Lately I’ve been spending much more time reading other blogs and neglecting my own. There’s so much good writing out there (if you know where to look), that it often makes me feel like I haven’t much of substance to contribute. But this posting by Jeff Dunn on the Internet Monk about Our Dangerous God, got me to thinking and writing a response. I’ll include that response here as well, but read Jeff’s article first if you’re interested.
I really agree with most of what’s been said in Jeff’s post. I would certainly be hard to argue against it, but it might be fair to argue that it doesn’t go quite far enough. One could caution against the extreme of making our discomfort the test for genuine obedience to, and sincere following of, Christ but the pagan, comfort seeking approach to following Jesus is so much more of a problem for us, especially for me, that it may be better to err on the other side. Still, the problem remains that the rich young ruler’s question, “What do I still lack?” (Matt. 19:20), as it applies to our lives is not answered by simply pointing out that God is “dangerous” and his way will be uncomfortable. He has also promised real and lasting peace and joy along the way (see John 15:11 in context), and who wouldn’t be comfortable with that? There are many ways to follow danger and discomfort. Any one of them would at least give us the assurance that we not following our own comfortable will and ways but still not offer one bit of confidence that we are truly following God’s calling of us. I’ve seen some Christians given to “living dangerously” who have only ended up being a danger to themselves and the faith of others. It’s right to expect suffering and discomfort in life only because that is the way life really works, not because God wills it for the sake of our “freedom”.
I would suggest that, instead of considering God to be “dangerous” in the sense of being threatening (or discomforting), we consider him to be so in the sense of being unpredictable in his dealings with us. I don’t mean that God is capricious with us. He loves us after all. But our expectations of his ways with us will always be shortsighted. I think the “freedom” he calls us to involves a little bit of responsibility on our part to trust that he works for our good and to maintain open and receptive intentions in discerning his voice. It also means being persistent in our attempts to understand what God may want us to do and how he wants us to do it. Neither comfort or discomfort can be taken for granted. While it’s true that comfortable feelings are not a reliable indicator that all is well between us and God, they do not necessarily indicate a problem between us and him either. Neither is discomfort with something that God seems to be asking of us a reliable sign that we have it all figured out. It may be telling us that we need to be persistent in our discomfort, being honest about it in prayer, and let the Holy Spirit work in our hearts to get them to a place where the joy of doing God’s work in his way overwhelms our discomfort (cf. Matt. 13:44). Discomfort might come from not knowing how we are to do what God wants more than what it is he wants us to do, for example. A little persistence in asking God’s help with this may show us a way to do what he wants that will give us great joy and excitement. (But if not, do it the best way you know and trust God to keep working on your discomfort.) I don’t think God wants us to be satisfied with comfort or discomfort. I think his intent is for us to get beyond both to that fullness of joy that Jesus experienced in doing the Father’s will in the Father’s way (Heb. 12:2).
Does what I say here make Joe’s message more palatable? I hope not. But maybe a little bit of the fear and worry needs to be taken out of it none the less.. As for Joe’s last sentence, “He comes now, and He comes in force, and He comes to threaten us, His followers, in every way.” I don’t find much support for this in scripture and find it very hard to reconcile it with what Jesus says in John 10:10. And, as for comfort, Paul tells us that it comes along with sharing in Christ’s sufferings (2 Cor. 1:5). Read in context, Paul calls God “the Father of all mercies and God of all comfort.” I think the whole question of our comfort or discomfort is set aside by the question of whether we want God’s comfort more than our own.