“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)
When one belongs to God, he or she is eventually forced into a corner where he or she must say “Amen” to God! “Amen” means “so be it,” but it is also a state of mind, where one never lets anyone else define his or her reality; never lets anyone else put him or her into bondage to that person’s way of thinking.
To let others define our reality yields the sorrow of the world, that the above verse of Scripture states, and is quite different from Godly sorrow that comes from following God’s unique call on our lives. Before the worlds were formed, God called us by name to be His own possession, for His own purpose.
Each of us is unique, and no one else can do the ministry God has called each of his children to do in the same way. Scripture makes it very clear that God is not here for us; we are here for God!
Much disappointment with God stems from allowing others to define our reality for us and put us into bondage to their ways of thinking, as well as from what sociologists call, “Anomie.” In this context, anomie occurs when we feel that God is here for us, to meet our needs and wants as we define them, as some sort of cosmic bellhop, rather than recognizing the fact that we have been called by God to do a work for Him that no one else can do.
Many in the church world don’t speak for the Church; many churches don’t speak for God! God is greater than the Church, and is greater than the Bible, and our own feeble attempts to psyche out God are a gross waste of energy. As someone said, “It is as much of a sin to define God as it is to deny Him.”
God won’t be put in a box! When we allow others to define God and His will for us, or when we presume to define God and script His will for our lives, we play God and, hence, generate much disappointment within ourselves and even anger at God.
About a year ago a student asked me if he and his girlfriend could talk with me. Since she worked, we met at a coffee shop on a Saturday. He explained how much he loved her and how he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. Then he asked her to speak with me.
She told me that she was attracted to other women and, although she liked her “boyfriend,” she was a lesbian and felt quite guilty about that fact, as she had been raised in the church. I first told the young man that his “girlfriend” didn’t have any problem, but that he had the problem. He wasn’t willing to accept her for who she was.
I told him that I wish I had had such a good friend when I was his age. I then turned to her and told her that she was committing a grievous sin. However, it’s not the sin she thought it was! She was condemning what God made, and that was the grievous sin. I’m not one to call other people sinners, given what I know about myself, but I had to hammer home to her that she was allowing others to define her reality for her and thereby put her into bondage to their definition of what it meant to be a “Christian,” and she didn’t trust God to know what He was doing with her life.
In fact, it wasn’t “her life” in the first place, as we were created by God for His use and we don’t belong to ourselves but to Him, and no one else can tell us what God’s call on our lives entails. To belong to God does create “godly sorrow,” but it sure beats the sorrow that emanates from the world when we look to others to tell us how to live the Christian life.
In Christianity, as in life itself, one size doesn’t fit all! When we listen to others, even those who may be well-meaning, and seek to please them and adhere to their definitions of reality, we may become angry at God, falsely thinking that they are speaking for God as it pertains to our life.
Hear the Word of God from both the Old and New Testaments: “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of? (Isaiah 2:22) “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10) Always remember, we are free men and women in Christ!
We are not here to please others, or to be liked or affirmed by others, even if they are in the church world. We are solely here to enact God’s will for our lives! He has already shown us His favor before the worlds were formed! And we are assured that nothing can separate us from His love! (Romans 8:35-39)
Notice that in the Apostle Paul’s litany of things that can’t separate us from the love of God, he includes “… nor any other creature …” (v. 39) That phrase includes other human beings!
It doesn’t matter what others may think, say, or even do! We are assured that God enters into all things to work His good will and pleasure in everything that happens to us. (Romans 8:28)
All we are called upon to do by God is to trust Him, regardless of seen circumstances! When our life-circumstances seem to defy the promises of God, we lean on Him and trust Him, His Word, and His many promises to us, rather than look to the things and people of this world as our compass point.
When we use God as our compass point; discern His unique call on our lives; stop letting others define our reality or ways of thinking; don’t have the temerity to condemn what God made, we will then be leaning on God as our Refuge, our Rock, our Fortress, our Shelter, amidst the winds and turmoil in life’s hurricane.
