"I don't expect less of him, I just assume less."
My friend has a very bright, analytical mind. He grew up in a good Christian home, his father was a pastor in a small town for many long years before he passed away, and my friend's faith is strong and deeply rooted. But if you were to talk with him seriously about his faith he would have posed questions that cause most Christians, especially those raised in evangelical homes, to squirm a bit. "If the Bible says we pray over the sick and they will be healed, why aren't they?" "What about those untold numbers of people who have died because of evil in the world, especially if they have never had the chance to respond to the Gospel?" He was never punchy or pushy, but he was always honest about these kinds of questions.
For the last year or more he has suffered a great deal. His body has not done well. Some might even call his condition a kind of long-term death sentence. But he was strong and healthy when he got sick, so what has been taken away from him was room his body had to spare. There is no denying, however, that it has taken its toll.
We had not met for lunch in a long time so it was good to be able to get together and talk over how things have gone over the last few months. The last time we talked was not long after the diagnosis and there were still questions to be answered and programs of treatment to be prescribed. Now, on the other side of a year, things were different. What was once an unknown has now become a murky burden. It seems the more complex the diagnosis, the harder it is to settle in on a single, obvious means of treatment. What were once hopeful medical prescriptions have become semi-successful, body-draining events.
Suffering is changing the way he understands God and life under God. But that is a good thing. His mind is still sharp and searching, but this time he sat across from me and answered the question about how things have gone between him and God over the last several months by replying, "I don't expect less of him, I just assume less." I think this statement reveals a deep and helpful shift toward trust in God that we all need to hear.
Instead of simply assuming that God will act in certain ways because we think he ought to, can we be ready to take what life and God give and remain confident in him? Must we have all our questions answered to our personal satisfaction before we give God the privilege of our belief in his existence and goodness? What does God have to do for you (that you find acceptable or beneficial) before you will let him off the hook? And if God is in our personal defendant's chair waiting for the jury to come in, then who exactly is the god we worship?
Hundreds of years ago three young men were persecuted in a pagan land for their belief in the God of Abraham. Their unswerving devotion to him brought them to the hearth of a fire built to burn people alive and they were asked to change their minds. They answered that God was powerful enough to save them from the fire, but if he chose not to do it, they knew he was God anyway and they would not recant. Here is a belief in the reality of the existence and goodness of God that has nothing to do with what we get from him or how he meets our personal, felt needs. It is a belief that is grounded in reality - in truth itself. God exists, he is good, he deserves my worship, and he has made provision for his children in this life and in the one to come. So then, why would I change my mind on the edge of the fire?