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Theology, Up in Flames

The purpose of the theological crisis is not to change your theology (although that will happen) but to change you. Instead of viewing the Christian life through your lens of selected Bible verses (God’s acts), you will begin to view the kingdom with a fresh appreciation for and understanding of God’s ways. –Bob Sorge, the Fire of Delayed Answers 

I don’t purport to be an expert, but I have been through some fire in my life. I can’t say I understand it all, but I am thankful for it. I can also testify that this fire brings with it plenty of theological turmoil and verses that feel like a knife in the heart. Before you say, “the word of God wouldn’t do that!” Please remember Hebrews 4:12,

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

It’s not all flowers and rainbows as you go through the fire.

praying_on_bibleI’ve shared some of this before, but my wife and I have dealt with infertility for well over a decade now. In fact, I don’t even like to call it infertility–sounds too nice. I call it barrenness because that’s how it feels and no matter how you look at it, it’s just wrong.

We had our first child in 2000 and everything seemed to go just fine. No problems. No complications. A year or so later when we started trying to add another baby to the family, we were met with resistance. Miscarriages. Treatments. Procedures. Tears. Lots of prayer.

My wife is an amazing mother. She has a way of mothering and caring for just about anyone she comes into contact with. It’s one of the reasons we got into being foster parents. So why would we have to face this? Doesn’t God know the desires of our heart? What could we have possibly done wrong to deserve this? Though we are so thankful for the adoption of three amazing children, please understand it doesn’t make the other sting less.

When I used to hear certain scriptures referenced or read them myself, they would tear at me.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
They will not be ashamed
When they speak with their enemies in the gate. –Psalm 127:4-5

But you shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst. 26 There shall be no one miscarrying or barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. –Exodus 23:25-26

Even God’s first command to Adam and Eve, “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:22) seemed like a cruel joke because we couldn’t make it happen. I would think about the foster babies who came to us, some born with drugs in their system and already addicted, others mistreated or neglected. Why could these women have kids (sometimes kid after kid after kid) and not my wife? Even baby showers for people we loved would be excruciating for my wife.

Yep, theological crisis sums it up.

And yet as we have struggled through these questions, God has showed us His faithfulness. The fire hasn’t consumed us and we believe more strongly than ever that my wife will still carry another child in her womb and that miracle will be a testimony to God’s greatness.

I believe the temptation is always to take our eyes off Him. You want to identify and correct the “problem.” You want to focus on the enemy who works against us. He does seek to kill, steal, and destroy after all.

Those are great things when you’re not in the fire and things aren’t delayed. Once you realize you’re in the crucible though, you’ve got to come back to beholding the nature and character of God

…the Lord gently shows us that in this season the enemy is God’s tool, and we don’t need to give him a second thought. Our preoccupation in this season needs to be exclusively with the face of Christ. –Bob Sorge, the Fire of Delayed Answers 

What an invitation we have been given! To see the face of Christ, but whether focusing on the enemy or adhering to our limited theology, you’ll have to make a choice to follow through the fire.

Jesus rebuked the demons many times in His earthly ministry and destroyed the works of the evil one. When it came to the cross though, He didn’t rebuke, He endured. He set the precedent for perseverance and secured for us the glory of our standing.

What are your thoughts on this? How has your theology been challenged in the fire?


fda-sorge3Welcome to week 1 of Chapter 2 for our book club discussion of the Fire of Delayed Answers (disclosure) by Bob Sorge. We are taking a sentence, paragraph, or passage that inspires, encourages, or challenges and writing about it. Since the chapters are longer and subject matter warrants, we’ll also be taking 2 weeks for each chapter. If you have a response on your blog, add it to the widget below. Either way, head over to my friend and co-facilitator, Sarah Salter’s blog for her thoughts. Whether you’ve read the chapter or not, please dive into the conversation!

19 Comments

  1. …the enemy is God’s tool…

    And all God does is for good. He is not out to destroy us. His desire is to mature and perfect us.

    It is painful at times. We do not always understand the whys or hows.

    But I keep returning to the Word and realizing that a God who has done so much for me, even to sacrifice His own son, is not out to cause us unnecessary, un-purposeful suffering. There is reason. And in trusting Him and His plan, there is joy in the midst of the trial.
    Dusty Rayburn recently posted..Right Words Wrongly AppliedMy Profile

    • Yes and amen! If He didn’t withhold His own son from us how would He not give us every good thing? It’s not about a life of no pain or struggle, but it’s a guarantee that the struggle will produce. That we will see Jesus. Thank you, Dusty.

