Sitting in the church office this afternoon, I received a phone call that is somewhat typical. It was a man who was looking for spiritual counsel. Usually when someone calls looking for counsel, there's a catch: they're also looking for money or to have some kind of need fulfilled. That's fine, but not really something our church is equipped to handle, so I usually forward them on to Neighbors.
But the guy who called today wasn't looking for anything but counsel. He said that he was a Christian, and even a Baptist. He told me that he was ready to jump off a bridge, although not literally. He said that he had been trying and trying to do right, and read the scriptures, and do what he "was supposed to do," but it seemed like God wasn't doing anything for him. He said he didn't know what he could do, and that he didn't know where his kids were going to sleep tonight (they apparently were losing their housing).
There was quite a bit more that he said, although I'm not sure I ever got the whole story of what his problem was. What was certain was that he was unsure of his future, and he didn't know where to go from here. I told him that all I could do was ask him this question: is God sovereign? Does God have a will and a plan that he is working out for the good of those who love him? He answered, "Yes, of course." Then I said, "Then trust that plan. Trust that God is good. Trust that God loves you and cares for you, and that he will work things out in his own time and in his own way and in his own good pleasure."
I told him this wasn't necessarily an easy answer, but it was the only one that I had. He was obviously unsatisfied with my answer, because he just said, "Uh, thanks." And hung up.
First of all, calls like these are hard to deal with, because I had no idea who this guy was, what his background was like, or even what is specific problem was. But that being said, I think I can take two things away from this phone call: 1) there is a lot of bad teaching out there that says that if you just believe enough or do all the right things, that God will protect you, give you money, and success. This guy didn't have any of those, so he assumed that either he wasn't doing what he "needed" to do, or that God was being unfair. He was living in a quid pro quo relationship with God that said that God owed him something for the good things he had done. When this is your outlook, an answer like the one I gave him will definitely go down bitter.
2) Secondly, the answers to issues like the ones he presented are never easy to deal with, but they should never leave us hopeless. This man was utterly hopeless. He was at the end of his rope. The thought of an all-powerful, sovereign God on his side did nothing to bolster his confidence or give him hope, which is sad. Now, having an all-powerful sovereign God on your side doesn't make life easy, or difficult situations easy, but it does provide a large measure of hope. Hope that no matter what happens, I have a portion with the Almighty, and I have forgiveness of sins through his Son.
It is not necessarily easy to trust that God loves me and cares for me when my walls are crashing down, but it's what we must do. Because if we don't have that, then we don't have anything - especially when the walls are crashing down all around us.
I hope that guy can learn to trust God, because God's the only thing he's got. God's the only thing any of us have got. And if you can't trust him, you'll always be at the end of a rope.