God is the narrator of our lives and the narrator of all life. The narrator has special insight and tells you exactly how to interpret what happens in the story. Oftentimes, however, we do not listen to the narrator of our lives and would rather go by our limited perspective. Our limited perspective is rarely ever optimistic in its own right and often leads us to suffer unnecessarily and miss out on opportunities. Human beings are programmed for survival, but not flourishing, as many people have observed. This means we are really good at identifying potential threats to out welfare, but often really bad at achieving peace.
I first arrived at the main insight of this article by reading Matthew Stevenson’s Abba: Experience God as Father and Redeem Your Failure, Hurt, and Pain. (I read the entire book and recommend you grab a copy of the theme is of interest to you.) We are to judge God, Stevenson correctly asserts, not just by what He does, but by what He says. Not just by His actions, but by His narration of them.
Why do we have such a hard time accepting what God says about what God does? I’ve identified three reasons:
1. We have doubts about the trustworthiness of God.
Maybe people in authority lied to us in the past or told us things sincerely that did not pan out in the end. Maybe those people were members of a church and spoke on behalf of God, which led to our disillusionment with Christianity. Or maybe we simply do not have a relationship with God on which basis to trust what He says. Trust is developed, not given, and if we do not commune with God regularly, we may not be able to recognize His voice or do not have an interest in listening to it.
2. We think we know better than the narrator.
Have you ever read a book where the narrator only has limited information about the thoughts and intentions of a specific character or characters? These stories invite readers to disentangle the plot for themselves. Oftentimes, we treat God this way. We think that God is biased or partial, or not recognizing the human elements in the situation. This is, of course, a silly thing to do, since God, by definition, has all the facts, and is best positioned to interpret them.
In Christianity, God lived on this earth as a man for a period of time, which makes God uniquely able to empathize with human perspectives. Other times, our arrogance and assurance of what we think we know to be true, based on our own observations and experiences (often painful or traumatic), keep us from agreeing with the narrator.
3. We harbor deep cynicism toward life.
There are optimistic people in the world, but the world overall is not an optimistic place. The world is fearful. Fearful about death. Fearful about illness. Fearful about failure. Fearful about market and economic collapse. Fearful about personal insecurities, and so on and so forth. And many companies seek to increase and profit from this fear (Have you ever seen a commercial?).
Life without God ends at the grave, and people consciously and subconsciously know this. Growing up in a deeply cynical culture can keep us from listening to any optimistic voice, even if that voice is the voice of God as narrator of our lives. It takes faith to believe in something good that you cannot see, and faith is a rare quality in this world.
As Dr. Stevenson says, we get to decide what we believe. We can believe our friends and family. We can believe society and the culture. We can believe the latest conspiracy theory. We can believe Sigmund Freud’s research.
Or we can believe what God says about us and how we should interpret our experiences.
For the complete archive of articles, click here.