  2. I found out that my idea of an AWOL Father was not going to happen. I was to find out that God is faithful in all things. A question I am curious about: would you have fostered then adopted your children if your wife had not been barren? I “applaud” those who give other children a life they would never have had.
    bill (cycleguy) recently posted..IdolsMy Profile

    • Fostering, I don’t know. We had always planned to adopt though. Truly, He has led us and I couldn’t imagine our lives without the kids He’s given us. What a joy! Without that delay, we wouldn’t have these kids and where would they be? I don’t even want to think about it. We had to fight hell on their behalf. I’m so thankful He works all things to good. And what a revelation He has given you, our Father is with us always and faithful to the end! Thanks so much, Bill.

  3. A theology of suffering normally comes through suffering and I have experienced it. The suffering of dejection and rejection stings, but it has brought me closer to Christ. And that is good.
    seekingpastor recently posted..The Most Interesting Pastor in the World – Part 2My Profile

    • So true. We are to share in the sufferings of Christ and that suffering produces. Praise God, we don’t have to go looking for it, but when it comes, we can trust Him and see Him work in beautiful ways. Thank you, Matt.

  4. No one is immune from trials. I’m reminded constantly of the words of Christ, “In this world you will have trouble…” That seems pretty clear to me. Because He has overcome the world and we belong to Him our trouble has purpose. As Sorge pointed out, the evil of this world our Father uses as tools to bring us wisdom and redemption.

    I love Job, one of my favorite verses is, “Surely I spoke of things to wonderful for me to know, therefore I repent in ashes.” This sentence really spoke to me from this chapter; “When we’re in the crucible, God doesn’t expect all of our responses to be perfect. The purpose of the crucible, after all, is to bring imperfections to the surface.”

    I’m praying for you and your wife, brother. Thanks for sharing. Great post.

    • The crucible bringing the imperfections to the surface--that really spoke to me too, Floyd!
      Joell recently posted..Who can you trust in the fire?My Profile

    • I highlighted that sentence too because I’ve experienced that so many times. We speak out of pain or confusion and God doesn’t abandon us just like I don’t abandon my kids when they do the same. He’s not afraid of our doubt, not overwhelmed by our fear or frustration. He keeps us until the day of His revealing and we look more and more like Jesus. Great thoughts, Floyd! Thank you and I appreciate the prayers.

  5. It is not always easy to choose to stay faithful and continue to serve God anyway, even when things don’t make sense. This is when you realize your complete helplessness and you have to fall to your knees and say, okay, God, I will simply hold on and believe, no matter what, because there is nothing else I can do. Total surrender--painful, but necessary.

    I loved where you said, “the fire has not consumed us.” I am reminded of one of my favorite passages of scripture--Lamentations 3:22 (NIV) says “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.” He loves us so much, he protects us through the fire so that we are not consumed.

    Sorge also talks about how Job understands that when he comes through the test that he will come forth as gold but that “understanding this doesn’t lessen the pain, but it does give it significance.” Your pain will not be wasted. What a gracious and loving God.

    Thanks for a great post!
    Joell recently posted..Who can you trust in the fire?My Profile

    • You said it--it’s not always easy, but I’ll never regret staying close. What a blessing and joy to know Him more intimately and get closer (no matter how small) to understanding His ways. That He even invites us into such a relationship is beyond comprehension! And yes, the pain is not lessened, but thank God He gives it significance. Amen. Thank you, Joell.

  6. My theology has certainly been challenged this past year.
    My father is was 59 suffered a massive stroke 1 year ago…he is alive and doing well…going through therapy.
    My Sister this past 2 months was diagnosed with stomach cancer and passed away within a month. she was 36 years old with a 7 year old son.

    We can’t comprehend what God has willed or planned. Allowing my Dad to stay and taking my sister away.

    My faith has become more real then ever.
    the word of God comes alive inside your vains like never before…

    The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.
    I know what plans I have for you. plans to prosper you.
    My ways are higher that your ways.
    Everything works for the Good for those who love God.
    Endure to the end.
    Our God is able to save, but even if he doesn’t…we will never bow to another.
    How I yearn, and in my flesh I shall see God.

