Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Fine Line Between Faith and Denial

A few years ago, a Ukrainian man hopped over the fence into the den of lions at a zoo. Zookeepers and bystanders frantically attempted to lift the man out as the ferocious lions surrounded. The man repeatedly refused the extended polls and harnesses while screaming, "I trust God! God will save me!" The lions promptly pounced and mauled him to death.

This man's bizarre actions reflect the dangerous abstract mentality that sometimes gets attributed to "trusting God." This short-lived news story resonated with me because I am the the product of a parent that used "trusting in God" as an excuse to be unwise, irresponsible, and reckless. The "logic" of this mentality is that "since I am a Christian and put my trust in God, I do not have to take any precautions in life because God will miraculously intervene to prevent anything bad from happening." It usually strikes me as an "entitlement complex," that Christians are entitled to exemption from the struggles and hardships that come along with living in an imperfect world.

During my childhood, this misconstrued version of trusting in God took shape by not wearing seat belts, purposely leaving doors unlocked, refusing to work to provide for the family, leaving children with strangers, and too many other irresponsible and reckless acts to list.

I had a friend committed to leaving his doors unlocked in the name of trusting God. I'll never forget the day he arrived at his car to find all of his belongings stolen. "I trusted God, how could this happen?" he yelled. I told him He could still trust God, He's not the one who stole his belongings. I trust God, but I lock my doors because I don't trust the thieves, rapists, and murderers that prowl around this world. You know, the countless number of people in this world that have been given the free-will and use it to repeatedly violate God's perfect will?

God-fearing people all over the world get sick, swindled, abused, raped, lose loved ones, and die every single day. It's terribly simplistic and insensitive to insinuate that if they "truly" trusted in God these things would not occur.

Jesus reveals in Matthew 5:45 that "He [God] causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Christians are not exempt from the consequences and side effects of living in a fallen world; we are promised that the tragedies and struggles that do come our way will inevitably be used for His glory and for the transformation and deepening of our hearts. God doesn't promise immunity, He promises company, strength, and the ultimate working together for good. If I get attacked or robbed (for the fourth time), I believe God will see me through it and teach me something, not that He'll automatically spare me from it. But I am also going to take reasonable precautions to prevent it.

While I firmly believe that God is capable of the mind-blowing "laser-show" type miracles that we seem to crave so direly, I am more and more convinced that God's intervention manifests more often through the needs He calls and leads US to meet for each other. I also believe that trust in God includes trusting in His decision to equip people with the tools to live their lives. A.W. Tozer once said, "If God gives you a watch, are you honoring God more by asking Him what time it is or by simply consulting the watch?" If God gives us brains, abilities, talents, and resources to make wise decisions, develop safety procedures, medical remedies, and so forth, should we not utilize them in pursuit divine intervention?

Rejecting medical aid is another claim of "trusting God." Doctors get a bad reputation in the Christian community (sometimes deservingly because of the overuse of harmful drugs and neglecting natural remedies), but I admire the doctors that dedicate their lives to tend to the health of others, who spend their lives trying to come up with cures to the countless diseases that claim so many lives. And when those cures and remedies do come along, I believe the glory goes to God because he equipped them with the abilities to do it.

This is not a post to advocate giving into fear, paranoia, or denying divine intervention, it’s just some thoughts on my own experience with irresponsibility and lack of wisdom in the name of "trusting God."

I think this old joke sums it up best:

A man found himself on the roof of his house during a flood. He fell to his knees and asked for God to save him. A man in a rowboat comes by and offers him a lift. "Oh no," he says, "I am waiting for God to rescue me." Another man in a power boat comes by and makes the same offer. Again the man answers that he will wait for God to save him. Finally, a helicopter passes over and drops him a line. "Come aboard!" say the National Guardsmen. But the man still insists that God is going to save him. The flood waters continue to rise and soon the man is swept away. When he wakes up at Judgment, he says to God “Why didn’t you rescue me?” “What do you mean?” says God. “I sent you a rowboat, a powerboat, and a helicopter and you kept turning Me down.”



DeeAnn said...

Amen, Sista! Directly after the Hurricane Katrina incident, some friends that are near and dear to both you and me were talking about taking evacuees into their homes if the oportunity came up. I said no way, you don't really know who these people are and I have kids to protect. I got the trusting God sermon. I still said no way, Jose. About refusing medical attention, I do believe that there are a lot of natural remedies that God gave us and that people are way too quick to get put on any med nowadays. If the natural remedies don't work or if it's an emergency, I am totally thankful for dr.s and nurses. To answer your question, the adoption will most likely be covered by the state because siblings and kids over 8 are considered "unwanted" or special needs. There might be a clothing allowance of $100 a year but I'm not sure if it's for everyone. There's tax breaks,too.

stencil said...

Hey Tia, well put. People often believe that expecting God to intervene with lightning bolts on a daily basis they are showing faith that God speaks to us daily. But God speaks to us much more often that - moment by moment if we are willing to listen for Him and abide in Him. Now that is miraculous!

Anonymous said...

This is incredibly well put. I am in a relationship with a man who truly wants to follow God, but I have found he is living in a delusion that God is going to wash away his nearly half million dollar debt on some iffy investment he got into. We talked about marriage but he doesn't see how his debt can really harm me should he default for any reason (eg. If a car accident puts him out of work). They could potentially cone after our house or savings could ruin me along with him. He truly believes he shouldn't worry. I agree worry is not an act of faith, but failure to plan seems like a greater sin, especially if it can harm your family. I am forwarding this article to him so hopefully he will see the truth. Thank you!