “surround me,” and that God will also be very “generous” (vs.7). They did. God was. Remember Job’s Wife She didn’t nag him. Much. But as life changed and things started disappearing, Job’s “wifey” broke her silence. She finally emerges from the rubble of her trouble, no doubt emaciated and exhausted, and speaks. Bursting at the seams with not only her own frustrations with God, but, essentially, with the frustrations of a world that makes it personal when the flow of “blessings” as we once knew it is cut off at the source. Like the pump of a drying well that spews out gritty muck and mire, she gripes. Big time. Forgetting the good times and all the good things, here she comes with that contempt of the world for anyone who still trusts a God whom they feel has flipped on them -- especially on her “perfect and upright man,” whose name was known around heaven for having “complete integrity.” Out of her secret frustration with his God and in the pitiful conditions to which she, her family and her wealth, had been reduced, she lashes out: “Do you still persist in your integrity?” said one translation of the text. In another, she asks, “Why do you still trust God? Why don’t you just curse Him and die?” Besides suggesting that she spoke as one of the “foolish women,” Job simply asks, “Shall we receive only the good things of God and not the bad” (2:10)? In the remaining 40 chapters of the text Job’s wife is never once quoted again, not even when after turning his captivity, “the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before” (42:10). Smell For Water On the flip side of his calamity, Job is not only declared the undisputed “Chief of grief.” He’s a poet, a preacher and, hands down, a philosopher for all time. Also known for his probing and fearless grip on the lessons of life and death, he’s one clever motivational speaker, and a keen biologist. Somehow he’d found the time to notice in his busy, better days then remember in the bad ones the determined “hope” that a tree has, even when it has been cut down: Though its “roots grow old in the earth,” he said, “and the stump dies in the ground,” it is through “the scent of water” that it will bud and bring forth boughs like a plant” (Job 14:7-9). Whether that analogy kept him going until his “change comes” (vs.14) is speculative. But he did leave a note in the file: The difference between living through calamity, disappointment, and even through the long droughts and agonizing gaps between prayers and their answers is a determined sense of hope. Dr. Job simply called it the “scent of water.”