    Great thoughts today Jason. Really
    God Bless
    Arny recently posted..What do you say?My Profile

    • Wow Arny, that is certainly a lot of things to endure in a short period. So sorry for the loss of your sister. You have thrust upon the word and I can tell it’s transforming you. The pain is real, but His word and love endures. Thanks so much, Arny. Blessings to you too.

  7. Thank you for sharing. I’m working on a post next week about my own theological crisis when I almost lost faith in God completely.
    It can be difficult to write about such experiences but also liberating to look back and see the hand of God working in my life.

    I’ll be praying for you and your wife. My son is a miracle baby- 3 doctors said I’d never carry full term. I had 3 miscarriages prior. For those who have never endured such loss, they just can’t completely understand. My heart goes out to you both. God bless and thank you for opening your hearts to adopt kids.
    Working in the ER I had nights when it was hard not to question God. I remember one evening taking care of a couple who was having a miscarriage and crying terribly over the loss and next door I had a very preggo meth attack who wanted discharged.

    This world is a crazy place. Thank God, He has overcome the world!

    • It can be unbearable to try to understand sometimes, but the foundation is Christ--His love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and glory. He is faithful even when we can’t see, even when we are faithless. Look forward to reading what you share, TC. I believe we need both the encouragement of the testimony and overcoming as well as sharing the dark nights of the soul we go through. They both encourage in their own way! Thank you.

  8. My ex and I lost our first child -- a full-term stillbirth. Umbilical cord wrapped around the arm x2 and the neck x 3. For months after that, I know a few folks were taking bets on whether or not I was going to use again over it -- what they didn’t know was I was carving myself up on the inside believing it was my fault, or that God was punishing me for my sins, and never really considered using an option. It took a while to even be able to talk about losing Justin.

    I can’t say I know how you feel, or that I know your pain or your wife’s pain, Jason -- we all know only our own -- but this I have come to know; pain shared is pain lessened.

    Great posts are born in the fire, are they not?

    Thanks!
    Rick Dawson recently posted..Consider My ServantMy Profile

    • You are so right, Rick. I can’t imagine the pain of a stillbirth and the struggle to understand. Everyone else’s pain seems so foreign, but One knows and understands all of it. Jesus shares in that pain and our darkest moments. And as much as I don’t like it sometimes, the fire does have a way of bringing things to the surface that would remain hidden. I’m glad I can share how God brings us through and also look forward to the day of His fulfillment. Thank you, Rick.

  9. “Our preoccupation in this season needs to be exclusively with the face of Christ.” — THIS is such a challenge to me. In a very good way.

    And as to your question about how my theology has been challenged in the fire…

    In spite of multiple abuses that I’ve gone through, somehow, I’ve always wanted to believe that bad things don’t happen to God’s children. Certainly, the Bible doesn’t tell me that. Sure, the Bible says God protects us and cares for us. But that doesn’t mean bad things don’t happen. It just means that when bad things happen, He’s there in the midst of it, enduring it with us.

    One recent lesson I had in this was last fall. I was helping a friend clean up after a dinner party when one of the guys who had attended the party started teasing me. That wasn’t a problem. I don’t mind teasing. But when he started flicking me with a towel, I grew a little annoyed and flicked him back with the closest towel to me. And the next thing I knew, he was hitting me with balled up fists. Everyone in the room was stunned, so much so that everyone just stood there and watched as he hit me repeatedly. But soon, it was over. I fled one direction and some of the others took him in a different direction. And it was over. But it wasn’t over for me. For me, there were days and nights of flashbacks and fears and tears and questioning God. Asking, “God, men keep hitting me. I really must deserve it.” But in that, God spoke to me and CHANGED me. He spoke to me very clearly about His love for me and how I didn’t deserve to be hit and how strong HE is inside of me. And I’ve come out the other side of the situation actually appreciating the young man who hit me because it caused me to come face to face with Christ, to deal with lies that I needed to deal with.
    Sarah Salter recently posted..Sometimes, We Are Wrong…My Profile

    • Awful stuff, Sarah. We have dumb people and also people who are manipulated by the enemy. We don’t fight against flesh and blood, but we stand in His victory and love. So glad you heard His reaffirming voice and drew deeper into Him! What a joy and privilege it is. Thanks so much, Sarah.

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