June 22, 2015: God With Us Versus God Against Us

~by Louis Templeman

God against us                                                     God with us

Trouble}

Sickness}

Debt}

Betrayal}   >     >    makes us feel like God is

against or …         >   >  >       Motivates us to Discover

God the enemy. I’ve never heard God called that but, I have experienced bitterness and felt like shaking my fist toward heaven. All relationships suffer stormy waters. God is not subject to human emotion, but I am.

There is a story about St. Theresa of Avila – and, it may be apocryphal, I don’t know. It is said the carriage she was riding in hit a rough patch of road and tossed her in the mud. Since she was convinced the providential hand of God was upon her at all times this troubled he mind. And, as she got up she said, “Dear God, if this is how you treat your friends it is no wonder you have so few.”

Jesus believed in the all-encompassing ever present Spirit of God. He taught that we are in him and he in us. Even in our journey towards God you go through God. In this atmosphere of God’s abiding love we see the violent deaths of John the Baptist, Jesus, Stephen and James. Jesus said the rain will fall on the just and the unjust.

I have often heard a good person say in response to some senseless tragedy, “That’s why I don’t believe in God. “ Actually, that is a reason to believe in God. We live in a world where there is crime, debt, violence, war, disease and natural disasters. People need a comforter. People need a Redeemer. We can be assured by faith that the death, the betrayal or sickness need not be the last word on the matter. God dwells in eternity and eternity is bound up in our hearts. This life can be very good. It can be very bad. Nevertheless, there is more than just this life.

Isaiah 7: 14 tells us God’s Messiah is called Immanuel or “God with us”. I usually write my first drafts in my lap in my La-Z-Boy chair. I have yet to figure out what to do with my left hand. It shakes too much to use it to steady my writing pad. It is indeed frustrating. It is difficult to keep my mind on the story with my hand constantly calling for attention. It is part of the hegemony of encroaching disability. I once saw a TV newscaster reporting from a street scene. I could not pay attention to her for the silly teenager behind her jumping and waving his arms. My left hand is becoming that teenager. It is certainly as ever present as God’s Presence.

Which do I pay attention to? Sometimes my hand seems to represent “God against me.” When I stop to recall the times in my life when God’s presence was sweetest I discover it was often in my lowest moments of loneliness, pain or trouble. Something it is about trouble that motivates me to pray. To end the trouble certainly, which usually doesn’t happen. And, to be with me in and through the trouble. If we find ourselves disapproving of God’s performance then we must change our perspective. Our job is always gratitude. God does not solicit our approval. Our praise must extend far beyond a two star approval. Bitterness will poison the soul.

A famous composer of hymns, Horatio Spafford, was crossing the Atlantic in a steamer. Weeks earlier his daughters were drowned in a shipwreck on the same sea lane. Knowing this he asked the ship master to tell him when they got to the location of the disaster. As he passed over the spot where his family perished he must have felt the universal conflict: Is God with me or is God against me? He yielded to his Immanuel and in time of silence where grief is transcended by faith this song was born.

When peace like a river attendeth my way

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot thou has taught me to know

It is well; it is well with my soul.

His decision to embrace “God with us” in his sorrow not only comforted him but has helped millions since.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


Louis writes from Jacksonville, Florida where he lives with his old friend and wonderful bride, Joy. They transformed their friendship into the sacrament of marriage on August 30, 2012. They share their home with two self-absorbed, playful, twin cats (Flo and Jet) and one very allusive and arrogant cat named D. Louis has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and is fighting the good fight. Much of what he writes these days he is sharing his journey with us. Please keep Louis and his wife Joy in your prayers.

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