There is an excellent, thought-provoking, story that hammers these points home in 1 Kings, Chapter 13. It is a story of “the man of God” and of “the lying prophet.
God told the man of God that he was to, “Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest.” (v. 9) However, there was a lying prophet who lived in Bethel (House of God) who told the man of God, “… I am a prophet also as thou art: and an angel spake unto me by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water.” (v. 18)
Unfortunately, the man of God, rather than listen to God, instead listened to the lying prophet and, “So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water.” (v. 19) When he left the lying prophet’s house, the man of God was ravaged and killed by a lion. (v. 24)
And what did the lying prophet say, after hearing the news? “It is the man of God, who was disobedient unto the word of the Lord: therefore the Lord hath delivered him unto the lion, which hath torn him, and slain him, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake unto him.” (v. 26) “And he laid his carcase in his own grave; and they mourned over him, saying, Alas, my brother!” (v. 30)
The message is clear! Don’t be angry with God, or with anyone else, for that matter. If you choose to listen to others, rather than to God’s call on your life, only you are to blame!
God called you, for His own purposes, and neither the Church nor anyone else has a right to stake a claim on your life! Betrayals, discrimination, ostracism, demonization, turmoil, and all manner of past, present, and future hurt are experienced for the glory of God if we remain under the covering of His Blood through abiding trust in Him and in His many promises.
Why be angry at God when you choose to lean on Him? Only He is Jehovah Jirah, “The Lord will provide”; Jehovah Rophi, “I am the Lord that healeth thee”; Jehovah Sitkinu, “He is our Righteousness”; Jehovah Shalom, “He is our Peace”; Jehovah Shama, “The Lord is there.” These are just some of the names of God that give us confidence that we belong to Him; He knows us better than we know ourselves; in Him we have our provisions, healing, righteousness, and peace. Only He knows the past, present, and future, and will make a way where there is no way!
He has chosen us for His own unique purposes. We are to never allow anyone else to usurp His claims on our lives!
When we come to this “Amen” state of being, where we lay our very imperfect lives down on God’s altar for Him to use as He sees fit, where we don’t trust in our own strength and will-worship (Colossians 2:23), there will be seen that there never was any cause for anger at God. If we want to be angry, let’s be angry at ourselves for allowing others to usurp God’s role, thereby playing God, in our lives!
As the martyr, Kartar Singh said as he was dying, “The life He gave to me is the life I gave to Him.” As a clerk in a Christian bookstore told me a long time ago, “We are coins in God’s pocket, and He can spend us any way He wants to.” When we don’t internalize these truths, we are at the mercy of the many “gods” of this world that seek to stake a claim on our lives, many whom even claim to speak for God.
But let’s repent! Repentance means to change one’s focus from trusting the many gods of this world, to trusting God! So, we turn from using other people (and our own preconceived notions of what we are to be like), as gods in our lives, be they parents, “friends,” acquaintances, or neighbors, and turn to God as the Author of the whole script of our lives; Who created us for Himself; Who asks us to trust Him amidst all of our troubles. Our trust in Him and His unique call on our lives gives us permission to take even the most painful experiences we have endured, and have yet to endure, and translate them, and ourselves, into Burnt Offerings to God.
Once we see ourselves as having been called by God to be Burnt Offerings to Him, through His sovereign choice before the worlds were formed, we won’t be angry at God, ourselves, or anyone else, anymore!
Professor Emeritus of Sociology at California State University, Chico, Rev. Dr. Jerry S. Maneker served as an ordained priest in the Congregational Catholic Church, a division of the Independent Catholic Churches International (ICCI). For many years he published a weekly column in the Sacramento Valley Mirror titled “Christianity and Society” where he dealt with a variety of social issues from a biblical and sociological perspective. He also published a blog called “A Christian Voice for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights” and the website Radical Christianity.