God, the Master Painter

God is like a master painter or sculptor. However, instead of working with a canvas, paint, or clay, each one of us is His medium. “We are his workmanship” we are told (Eph. 2:10a).

He is in the process of building a masterpiece out of each one of us. Through trials, tribulations, and discipline, He is working to create the ideal of what He wants us to be. It takes time and discomfort on our part to form the final product. 

The reason that we’re not formed into our ideal selves overnight is because it takes materials, time, and precision to create a masterpiece. Not much skill or paint is needed to make a watercolor picture on an 8 1/2 X 11 piece of plain paper. To make a masterpiece, like He wants each of us to be, requires a lot more resources.

To be certain, God could change us instantly, but that’s not the way He does things. He prefers to work within the bounds of this physical world he has placed us in. He uses the circumstances of our everyday lives to mold and make us into something better.

Each trial or challenge that we endure and come out on the other side of changes us just a little bit. Every time that He disciplines us and we learn from it, we move one step closer to what God wants us to be. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11).

If we were instantly changed, then we could not enjoy the process of seeing ourselves become better. 

Of course, that doesn’t mean that our pathway is always pleasant. Far from it. Change is difficult, and even more so when we buck against the system that God has in place.

Far too many times, I’ve rebelled against God’s discipline. I’ve railed against Him for allowing so many challenges and tribulations in my life. It feels hypocritical even to write about this because I’m one of the ones who most needs to take all this to heart.

My rebellion has gotten me nowhere. Getting mad at God because of some trouble in life never has done me any good. I always regret it later, tell Him I’m sorry, and vow to try harder not to let the trials of life knock me off course.

I’m still working on all that obviously. I need to allow God to mold me into the piece of art He wants for me.

How are you doing with it?

A Rough Week

This week I’ve been mad at God, at my wife, at the kids, at my coworkers, everybody around me.

I feel like maybe God has kind of “given me over” to all my anger and rebellion this week. Like maybe He’s saying, “OK, that’s what you want? You want to be bitter and angry and good for nothing? You got it. I’m not protecting you from yourself anymore. You’re on your own to allow your flesh to consume you.”

Of course, I don’t know if that’s it, but I’ve felt that way. I’ve had no real pull toward God, toward wanting to be a good husband or a good father. I’ve only felt like satisfying my desires, what I want and what I think I need.

Honestly, it’s not been a good feeling. I’ve felt very distant from God, like He was a million miles away in another universe or something. At heart I want to serve God. I’m just so frustrated with life I don’t seem capable of pulling myself together to serve Him.

I was reading in a book earlier tonight that God wants to give us good things, that He wants us to be happy and successful. On the one hand I don’t know if I agree with the happy and successful part, but the bible does say He wants to give us good things, just like our earthly fathers do.

Most of the time I really don’t see any evidence of God’s desire for good things in my life. If that were true, why do I feel so miserable? Why have I been unhappy and depressed so many years? Wouldn’t God have stepped in by now if He really cared? Wouldn’t He have rescued me from this drudgery called life by now? How can I continue to hope for the best and be optimistic after all these years? For the most part I have been miserable all my adult life, at least 24 years. How much longer do I have to wait until something changes?

Maybe I’m what needs to change. I read a quote today that said, “When you feel like God is doing nothing, that’s probably when He is doing the most.” That stuck with me. Maybe a breakthrough is around the corner and life will change for me. Or maybe not my life, but simply my attitude toward life.

I guess I need to remember, however, that I may never have the life here on earth that I think I should have. I was never promised that after all. I am promised eternal life in the company of my Savior. For that I should be thankful and happy everyday.

There is nothing on this earth so bad that it could ever tarnish the thought of eternity with God. Even after living with and loving Him for 1000 years — and that’s a long time — I’m just getting started. And even after another 10,000 years (which I can’t possibly fathom), it will still be like I’m just getting started. My existence and fellowship with God will never end. It will keep on going and going.

We humans can’t get a real grasp on eternity because the longest any of us has ever lived is a few decades, which to us seems long. God created the concept of eternity for us. He lives outside time. He always has been and always will be. Quite simply, He is timeless. Time is an invention of His for us to use while on earth. After our bodies die and we join Him, time has no meaning to us either. We just are — and will continue to be — forever.

Shrink Wrap

Ronnie nervously slid onto the therapist’s couch.  No matter how many times he came here he never quite got used to it.  The room’s darkness and odd, musty smell always reminded him of his grandparents’ cellar when he was a boy.  It was almost comforting in a way, taking him back across the years to gentler, less anxious times.

After a couple of minutes of compulsory small talk, Dr. Melling changed tones.  “Well, Ronnie, what has been on your mind?  What would you like to talk about today?

