Fire is a refining agent. Cheap stuff burns up–paper, straw, twigs, logs. Gold, on the other hand, purifies.
The Apostle Peter alludes to this process in his first letter to the Christians of the first century. They faced a lot of persecution because of their faith, and he noted that fact:
In this [your salvation] you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7)
According to Peter, faith is of greater value than gold because even gold will eventually perish. But faith, even when tested by the fires of persecution ends up bringing praise and glory and honor when we see Jesus.
It’s an amazing thing. This trust in God, this dependence on Him even in the worst of circumstances actually is cause for joy. Peter again:
and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8)
How ironic, then, when contemporary Western Christians approach trials as opportunities to express anger and disappointment toward God.
I do believe we should be truthful and of course that includes truthfulness when we’re talking with God. But there’s a difference accusing God because that’s how I honestly feel and confessing to God because that’s how I honestly feel.
The first might sound something like this: God, why did you let this unfair thing happen to me? I am so mad at You right now. I thought you were on my side, looking out for me. You really let me down.
The other might be something like this: God, this bad thing happened and it makes me so angry. I know that’s not an attitude demonstrating trust in You. I’m worried and fearful and want revenge. I know none of that brings you glory. Please, God, forgive me and help me find a way out of those debilitating reactions to a place of trust. Help me to find in You exactly what I need.
One reaction makes God out to be the culprit and the other recognizes Him as the rescuer. The first pushes Him away, the second draws near to Him for help.
The bottom line is, accusing God of wrong doing, no matter how honest the person is being about their emotion, is still saying about God what is not true. James says, “For God cannot be tempted by evil and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” God does not do evil. How then is it honest to express anger toward God by accusing Him of something He is not?
I’ve heard Christians, time and time again, toss off their tantrums as something God is big enough to handle. The issue is not whether God can handle our sin. We know He canceled our sin debt at the cross. The issue, instead, is whether we should justify our sin and even applaud it as being real.
It’s much the same as the church in Corinth boasting about their tolerance of sin in their church. We today act as if we are doing some great good to hurl angry charges at God because … well, because we feel angry and we need to be real with Him.
What happened to trusting God in the midst of trial?
Here’s what the prophet Habakkuk had to say about the matter:
Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. (Hab. 3:17-18)
Where’s the exultation of the contemporary Western Christian? I fear it is reserved for our honest emotions we hurl at God rather than for He who is with us when the waters and the rivers overflow, who walks with us through the fire and flame.
How sad that we rob ourselves of His comfort and presence and even protection because we’re so busy venting our honest emotion.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you. (Isaiah 43:2)
This post was first published here in June 2012.