This morning I grabbed my work bag and headed out the door. When I got to my car I jiggled my insanely worn down key in and out of the door before it finally unlocked. I slid the key into the ignition and listened to the engine struggle a bit and then start up. It had just rained so I didn’t think much of the noise, but then I tried shifting into reverse and my stick shift wouldn’t budge. That happens sometimes, so I tried to throw it in first or second, but still it wouldn’t move out of neutral. Finally it kicked into reverse, but I barely had to let go of the clutch before I could accelerate. Something was off. I backed up a bit and then put the car in first, and again I barely had to let out the clutch.
I decided to try driving it, but I was obviously concerned about my car. Just down the street I had trouble shifting again. A few moments in a realized that my clutch was just being inconsistent, but I was already heading along the 60 west. I called my boss and told him I was going to try and make it to a local repair shop in Rancho Cucamonga. I had a plan; then the panic and begging set in.
If my car had to slow down to a stop I couldn’t guarantee that I’d be able to get it into first gear and be able to shift up. You can shift without the clutch, but it’s touchy and hard on the engine. As I drove I began running through anything and everything I had done that might have displeased God. No matter how many times I reflect on his grace I constantly fear that God wants to get even with me sometimes. It’s so, so easy for us to assume that anything bad that happens in our lives is a direct response to something else that we did.
I find myself often going through three stages. First, when things are going well, I trust and believe that God is present in my life and that he likes me. Second, when things are going mediocrely I start to question God’s providence and love. Third, when things go poorly, I believe that God is present and angry with me. This isn’t to say that God doesn’t get upset, that God isn’t just, or that God’s presence is sometimes hard to discern, but we often give our current conditions, especially our feelings, too much emphasis in divining the divine.
The truth is, if we’re in Christ, then there is no longer any condemnation for sin. There are certainly consequences for bad choices, but God’s wrath was satisfied in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. We need to continually rid ourselves of the notion of God as debt collector. Any trials or struggles that we face aren’t God’s way of punishing us; they’re God’s way of pushing us to continually rely on him and recognize where our help comes from.
This weekend we’ll be singing a new song called “Rejoice!” In the third verse and second chorus we sing:
All our sickness, all our sorrows
Jesus carried up the hill
He has walked this path before us
He is walking with us still
Turning tragedy to triumph
Turning agony to praise
There is blessing in the battle
So take heart and stand amazed
Rejoice, when you cry to Him He hears
Your voice, He will wipe away your tears
Rejoice, in the midst of suffering
He will help you sing
After dropping off my car at the shop I jumped into my boss’ pickup truck to go out on a job. As I was driving I couldn’t help but sing. I honesty didn’t feel like singing, but I knew I needed to. God hears us when we cry, regardless of how good our theology is. He loves us and he wants what’s best for us, so rejoice.