Ronnie fidgeted nervously.  “Well, God I guess.  I mean, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about how I view God, about how I see myself in relation to Him.  That’s been on my mind a lot the last few days.”

“God.  I see.  Tell me more about what you’ve been tossing around in your mind then.”

“Well, I don’t really know how to begin – seems like I never do.”  Clasping his hands behind his head and relaxing a bit, Ronnie continues.  “These anger issues that I’ve been dealing with all these years – it seems like lately they’ve been getting worse.  We talked about all that last time I think.  Anyway, I’ve been trying to figure out what it is that triggers these outbursts that I seem to have no control over.  It seems like the least little thing sends me off – somebody cuts me off in traffic, I spill something on my shirt or bump my knee on my desk.  I may not consciously realize it at the time, but the first thought that goes through my mind when something like that happens is, There goes God.  He did this.  He’s testing me again.  It’s like, when something goes wrong in my life, I automatically attribute that to God.”

Sensing a pause in Ronnie’s thoughts, Dr. Melling interrupted.  “So what you believe is happening is that either consciously or subconsciously you blame God anytime an event happens to you that you feel is bad or negative.”

“Yes, I guess that’s the best way to put it.  I don’t know why I believe this and  I certainly don’t know why God would be testing me in this way.  It’s hard for me to wrap my head around this.  What I’m saying is, on the most superficial level reason tells me that it is God testing me.  It may be that He has some ideal in mind of what I’m supposed to be and through these “trials”, or whatever they are, He is trying to mold me into that.  I’ve always heard that God is more interested in your character than your comfort.

Stroking his chin thoughtfully, Dr. Melling repeated, “More interested in your character than your comfort. Interesting.  Go on.”

“Like I said, when something negative happens to me, sometimes I’ll just lose it.  Snap. Like that.  It feels like I have all this frustration and rage boiling just beneath the surface.  I do pretty well to keep it in check most of the time.  I can smile and go along with a lot of things.  But when I feel like there’s been one more injustice forced on me, I snap.  In the back of my mind it’s like I’m telling God through my anger that I’ve had it with His games – that I hate them, I’m sick of them, and I’m going to yell and curse to show Him how much I mean it.  I know it’s wrong to lash out like that, but I’ll admit, it gives me a feeling of being in control.  Sometimes I don’t feel very much control in my life.  Maybe I’m using anger as a way to give myself some measure of power back in my life, or even to put some distance between myself and God.  Does this make any sense?

“Well, yes, I believe it does.  I believe I understand precisely what you’re saying.  You’re being passive-aggressive with God, Ronnie.  More importantly, however, is do you understand what you’re saying?  After all, that’s the most important thing.”

“I believe I do,” continued Ronnie.  “I’m just not sure what to make of this battle that’s raging inside my head.  What I’m saying is, when I really stop and think about what I believe to be true, that is, on the deepest level, I don’t really think that God has it in for me.  Sure, He may send trials my way to help mold me into who He wants me to be – I’ve always been taught that – but deep down I guess I believe that He has my best interests in mind.

Ronnie paused for a moment, lost in thought.  The doctor chose not to interrupt this time.  “But you know,” he continued while staring at the floor, “what really bothers me I guess is that even though God may not be sending these things my way directly, why doesn’t He do something about preventing those things that do happen to me?  I understand that these things may come into my life for a purpose, but I simply can’t get past the fact that I feel like a lab rat in a maze caught up in some kind of experiment that I’ll never understand the purpose of.  It’s like I see God as a scientist, off to the side looking over the top of his glasses.  He’s watching His subject intently as it struggles to make sense of its surroundings and find the end of the maze.  There may be a purpose to it, but it is so far beyond the grasp of the rat that it makes no difference.”

Ronnie paused again and looked up at Dr. Melling.  “Am I the only one who’s ever felt like this?  Does this make me a bad person?”

The doctor answered, “Well, Ronnie, I’ve been doing this a long time.  I see all kinds of people come through here.  Many of them are Christians with doubts such as yourself, many others don’t know what they believe, or they’ve believed something for so long it’s become a part of them but now they realize they have no idea why they believe it.  I’d have to say, no, you’re not the first person to have ever felt this way, to have had these sort of thoughts.  Questions and doubts are a natural part of being a human being.  We all have them.  We’ll never have the answers to all our questions this side of eternity.  And I’m not sure we’ll even have them then.”

“That’s good to know,” Ronnie said.  “I just wish I knew how to deal with all this.”

“Tell me this,” said Dr. Melling.  “What do you think God thinks about you?  Do you think He’s pleased with you?   With your actions?   Do you think He loves you anyway, no matter whether your actions are pleasing or not?”

to be continued…