by Lisa Leidenfrost
Math 22:37 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.”
If this is the greatest commandment, do we love God with all our heart, soul and mind? We could respond, ‘Yes, but I do it imperfectly.” But, since God knows our frame and takes what we can give Him as an offering, He accepts that, as He teaches us how to love Him more. And, we do want to always grow in that area. So let’s ask the question again, ‘How much do we really love Him?’ Is it only when things are going well? What if they are not? What if God starts taking away precious things from us like our health or that of one of our loved ones? Will we love Him still or pull back in hurt silence because He is getting too dangerous?
So why does God do that? We know He loves us. Why does He take things we want, like our health? We may not be able to get a straight answer to that, but, looking at it from a different vantage point, are good things being taken from us so we can get better things in return? C. S. Lewis illustrated this point in his book ‘A Grief Observed’ when he asked us to picture a cat with someone working on him. The cat is very upset because he is being worked on, but what really is important is ‘who’ is working on him, a cat butcher or a vet? If it is a vet in surgery to save the cat, no matter how the cat would plead to be let off lightly, or to stop, if the vet stopped in the middle of the surgery, the cat would not be helped. All the cutting that had been done up to that point would be of no use if the vet stopped there. He would have to continue until the surgery is done for the cat to get the benefit.
Now picture yourself standing at the end of your life looking back, and ask yourself what did you really want from life, and did you get it? If I were to dig down deep, past all the things I would say I wanted, the bottom foundation would be ‘to be like Christ’. Without that, life takes on a meaningless tone. But, to walk in His love, to be fulfilled in Him and to know His joy, love, presence, is true riches indeed. And if that means He has to take you on a circuitous wild route to get it, would you want it any other way? If this is His very best for you due to where He is going with it, could you honestly say, ‘No, I would rather have my ideal way of living, even if it means I won’t be as close to you’. And if you somehow had the power to choose this for yourself, and He were to remove farther from you, how is that a life worth living? To truly live is to follow Him and to drink deep of His vast reservoir in times of trouble. He will never let you down nor forsake you. Don’t let the cares of this world choke out what God really wants to give you because it is rich.
When God gives you something hard, yield it all to Him and keep an open hand. Trust Him so much that you’ll say, “I’ll follow you anywhere, even down this hard path because I love you more than anything else in this world (so help me God).”
And when this happens, sometimes you have to mourn the loss of your ideal life and that is ok, because we are human and things really are being taken from us that we want to keep, for reasons we can’t see yet.
But, consider this, when you get to heaven and all is made plain and you look back on the hardships and see what God was really doing, you are going to give your ‘amen’ to it then because you can finally see. So, why not give your ‘amen’ to it now and have it at least be credited to you as faith? Now is the time for faith and to prove your love. When you are in heaven, that chance will be gone.
Here are some quotes from the book ‘ A Grief Observed’. It is a book that C.S. Lewis published his journal notes after his wife died. In it, he works through his intense grief and doubts. He had a lot of questions, and the first two chapters takes the reader down into the depths of his questioning God. The next two chapters is where he works through the grief and starts to come to the other side to the conclusion that I wrote below. It is really something to read considering he was the foremost Christian thinker of his time, and even he said his notions on suffering was like a house of cards that God had to blow down.
Here are some quotes:
“But of course one must take ‘sent to try us’ the right way. God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.
“Praise is the mode of love which always has some element of joy in it. Praise in due order; of Him as the giver, of her as the gift. Don’t we in praise somehow enjoy what we praise, however far we are from it?
pp64 If a man is in total darkness, he could think that he is in a dungeon until he hears a far off sound and finds he is really outside, or he hears laughter and realizes he is actually in a room with friends. (this is to illustrate that we can perceive our situation and how God works in it, wrong)
“…It is simply the leaping into imaginative activity of an idea which I would always have theoretically admitted – the idea that I , or any mortal at any time, may be utterly mistaken as to the situation he is really in. Five senses; an incurably abstract intellect; a haphazardly selective memory; a set of preconceptions and assumptions so numerous that I can never examine more than a minority of them – never become even conscious of them all. How much of total reality can such an apparatus let through?
pp66 My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast.
pp68 “If you’re approaching Him not as the goal but as a road, not as the end but as a means, you’re not really approaching Him at all.
pp69 “When I lay these questions (why did God take his wife) before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of ‘no answer’. It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand.’ Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? quite easily. How many hours are there in a mile?
…It is a problem I’m setting myself. I don’t believe God set it me at all. ”
(He’s coming now to his conclusion)
pp71 “Heaven will solve our problems, but not, I think, by showing us subtle reconciliations between all our apparently contradictory notions. The notions will all be knocked from under our feet. We shall see that there never was any problem….The sense that some shattering and disarming simplicity is the real answer.”
pp72 “For this is one of the miracles of love; it gives – to both, … – a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted. To see, in some measure, like God. His love and His knowledge are not distinct from one another, nor from Him.
pp75 The best is perhaps what we understand least.