I’m speaking to God again.
Well, I was speaking to God before, but there wasn’t much actual speaking involved. It was more me being emotional at God, or getting so far as incoherent noises, before devolving into sighs or tears or jaw-clenched frustration. Fortunately, “when we do not know what we ought to pray for…the Spirit himself intercedes for us” (Rom. 8:26). Blessedly, the lines of communication have always been open.
But today I found actual words to speak to God again, and I was forced to start with a sort of ashamed “I am so sorry” because God has been on the receiving end of limitless angry, fearful, and frustrated outbursts from me in days of late. I have asked Him if he knows what He is doing. (He does). I have asked Him if He knows how all of this is affecting me. (He does). I have asked Him if He cares at all. (He does.)
And as I was sitting there apologizing, I thought, who has the audacity to even speak to God this way? Who on earth am I to challenge Him or get irritated at Him or even remotely imply that He doesn’t understand what I’m enduring or thinking or feeling? Who on earth would ever do this?
Turns out the answer is: a lot of people. God has a habit of permitting audacious demands, requests, and attitudes from His children.
Job monologues at God for pages on pages in the Bible, and his frustrated, relentless complaint includes these gems:
“Why do You care about [man], that You look at him every morning, and test him all the time?”(7:18)
“Why have you made me something to shoot at…?” (7:20)
God listens to all of this! He does not smite Job! He does eventually thunder back, in such a way and with such strength that Job is reduced to immediate repentance and understanding. But God doesn’t punish Job. He doesn’t lash out in retaliation. Indeed, after Job’s declaration of faith – “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (42:4-6) – God acknowledges that only Job has spoken what is right of Him. Job’s friends are reprimanded; Job is not. Job’s reckless, bitterness-tinged honesty with God has cost him nothing.
When God is disgusted by the sins of the Israelites and asks Moses to “let me alone…that I may destroy them,” Moses somehow has the audacity to plead with an already-angry God for mercy for His people. Rather than chastising him for intervening or for getting involved, the Bible tells us that God instead relents (Exodus 32). We see something similar in Genesis 18, when Abraham has the audacity to intervene for the righteous in Sodom and Gomorrah.
Lying, deceitful Jacob, on his way to make amends with his wronged brother Esau, refuses to release the one who comes to wrestle with him until daybreak. It costs him his perfect walk; he has a limp that will linger ever after. But Jacob recognizes with amazement that he saw God “face to face, and was spared” (Genesis 32).
And this doesn’t even touch the New Testament, or the time that Jesus somehow managed not to smite the disciples for arguing over who would be higher in heaven’s hierarchy – right in front of His face!
In The Bible Jesus Read, Philip Yancey writes
God has it out with loud complainers like Job, Jeremiah, and Jonah. He engages Abraham and Moses in lengthy arguments—and sometimes lets them win! In his wrestling match with Jacob, God waits until daybreak to inflict the wound; till then, Jacob holds his own. Quite honestly, God prefers honest disagreement to dishonest submission. He takes human beings seriously, conducts dialogues with them, includes them in his plans, listens to them.
I’ll be honest: I’m not often an audacious Christian with God. I am a quiet complainer, one who tries to hide my grumbling beneath a veneer of “Well, God knows best.” These past few days have been rare for me; it’s not common that my emotions come to the surface to such a degree that I actually try, foolishly, to tangle with God.
I had to ask forgiveness for my recklessness and arrogance and general attitude recently. But I’ll admit that I was also pleased to realize, through the experience, how much God loves communicating with us. With me. Better by far to tangle with the Lord and ask Him questions and fall over my own feet and be irritated and confused and demanding than to turn away and ask nothing and think nothing and feel nothing.
God permits our audacity from love. He loves us. He loves communicating with us. He loves the relationship. And even when He knows we are dead wrong, He listens to whatever it is that we have to say. He craves our openness. I smiled when I read Yancey’s statement that God “takes human beings seriously.” Yes. He does. For all that our little concerns and angers and fits and confusions are trivial in the grand scheme of the universe, God is willing to hear us out as though they are not. As though He cares about what we care about. Because He does.
And to me, that distinguishes God as so unique from any other deity, any other lord, any other sovereign. Kings banish those who displease them. Rulers and politicians blatantly or sometimes surreptitiously punish those who aren’t willing to carry the party line. Gods in various mythologies are cruel and capricious and not particularly invested in the fates or feelings of humans on the ground below.
But our God isn’t interested in parroted talk or fake smiles or our ability to chirp out whatever He wants to hear. He wants our honesty. He welcomes the dialogue, and all of our feelings, and whatever we want to say to Him. Sure, He’ll thunder back. Sometimes, He’ll relent. Occasionally, our wrestling matches with Him will come at a cost.
But He permits our audacity and He loves our honesty. What a magnificent thing that is.