There are some books that you just need to take slow and, for me, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality is one of those slow-going books. While it’s an easy book to understand, the work involved in examining our views of emotions, discipleship, God, and ourselves is not easy. When heart-work is involved, it’s best to take things slowly.
In the Bible, a man named Joseph has a rough life. He is hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, and unjustly thrown in prison. Eventually, he is elevated to a position of prominence and holds the fate of his family in his hands. While discussing Joseph’s choice to bless his brothers who betrayed him, Pete writes:
“Joseph made a choice. It is the same choice we make every day: Is God safe? Is God good? Can God be trusted?” p. 95
Every day we take in a multitude of stimuli that we then have to filter and process through. Much of this done without our conscious effort or attention, we just react and assume that was the only appropriate response when, in reality, there are more factors than just that one that informed our reaction. I wonder if our responses to the world around us might change if we consciously changed our filters. What would happen if we asked ourselves the following questions about our decisions and actions?
Is God safe?
This is a pretty important question to have an answer to. Obviously we know the Sunday school approved answer of “of course God is safe,” but how are we actually living?
When we do something wrong, do we run to God, jumping into his safe arms? Or do we run away, fearing his anger?
When life is hard and things go wrong, do we express our emotions to God? Or do we cover them up?
“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1 (NIV)
Is God good?
Right now, our world is more than a little crazy. A global pandemic, food and economic insecurity, and a spotlight shining on the racial disparities in the United States and the world. When I wake up some days, I honestly wonder what God is doing in the world right now, because things seem pretty grim.
We know that God is good… all the time. And all the time… God is good. But do we live like it? Even in the midst of dire circumstances, do we trust the character of God?
“For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100:5 (NIV)
Can God be trusted?
Lately, I’ve been realizing just how precious trust is. For me, it’s something that takes a long time to build, but is easily broken. I’ve been cognizant in this time of how fragile my trust can be and, because I know its fragility, I withhold it in an attempt to prevent pain. People are flawed and will fail (I am flawed and do fail), but God isn’t. He is perfect and is trustworthy, yet my actions don’t always show that I believe that.
As I’m writing this, I can’t help but wonder what fraction of my decisions scream “God can be trusted” and how many shout “I trust in myself”.
“Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9:10 (NIV)
For me, these questions aren’t just reminders to make good decisions, but they help me examine my beliefs. When I doubt God’s safety, goodness, or trustworthiness, that means that I am placing my faith somewhere else. I might be saying something, but believing and doing another, not living in a congruous and fully integrated fashion. Thankfully, God is safe, good, and trustworthy, so I can run to him with my doubts, misconceptions, and worries. I can bring my incorrect beliefs to him, knowing that he corrects me because he loves me.
The questions that we ask ourselves can reveal a lot about what we believe. What are you believing today?
How do you answer those questions? Do your responses surprise you?
To go Deeper: Read My Decision-Making Embargo, Are You Even Paying Attention?
Check out Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, A Proverb A Day
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God is safe! God is good! God can be trusted! No doubt!
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Yes he is!
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