I came across a podcast series by the two men who helped Paul Young, the author of The Shack, get his book published. They have been hosting a weekly podcast for a couple years. The focus of most of their informal, rambling discussions usually touches upon “living loved”, experiencing God’s love for us personally in a transformational way.
In last week’s podcast entitled “Stop Doing”, there were some comments about dealing with suffering and unmet expectations. Wayne and Brad offered some suggestions that got me thinking about some things I’ve been reading in the last few days related to this very same question.
Wayne replied to a letter from a listener with this observation: “This life is lived best as we celebrate what God gives rather than trying to get God to give us what we want”. There was a bit of discussion about the mistaken mindset that God’s love for us is evidenced when everything goes our way. Wayne speaking in the podcast:
“How do you interpret love? Does it mean that everything great goes your way? If to be loved by God means I have a carefree existence with no trouble, then you’re going to run into that issue every single day. It’s not even that it’s just suffering; it’s sometimes the disappointment of my own agenda. I’m praying for God to do these things, fix these things, give me these things. (And Wayne quipped…) And if I loved me, I would!”
I think God’s definition of love toward us encompasses so much more than our temporal happiness (read that: pleasure derived from what is happening now). He desires our blessing, a deep joy which is not based simply on our present pleasant circumstances but instead as an outcome of our relationship with Him. A practical way I have found to wrestle with this mistaken mindset is to pray “Lord, please bless me with every blessing You have for me today, I want to receive everything you have for me as your child.” You might recognize this attitude from the popular Prayer of Jabez. When I first began praying that part of the prayer seven years ago, I was intentionally opening myself up to whatever God had for me: His agenda, His pruning, His choice of the daily menu of life’s events. It’s a way of declaring my resolute trust in His faithful delight to extend His care to me and share His life through all of life’s experiences.
I remember at the beginning of praying that prayer, imagining mostly the kinds of blessings that bring that flush of thankfulness for pleasant circumstances. In the past couple years I am seeing that the greatest blessings are not “the stuff”, but the growing sense that He is Enough!
But I really think it would have been a challenge at the beginning of praying those prayers to comprehend the value of experiencing that sense of intimate fellowship into which He has drawn me. I can testify, though, from this vantage point, that the blessings are real and unexpectedly satisfying. If you have never tasted a good filet, hamburger tastes just fine! But after tasting a good steak, simple hamburger will not do! We spend so much of our time seeking hamburger when God wants to help us acquire the taste for steak!