Before I ever became a pastor, a mentor gave me some valuable advice.
“Always remember that there’s a broken heart on every pew.”
At first I thought that he was just using preacher talk. It sounded like one of those phrases pastors tell each other at conferences in between bragging about how many people they baptized. Broken heart on every pew. Sure. Thanks.
And then I became a pastor and realized that there really was a broken heart on every pew.
Some of them are learning how to deal with a mother who is dying of cancer.
Some desperately want to be mothers but no medical procedure has helped them. They cringe with every baby dedication.
Even more are dealing with the stress and worry that comes with a slow economy.
Many people in these situations say the same thing. “It seems like God is out to get me.”
The typical church response is to gently grab this person’s hand, give them our best Bless Your Heart Face and say, “No, God isn’t out to get you.”
That couldn’t be more wrong.
It seemed like God was out to get Jonah when he got caught in the middle of a storm while out at sea. It seemed like God was out to get Jonah while he was fighting for air on an ocean floor. It seemed like God was out to get Jonah while he was squeezed inside of the belly of a fish. And it sure seemed like God was out to get Jonah when that fish spewed Jonah out and left him lying on the beach, covered in fish vomit.
It seemed like God was out to get Jonah because he was. Jonah, in his sin and disobedience, was trying to get away from God. God wouldn’t allow one of his own to get away. He was out to get his man. This is how grace works. Grace hunts us down and restores us when our sin has convinced us that the bottom of the ocean is the best place for us to be.
I don’t know why a godly couple, a couple that would have made excellent parents, lost their baby halfway through the pregnancy. I don’t know why my mom died at an early age. And I don’t know why smart, hard working business owners lose it all. It’s always dangerous to assume that we know the exact reason why God is doing something or that suffering is always due to some hidden terrible sin in the person’s life (John 9:1-3).
But we can be certain that God is out to get us. It’s just different than we tend to think.
If you walked around the outside of my house every morning you would hear the following three things.
1. Crying. By that I mean the loud, weeping and gnashing of teeth type of crying.
2. An adult male voice saying, “Hurry up before I beat you!”
3. The voices of two toddlers saying something like, “Go quick before he gets us!”
You would then probably be tempted to call 911 and report a case of child abuse.
But if you walked inside of our house, you would have a whole new perspective. You would see that I had just told my two sons to make up their beds. And you would find out that they were crying because, get this, they didn’t want to make up their beds. If you stuck around for a few more minutes you would hear me challenge them to a race.
“Let’s see if you can have your beds made up before I come back in here. Hurry up before I beat you!”
And then you would see their crying faces quickly transform into looks of determination.
“Hurry, before he gets us!”
It always works out that they win. I get to hug them and tell them what a good job they did. Three happy boys.
From the outside, you thought that a father was out to get his sons for all of the wrong reasons. A better perspective, one from the inside, revealed that you were only partially right. Yes, the father was out to get his boys but not to harm them. It was their well-being and fellowship that he was after.
Christian, when it seems like your Heavenly Father is out to get you, he really is. But you can rest in the fact that he is not seeking your destruction (Romans 8:1). His Son took that for you. Instead, it’s your ultimate well-being and fellowship that he’s after, two things that you can’t enjoy while gasping for air at the bottom of the sea (Hebrews 12:1-11; John 17:1-26).
So yes, God is out to get us.
And we shouldn’t want it any other way.
I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. Jonah 2:6b