Embracing The Dissonance

The other day I was frustrated over…something.  That I can’t remember what it was now speaks to how minor it was, and yet at the time I was irate.  What I remember is that I did what I always do when I can’t make sense of something or I need guidance: I picked up my Bible and thumbed through it.

Some Christians have told me, with solemn and serene countenance, that God’s Word speaks to them every time they open it.  Bless those people.

I am not one of them.

On this particular day, every verse I found was the wrong verse.  An Old Testament condemnation here.  A soaring testament to God’s greatness there.  Verses that seemed relevant only if I squinted interspersed between the things I already knew – endure trials, be patient, God is working, and so on and so forth.

I’m sure that I sound flippant talking about it.  But at the time I felt both frustrated and bereft. I shut the Bible and told God irritably, “I was just looking for a little comfort or warmth or something that felt nice.” At that moment, the Bible felt cold to me, preoccupied with the heavenly realms and God’s plans for earth – and I could see so very little of my tiny human and annoyances in it.  The gulf between what God cares about and what I care about felt so vast.

And that’s because it is.

The realization struck me much later that night.  Of course God does care about my feelings and my heart and the day to day annoyances; He knows the number of hairs on my head so I can’t think my daily irritations are beyond Him.  But God also has a perspective I literally cannot grasp.  From His view of eternity and His position outside of both space and time, He can see precisely where my irritations and problems fall into cosmic scale.

We see His perspective in His dealings with Job.  God loved Job; Job was precious in God’s sight.  And I believe that God did care enough for Job and knew Job well enough to know how much he would suffer from everything he had lost.  And yet when Job presented his grievances – seemingly enormous in scope before the Lord – God’s answer was:

Who then is able to stand against me?
Who has a claim against me that I must pay?
Everything under heaven belongs to me (Job 41: 10-11).

In paraphrase, God’s answer is, You have no idea about anything going on.  And Job didn’t.  The entire narrative device of the book frames Job as the unsuspecting protagonist of this story; the cosmic struggle behind the scenes is never revealed to him in full.  The reason that the gulf between us and God seems vast is because it is vast.  For all our reading and knowing and doing, we have no idea what is really going on.

And that quiets me.

God can, as he points out to Job, manage the making and running of an entire verse by Himself, thank you.  And until we can figure out how to do that, maybe it is best to cede our sense that we know what is best or what he should be doing.  When I feel the dissonance between what I want God to be doing and what it seems like God is doing, it’s vital to remember that faith lives in that gap: that in the lack of my own understanding, from the smallness of my own perspective and knowledge, I must believe He is doing what is best.

I’m away on vacation for the next couple of weeks.  Please feel free to comment on or respond to the posts; I’ll certainly get back to you when I return!

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