Over the last year or so, an uncomfortable and difficult question had been circling in Toby’s mind “Was God who they say He is?” This question inevitably led to another question; “did Toby still believe in God?” With life pressing in from all corners and disappointment in fellow Christians growing, Toby needed time to think so he drove to the beach and parked his car in the deserted parking lot. Lost in thought he stared out the rain streaked windshield.
As a child in Sunday school he’d learned about God’s greatness, His creative power; omnipresence. God was the one and only, all-powerful and loving creator. As an adult he had faithfully attended church with his wife and children, but over the years his belief in God had been chipped away by disappointment in humans, in the church, and with the evil they created.
“Who was God really”, he asked himself. If God was real, why did He love mankind? Why would he let imperfect man represent him? Why would he let imperfect man use His name as a surname, Christian, when every one of them was sinful? Toby thought that if he was God, he’d leave humans to destroy themselves with their greed, jealousy, prejudice, abuse and start over with an improved race. More difficult questions came to Toby. “If God was real why didn’t he strike dead the rapist, pedophile, vicious dictator, and murderer? If He was real why didn’t he punish the religiously abusive minister, teacher, parent?” Toby’s life was filled with Christians who claimed to be God honoring but lived in contradiction to that claim.
Toby’s mind was so muddled with confusion that it hurt. “God, who are you?” he said in frustration. “Are you really present in this world, seeing all the evil that happens daily?” Toby watched the white caps in silence; his mind seemingly blank for a moment or two.
In the quiet of his mind a Bible verse he learned in Sunday school come back to him. Galatians 6:7-8 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Toby thought about this verse for a few moments; maybe those claiming to honor God but deliberately abusing others do suffer judgment. Judgment accompanied by the natural consequences of their decisions. Toby found comfort in this knowledge. He remembered another verse, Proverbs 16:2, All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord. Toby thought about all the times he’d justified his own bad behavior then considered the many times the motivation of his heart had been unjustly judged by others. God knew the truth in all these situations, this fact was oddly comforting to Toby.
“God, why not stop the abuser before they have the chance to hurt someone?” Toby asked. But he knew the answer; Free Will. What a mystery Free Will was because it allows for sin, but hopes for obedience. Free Will, each person not only has the right to choose to believe in God or not, but actually must decide which way they believe at some point in their lives. Because of Free Will, each day a person decides how to think and behave. God wants our love but gives every person the freedom to choose to not love and believe in him; amazing. Toby’s spirit still felt heavy, he was so disappointed in mankind. Then another Bible verse came to him. 1 Samuel 16:7, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” God looks at the heart and Toby looked mostly at the actions. Can a heart with good intentions hurt others? Toby knew the answer; Yes.
Toby started thinking about the nature of God. While thinking about God he realized that over the last few years he’d spent too much emotional energy and time thinking about how other humans had disappointed him, hurt him, and hurt others. He had focused on sinful man and not on the Holiness of God; this thinking had depressed him and caused him to lose hope. Numbers 23:19 said, God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? What a comfort it was for Toby to meditate on the holiness of God and not the sinfulness of man. “I Choose to believe in you God, please help me understand these things that trouble my soul.”
One more verse came to Toby, Zephaniah 3:17 The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with his love, He will rejoice over you with singing,” “God please quiet my troubled mind with your love; please be with me Lord.” Toby prayed, “Please help me stay focused on you and not on mankind for you are The Holy God and we are imperfect humans in need of your love.”
Debora Shelford Hobbs