Sometimes we see what we want to see. This is especially true of our faith. We tend to see God through a lens that makes God look a lot like us.
The God we see shares our values, worldview and even our politics. The God we see is definitely and firmly on our side. This God favors our culture over the many diverse cultures in the world. We are extremely comfortable with this God. This God maintains our government and systems.
When I read my Bible carefully, I see a very different God. I see a God that is constantly defining the differences between people and God. One verse reads, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
The God I see in the Bible encourages humans to view life differently. This can be seen from the Sermon on the Mount, where God reveals a paradoxical world that values the poor in spirit and the meek, to the Lord’s Prayer that demands that we forgive others before we can be forgiven.
The God I see in scripture takes people out of their comfort zone. People are called to leave the known and walk in the mystery of life.
An example of this can be seen in the life of the prophet Habakkuk. He lived in a similar world. A paganistic, foreign nation was threatening to take God’s people into slavery. There was a massive economic and racial upheaval.
Habakkuk’s writings are songs. They are dirges. Habakkuk was singing the blues. Habakkuk was much like us. He wanted answers. This bold prophet climbed up a tower and demanded answers of God. He shared with God his view of the world and his confusion over God’s inaction. How could God allow this suffering and injustices?
Ironically, God answered Habakkuk. But the answer was unintelligible. It could only be understood at some future date. Amazingly, this story ends on a very positive note. Once Habakkuk realized his limitations and God’s omnipotence, Habakkuk was able to write and sing one of the most hopeful songs in the Bible.
As Habakkuk walked with this mysterious God who did not share Habakkuk’s ways, thoughts, worldview or timetable, Habakkuk found a new level of wholeness. Here is a verse from that song: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
Here is my update to Habakkuk’s song: “Even though there is a pandemic in the land and there is no approved vaccine, the unemployment levels are unacceptable and there is no reliable forecast for an upturn, I will be joyful in the God who is wiser than I am.”
The Rev. Dr. Jon R. Black is senior pastor at Campbell Chapel A.M.E. Church in Bluffton.