Every idea of [God] we form, He must in mercy shatter. The most blessed result of prayer would be to rise thinking ‘But I never knew before. I never dreamed…’ I suppose it was at such a moment that Thomas Aquinas said of all his own theology, ‘It reminds me of straw.’
—Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (1964)
It’s possible that you haven’t thought of it this way, but if you are a believer in Christ and have yet to walk through faith-shattering trials, you may have placed God in a box.
I know I had.
I thought that after decades of walking with Jesus, reading and studying Scripture and wading through some fairly significant trials I had God pretty well figured out.
I could quote verses for every occasion, open my Bible to any book without looking in the Table of Contents, and had something sprirtual to say about everything.
But now, like Job, I cover my mouth.
C.S. Lewis shared his grief journey after losing his wife in the book, A Grief Observed.
What many may not know is that he was pressured to publish it under a pseudonym.
His publishers and some of his close friends didn’t want people to know that this giant of the Christian faith, this celebrated apologist for believing Christ was shaken to the core by the death of his beloved bride.
Lewis resisted and I am so thankful.
It brings me great comfort to know that one who was much more equipped to face a faith crisis found himself floundering in the ocean called sorrow and grief.
He knew where the boat was.
But he, like me, wasn’t sure he wanted to climb back in.
Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.”
C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
Grief has forced me to reexamine every notion I had of God and how He works in the world. I’ve had to pull out all my theological assumptions and compare what I thought I knew to what is in the Bible and what I have experienced in life.
It is exhausting. And necessary.
Like Lewis, I’ve discovered that I had ideas about God, but that they were not necessarily true: “My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself.”
I had decided that God acted in certain ways, that prayers guaranteed certain results and that my life as a believer in Christ was destined to be one of favor and blessing because I was honoring Him.
My box for God included room for some pain and suffering-but definitely not enough space for Him to to allow the death of my child and plunge me into this abyss of grief and sorrow.
What do people mean when they say, ‘I am not afraid of God because I know He is good’? Have they never even been to a dentist?”
At the dedication of the Temple, Solomon prayed:
“But, God, will you really live here with us on the earth? The whole sky and the highest heaven cannot contain you. Certainly this house that I built cannot contain you either.”
2 Chronicles 6:18 ERV
God has broken out of my box–He was never really in it to begin with.
Only my ideas of Him could be contained in so small a space.