When it comes to questions about faith and doubt, the one that always arises for me is “why?” Not, “Why does God work in the way that God does,” but “Why do we have such a tendency to doubt that God is at work, and will be at work to carry through.?”
Recently, I was reading Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald, and he partially blames this tendency to doubt God’s promises on our expectations. And not just normal human expectations, but the expectations that we have in America because of the fact that we were born and raised in America. In reference to God’s promises to answer our prayers, he writes:
We live in a society that is reasonably organized. Put a letter in the box, and it usually ends up where you want it to go. Order an item on the Internet, and it usually comes to you in the right size, color, and model. Ask someone to provide you a service, and it is reasonable to expect that it will work out that way. In other words, we are used to results in response to our arrangements. That is why prayer can be discouraging for some of us. How can we predict the result? We are tempted to abandon prayer as a viable exercise and to try getting the results ourselves.
This observation resonated with me when it comes to the doubts that I have about the promises of God. My expectations are based solely on what I have come to expect in this human world, and I tend to place God in that box. When I don’t see the results I desire, I doubt that God will follow through, or has already followed through as the case can sometimes be.
This reminds me of experiences in other countries, where the values and expectations of the culture are completely different from my own. When standing in a queue isn’t the standard mode of operation, but rather people sort of mob toward whatever it is they are waiting for, I have stood there flabbergasted (and irritated) that this is the way things work. Of course, my culture knows the “right way” to make things work!
Isn’t that how we approach our faith in God and God’s promises? One wonders if the limitations we place on God are causing our own faith to remain stagnant and narrow. What would happen if we could remove our human tendencies to expect God to fit into the culture that we come from, and instead, allow God to blow our expectations out of the water?
Posted by Janie Stuart