Tag Archives: God - Page 2

In stillness lies victory

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. -Exodus 14:14

Have you ever experienced the kind of moral failure that kept you up at night wondering how it came to this?

I believe it is quite possible to try with all your might to follow the Path you believe is right (maybe the path that will lead you home?), and yet to find after a time that you have no idea where you are and even less of an idea of where the path went.

What I mean is: a man can endeavor to live by principles he believes are unfailingly right and wake up one day seeing clearly that he is caught in behavior or patterns of behavior that are blatantly in conflict with those principles. I think when the man looks back, he will often see a small wrong turn–maybe caused by a flick of the head that distracted him enough that his feet veered ever so slightly on an angle. Geometricians know full well that any angle is enough. A one degree shift now may still leave you on the the path, but in eternity it will have moved you infinitely away from it. One degree is all it takes, one turn of the head.

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I recently counseled a friend who confessed an epic failure to me; the kind that can cause guilt that will rot the bones if left un-addressed. And the rotting had already begun. He was doubting his faith and did not believe that God could love him–or still love him, anyways. Perhaps his failure was too great.

We started by talking about grace and the great love of God–the importance of making that a reality in his life again. But during the course of our conversation, we also discussed getting back to some basic disciplines–fighting the war on all the little fronts. In a form, the idea is that constant vigilance is the only hope we have of staying on the path. Little victories will lead to ultimate success. But “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest and (moral?) poverty will come on you like a bandit and (character?) scarcity like an armed man” (Prov 24:33-34). Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep…

Yeah right.

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Idol Hope

The story is often told that John D. Rockefeller, an oil magnate and one of the richest men of his time, was once asked when he would be happy. He is said to have replied, “When I make one more dollar.”

Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy. I am not now speaking of what would be ordinarily called unsuccessful marriages, or holidays, or learned careers. I am speaking of the best possible ones. There was something we grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in the reality. I think everyone knows what I mean. The wife may be a good wife, and the hotels and scenery may have been excellent, and chemistry may be a very interesting job: but something has evaded us.   —C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

So long as man remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find someone to worship.  —Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

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I have spent some time thinking about idols recently, mostly because I find the idea to be so challenging. An idol is something, anything, our hearts desire above God—something we put our hope in and believe will make us happy. I usually have no difficulty listing those things by the handful in my life. And yet, I believe idolatry is at the very core of a lack of peace and joy that often haunts me. Since we were created for a relationship with God in which He is central in our lives, displacement of Him from that place displaces everything else. We end up with broken relationships with one another, a distorted understanding of who we are and either an over- or under-appreciation of the good things God has put in the world for us. To be sure, I mean that loving even things as good as family and friends more than God—or the other way around, even loving our own virtue or sacrifice in not valuing the things of this world—will ultimately leave us broken and disappointed.

Said another way, we were created for a “vertical” relationship with God—created to enjoy all other good things, including our “horizontal” relationships with one another (and the world around us), in light (and proper understanding) of that relationship. But we often try to make the horizontal relationships central, and everything deteriorates from there. This is the very definition of sin in the Bible. Not “loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”

Anyway, all this contemplation about how very many things I am inclined to make central in my life over and above God made me realize two (perhaps?) more encouraging things about idolatry. One—we were made to worship. And two—though basically everything we worship disappoints us, they all point to the One who will not.

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Trust to hope

Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane–Red in Stephen King’s The Shawshank Redemption

Farewell. Look for your friends, but do not trust to hope. It has forsaken these lands–Éomer in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers

For we walk by faith, not by sight—2 Corinthians 5:7


Reader response to A view from the darkness was notable. It came in the form of email and personal conversation rather than blog comments—probably because of the intensely personal and emotional nature of suffering. It was clear to me that the topic resonated. Unfortunately, this suggests that suffering is as pervasive a part of the human experience as we probably suspect.

In that post I tried to address God’s faithfulness to us, particularly in the darkness—his promises.  Today, I will do my best to describe what I think our role is—how we signal our desire to have an encounter with God. In so doing, I think we’ll see the importance of the larger life narrative to which we ascribe—the robust description of the world (discussed in Which reality, whose philosophy?) that dictates how each of us interprets events.

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One of the great things about blogging, as opposed both to other forms of media and to life, is that you can edit over time.  Once a newspaper article is printed, your only hope of revision is the little “corrections” box in the next day’s paper.  And as we all know, there’s no revision in life. We can die in the despair of “if I only this” or “had I not that” but there are no do-overs.

I doubt many of you know this (I feel lucky to have you read once), but I obsessively re-read and edit inklingz posts. Most changes are for style or readability, but recently a loyal reader asked if I realized I had altered A view from the darkness in a more material way.  She told me it initially read as if I hoped there was something to find in the darkness and later read with more certainty that indeed we will find God in the darkness.

Had something changed in my thinking?

My knee-jerk response was: Of course not!…I was merely trying to more effectively capture what I wanted to express all along. But on a long run this week (where I accomplish a good amount of my thinking these days), I realized something about faith that is difficult to quantify or explain: God meets those who take a step toward Him in faith, in such a way that faith itself is multiplied.

When I looked into the darkness last week, I can’t tell you I saw much but the thick black of a moonless night. But I also knew there was something I could not see and I was doing my best to reach for it.

I ‘knew’ because of the larger life narrative in which I believe. It allows me to look beyond my immediate circumstances and see a story playing out that suggests that each moment is more than just another moment in a set of disparate, meaningless events (see On the (in?)significance of what we do—two perspectives).

It reminds me of an illustration discussed in Exclusivism that welcomes all—of blind men each touching a portion of an elephant. Each one comes to a unique conclusion as to what he’s encountered—none of them able, based on his limited viewpoint, to identify the massive animal.

Similarly, when we see no light in the darkness we’re not seeing the full picture, the larger narrative.

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