Is God

A Slavedriver Or A Friend?

I had a friend email me once with the letter which is shown below. She didn't beat around the bush, but rather, she got straight to the heart of her problem with God. I put this out here on the internet along with my response at the time because I think a lot of people have this problem. Anyway, here is the letter she sent to me:

Over the last year and a half, I think God has been tugging on me every so often and I'll think about it for a while, think of talking to you, and then do nothing about it. But lately, say over the last four weeks or so, that tug has become a serious pull. It's like everything I hear or read is directed exactly at me. I actually went to church two weeks ago for no apparent reason. I just set my alarm Saturday night and got up Sunday morning and went. It's the first time I've been voluntarily in a decade. Then I went again last week. I didn't go today, however, and I've felt guilty about it all day. Both sermons seemed just for me and even today I turned the tv on and it happened to be on a channel with a baptist church service in progress and I sat and listened, I guess in penance for not going today, and that sermon, too, was just for me.

But through all this pulling at me, I have the overall sense of hurry- up-and-wait. Like God is saying, "Come to me NOW, but after that, just hold on a while." It's more than a little frustrating. It's just like a master bellowing for a servant just to have him stand there and do nothing. And I find myself going, not knowing why, even though God and I still don't have our differences sorted out. Not even close. And today I didn't go, and I've felt bad about it all day. It's driving me crazy!

The whole reason I didn't go today relates back to my main difficulty with God in the first place (not that there aren't a lot of smaller reasons). I feel like, if I choose to live my life the way God wants me to, that will be the last free choice I'll ever have, that my life will no longer be my own, and I just can't see being happy that way. This is MY life. _I_ want to make my own decisions. Yes, I'll make the wrong ones sometimes, but that will be ok, because it would have been MY decision. I don't expect to be perfect all the time, but I want to be free to live my own life. I am one of those people who packs their entire closet for a trip because I want to have all options available to me when I have to make a decision on what to wear; one of those people who when you tell them "You WILL do this," you can bet they won't. I don't take commands very well. And that's the feeling I get from God, like it's not a choice.
But what about this pull I feel? I still believe God has some plan for me and if you want to know the truth, if I felt He really wanted me to do something, I would most likely do it. But you see, there's a difference there, between wanting me to do something and _commanding_ me to do it. And I feel like if I specifically decided to "follow Him" it would be much more of the latter. I believe he saved me for a reason, and I would really like to know what it is, but I know it's unlikely I ever will. I'm just so tired of resisting it, but I don't feel like I can just give in. It's like I've spent all this time fighting for myself and I just don't feel like I can give up now, I don't feel like I can just surrender everything I've worked so hard for. It's been an awfully long battle. I feel so emotionally exhausted.

As you can see, she was really struggling with God at the time. I am glad to say that a month later, she had overcome the majority of her problems with God. Praise God! Anyway, here is the response which I sent her at the time. It is far from perfect, but it captures the general feeling of what I believe about God and our position and relationship with Him:

To be honest, I'm not really prepared to give you reasons why you should submit to God. That's my fault. You are coming from the complete opposite direction than most people. They try to convince themselves that God doesn't want anything from them. They think that they are just fine with God because they do a good thing here and there and have never murdered anyone. You, on the other hand, don't beat around the bush. You know something's wrong, and you don't deny it. That's refreshing!

I guess I want to start off by saying that, at least to a limited extent, I know where you are coming from. We're engineers. We like things to fit certain patterns. If we can predict outcomes, we can control them. If there are variables which we don't control, the results can be disasterous. Then we come to people. No one is perfect. So we shield ourselves from other's imperfections by keeping total control of ourselves. And we enact damage control on our imperfections by hiding them -- again, it comes down to control. My BIGGEST struggle in my walk with God has been over that very issue. Will I give God control or will I remove the "risks" by doing things my own way because I think I know what the safest/best way is? I eventually came to the belief that trusting God, even when I can't see the outcome, is more beneficial to me in the end. I still have things which I find myself holding onto from time to time. And I have to deal with each one as I discover it. It's not easy. There are always the same feelings of uncertainty, no matter what the object or dream is which I must give up control over.

Another thing which you talked about which I've also struggled with is knowing God's will for me. Again, I've found that this flows from an engineering mentality. We want to see the plans for a project from start to finish. We want all of the details planned out. We want to know the costs. And God usually (at least in my life) wants me to follow Him by faith. It comes back around to the control issue; if I can't see the goal and the details, how can I make good decisions about how to run my life? I prayed a lot about knowing "God's will for my life" for the last few years. But while I was on coop this last year, I heard a guy give a talk about that very thing. I found what he said to be interesting and productive. His basic point was: don't worry about the part of God's will which you don't know, simply obey the parts of God's will that you do know. God will supply all of the necessary information when it is needed. I know that it sounds idealistic, but I've not had God fail me yet. After all, there are things which we know God wants. The Bible is very clear about a lot of things which are and aren't in God's will. And it's obviously God's will for us to grow closer to Him (Bible study / prayer). We don't have to question God about these things; we KNOW that they are His will.

It is important that we know what the cost of following Christ is. You are right in that following Christ means giving Him control of our lives. BUT He doesn't demand it from us like a slave-driver. He asks it of us. He wants it from us. But if He ordered us to do everything He said, we'd be robots. God is a God of grace. After all, would a slave-driver allow His Son to die on a cross for a bunch of sinners who had turned their back on God? No, that had to have been pure love. That is a Father/Friend. And we do have a choice. For that matter, Christ had a choice. He had to choose "not my will but thine" (Andrew's paraphrase of the Kingeth Jameseth). The Bible makes it clear that if Christ had opted to, zillions of angels could have saved Him from that death.

*Time rudely interrupts* I've got to go to work at the moment. I will try to write more later. In the meantime, here are a few passages which I thought might help. If you are willing to read them, I think they might be applicable or helpful.

John 3:16-17
Psalm 51
Galatians 5
Ephesians 2:1-10
Hebrews 10:1-25

Your friend always,

--Compiled by Andrew Callan
December 25, 1997

To go back to Andrew's White Papers On Christianity