Weird, obscure 20th century nursery rhymes anyone? The rest of that little rhyme, in case you’re unfamiliar is, “He went to bed and bumped his head and couldn’t get up in the morning.” I’m not quite sure what the moral lesson is that we want small children to learn from this somewhat disturbing verse. Most nursery rhymes, in their original, not-modernized, versions tend to be on the frightening side geared towards scaring children into right behavior. For the record, I’m not necessarily saying I’m opposed to this kind of behavior modification, just making an observation. (If you don’t know me personally, please read that last sentence – and most of what I write for that matter – with a hint of sarcasm.) I will say, I don’t think “Rock-a-bye Baby” will be making an appearance on Abigail’s night-night playlist. Again…disturbing.
But speaking of behavior modification, this little rhyme is currently shedding some light on a little bit of bad theology that I think I’ve been hanging on to for far too long. Not too tightly, but just tight enough that it needs to be dealt with. I know it’s bad theology and every time I’m brave enough to say with words (out loud) how I really feel about a certain situation, I know it immediately. (Thank you, seminary education.) I know. It’s not right. It’s not how God works. But in all honesty, I am often tempted to believe that all circumstances impacting my life today are a direct result of how pleased (or not) God currently is with me. Let’s stop right there and say: This is no way to live!
Do you ever think this too? Everything seems to be going wrong so we wonder, “God, are you not happy with me? Have I done something to step out of your favor? Am I outside your will? Are you punishing me?” It’s difficult to unravel this bad theology, because sometimes, our circumstances ARE a direct result of our actions. The action is also known as “sin” and the undesirable circumstance is the “consequence” of the sin. But this is not always the case. Grace is also always at work. Sometimes your circumstances are the result of someone else’s actions. Sometimes your circumstances may be the result of something that happened before you were born. It would be impossible to expound on all the possible answers as to why we may be suffering in this way at this time in this context (sinful from birth, personal sin, sins of others, the world is a sinful place, the fall, etc.), so my short answer (and my current method of expunging this bad theology) is this:
“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.’ This is the Lord’s declaration. ‘For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.'” Isaiah 55:8-9 (HCSB)
I want to push back. I want to argue. I want to question, “But WHY God?” But these verses tend to always be the end of the conversation. And honestly, they bring such peace. In everything that happens in this crazy world, His ways are always higher, His thoughts are always better. We can’t comprehend it. And besides, when did Jesus say, “Follow Me and I will give you the life of luxury and ease?” (I keep looking for that verse and I just can’t find it!)
Sometimes it rains and it pours. And it may seem like God is mad or He’s just not paying attention. He was there, tending to our needs and then, I don’t know, He got distracted or He just had bigger fish to fry. OR He’s not happy with me. Nope there it is again. It’s so easy to arrive at this conclusion if we don’t see the bigger picture. That God is always seeing our situation from a much larger lens, that He sees our situation as it relates to all things past, present and future. That at times, my circumstances may be a direct result of sin in my life, but at other times it may be an opportunity to exercise faith to produce something greater. Or it may be a result of someone else’s actions. Or something entirely different. Maybe it’s not about ME at all?! His ways, His purposes, His thoughts…so much higher than mine.
Sometimes it rains and it pours. God is not oblivious. He knows. He is not the old man who bumped his head and can’t get out of bed in the morning. He is so present and sovereign and HE KNOWS!
It’s hard to understand sometimes, I know, that “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45b, HCSB). I assume that both sun and rain are meant to be positives in this verse, but I often associate ‘rain’ with not-so-good. Yes, it’s refreshing, but it also causes floods and sometimes it just pours and you want the sun to come out again. Either way, I have to stop believing that my good actions should return a blessing from the Lord, while my sins will incur His immediate punishment. It’s not that simple. That is a works-based religion. But we live by faith, set “free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2b, HCSB). (Big side note: This grace and living by faith never excuses us from always pursuing righteousness.)
This is a 10,000 ft view of a very complex theological discussion about sin and grace (for further reading, see Paul’s letter to the Romans). But without knowing all the answers, I want to be able to live life in the reality of His abundant grace and not under the prospect of His impending wrath.
I don’t know all the answers. I’m so glad He does.