The day God wrecked me began like any other: a thirty-minute commute (listening to Christian music), four college classes (with some fellow Christians), a little down time (reading a Christian book), and then work (for a Christian organization). Later I’d go home (to my Christian husband) and get ready for our midweek youth service (to help teens grow as Christians). Life—very ‘Christian’ and very undisturbed by Christ—was humming along happily.
A friend dropped by my office at the Baptist Collegiate Ministry to chat about what he’d been learning. He recommended a particular sermon by John Piper and then left for study group. I looked up the message and played it in the background while getting some busy work done.*
It was a great sermon. Different than the kind I was used to, about a God in absolute control of everything, but great… until the bomb dropped that would send me reeling for a year.
Jesus was not an afterthought to the fall. God planned to magnify the mercy and grace and patience and kindness and goodness and wrath and justice of His Son—before Adam ever existed—through the cross, which was because of sin. Which means that the plan included sin. Without God being the least sinful, and with all sinners being totally guilty, in God’s inscrutable ways.
My mind brimmed with questions. Did God rig the game so He could look awesome? Are millions of people in hell right now because He needed this kind of attention? Wouldn’t that make Him a moral monster? If so, how can we trust His Word about anything—Himself, the world, our purpose? For a girl whose life revolved around Christianity, this revelation was cataclysmic.
When I got home, I announced to Riley that I wasn’t sure if God was good, and that if He was indeed not good, I couldn’t with any kind of integrity spend the rest of my life pointing others to Him. My husband immediately went into fix-it mode (because, as a ministry family, God was our livelihood, and you don’t say things like that about a boss who can hear you). After a few minutes of listening to him try to explain away my newfound religious angst, I replied, “If you really believe God is trustworthy, then you need to trust me with Him. My whole life has been about making other people happy; this is something I have to do on my own.”
That afternoon launched an all-out brawl with the Lord. Jacob wrestled with God for a night; I wrestled with Him for a year. Well, I say wrestled, but it could more accurately be described as a pathetic flailing about as I studied and pondered and waited and questioned. Eventually He decided I’d had enough.
Because my major hurdle was an intellectual one (“God is not living up to my sense of justice here”), emotional arguments wouldn’t work. Thank heaven emotional arguments are not all we’re given to stand upon. Two surprising things ended my Jacob year: an Old Testament passage I’d overlooked, and a statement by someone who has since become a false teacher.**
For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are My ways higher than your ways
and My thoughts than your thoughts.
Sometimes I have to allow God to be God and let my mind suffer.
These two magnets were all it took. With the firm hand of a loving parent, and with enormous mercy in His eyes, the Lord brought me to a fork in the road. Would I stubbornly insist on understanding the infinite with my tiny pea brain, or could I walk forward in faith, trusting that if I knew everything He knows, I’d not only wholeheartedly agree with Him but hit my knees in worship? Surrendering my need to grasp all that He is and all that He does has been the most freeing decision of my life.
God let me question. He let me struggle. And then He let me lose the fight against Him. Looking back, I’m dumbfounded at His goodness toward such an impertinent little wretch.
Until yesterday, I’d never finished the Piper sermon that caused all this upheaval, so I had no way of knowing that the very next thing he’d say is, “Do not presume to figure God out totally.” (Welp, I spent a hard year trying to do just that. Wish I’d listened for ten more seconds.) And then the next thing he’d say has proven incredibly prophetic: “Wimpy worldviews produce wimpy Christians, and wimpy Christians will not survive the days that are coming.” I can tell you beyond the shadow of a doubt, had the Lord not taken a sledgehammer to my wimpy worldview, I would not have survived this life. I wouldn’t have made it through church planting or depression or anxiety or isolation or spiritual warfare or a baby with an incurable disease. I’m almost in tears thinking about how kind He was to lead me into, through, and out of that valley of doubt.
Sometimes God has to demolish “good enough” for our own good. Comfort addicts that we are, we’re oblivious to the difficulties on the road ahead and the depths of grace He yearns to show us along the way. The only chance we have is for Him to pulverize our puny faith and replace it with something real and robust, sure-footed and clear-eyed.
If you find yourself reduced to rubble by the King of the universe, take courage; He has something so much better in mind for you than what you’ve settled for. He will never tear down without a plan to rebuild. You are in the very best hands possible—the same hands that hold the Milky Way together and hung bloody from a tree to secure a home for you in glory. He’s not brought you this far to abandon you now. Trust His heart and take the next step, even if it’s up to the wrecking ball. You’ll discover it’s a beautiful place for a new beginning.
**While I won’t mention her name, I suspect God intentionally used this teacher to influence my story in the thread of 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 to keep me humble. I can boast in nothing but His power and wisdom.