Summary: God’s ways are usually more frustrating than mysterious.
Back in 2000, my friend Dan and I were called and hired as pastors of Wellspring Community Church, a fellowship that we started from scratch. Dan and I began the process as friends, but we’d never actually worked together. At first, all was well as we concentrated on getting the facilities ready for launch day. After the church was officially birth in 2001, some minor problems, I’ll call them irritations began to set in.
As senior pastor it was my task to determine the direction of the church. Nearly ever time I ran an idea by the management team, Dan had hesitation and misgivings about my proposals. I began to think, “He’s so arrogant! Dan obviously thinks he has better ideas than me.” I suspected that his opposition was subtle insubordination too.
I also noticed that Dan sometimes missed details. He could get things done, but there’d often be a lot of loose ends and certain things not coming together until the last minute. That made me nervous because I like to at least feel that every detail of every plan as been accounted for. I began to suspect that Dan had some huge character flaws interfering with his work.
Dan was never mean, selfish or lazy, in fact just the opposite. By after working together for two years I was completely frustrated with a man who had been one of my best friends. It was about that time that the two of us took a personality test. This was prompted by our associational missionary who perhaps sensed the tension in our working relationship. The test revealed some interesting things about my friend. He’s a conceptual thinker. He’s constantly looking at the big picture and, thus, misses the details. We both have the same tendency and needed a secretary to handle such things. It also turns out that has the type of personality that always, and I mean always, questions proposals placed before him. He wasn’t being insubordinate or arrogant in those management team meetings. He was expressing who God created him to be. That’s just the way he’s wired. Knowing how God had wired Dan to operate completely changed my perception of his actions.
I wish I could have understood this earlier in our working relationship. Rather than interpret his actions as personal attacks I may have been able to harness his critical thinking skills. I may not have given him certain responsibilities because he wasn’t wired for them. At the very least I would have hired an administrative assistant to take care of the details. I was so focused on how his actions made me feel that I couldn’t see who Dan really was. Our friendship actually suffered until I was enlightened about his approach to life. Once I understood where he was coming from our relationship flourished.
I find that my relationship with God follows the same rule. His ways are mysterious and, at the same time, extremely frustrating. If I’m honest I have to admit that often God doesn’t make sense to me. Depending on what day we had the discussion I might even say that most of the time He doesn’t make sense to me. I am frustrated with God’s way a lot.
But the problem is not with God. It’s with me. Just as with my friend Dan, I tend to interpret God’s will selfishly. How is this affecting me? How does this make me feel? You know the routine. It’s easy to say, “Your will be done,” but it’s often difficult to be happy about it.
This morning we’re going to reflect on the frustrations Abram must have felt as he walked with God. We can’t always determine what God is up to, but there are some certainties present even when God doesn’t make sense. Knowing these truths can help you to hang on to God when you’re frustrated with Him.
Certainties When God Doesn’t Make Sense
1. When you’re perplexed, God sees a bigger picture.
Chapter 13 of Genesis describes the separation of Abram and his family from his nephew Lot and his family. God blessed each man to such an extent that there wasn’t enough food for their livestock in the same area. Fights were breaking out between the shepherds of Abram and the shepherds of Lot. In order to keep the peace, they had to part company.
Over the years preachers and Sunday school teachers have taught that this story is about Abram’s great generosity in giving Lot first choice of the land. Others say that Lot’s selfish desire for the green, well-watered land of the Jordan Valley is the main point. Maybe those things were happening, but that not the purpose of the story.
What’s really going on here is God’s behind the scenes removal of Lot from the land of Canaan. He never ordered the two men to separate, but his extreme blessing made it a necessity. It’s only after Lot’s departure that God appears to Abram and describes in greater detail what he has actually given him. He told Abram to walk through it like an ancient king symbolically measuring off his territory. Then He told Abram that his descendants would be so numerous in that land that counting them would be as easy as counting the grains of dust on the ground. For some reason, not explained by Genesis itself, Lot needed to move away. God’s plan for Abram and his descendants would not move forward until it happened.