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How Do I Love God When I Can’t Understand His Actions?

Written By Andrew Purchase, South Africa

Andrew Purchase hails from South Africa, but has lived in Singapore since 2009. He has experience as a litigation lawyer, has a love of calligraphy, is terrible at choosing restaurants, has too much sugar in his coffee and adores T. S. Eliot. He is married with two daughters and works as a pastor at Redemption Hill Church.

How do I love God when I can’t understand His actions?

This was a question I asked myself some years ago. I was in the middle of a crisis. I had to close down a church that I had planted. I felt like I had been obedient to God. Yet, I felt like I had failed.

It felt like God had called me. Yet it felt like God had abandoned me in some way.

Many people face their own version of the same question: How do I love God when life is tough and God is not providing me with answers?

I discovered that this is a question with a surprising answer. Part of the answer is flipping the question.

While I was in my dark place—confused by God’s actions and asking how I was to love Him—it felt as if God had flipped the question on me. It felt like He was asking:

When you don’t understand what I am doing, why don’t you ask whether you can experience My love in those moments?”

O happy day, what an answer that brought!

Love can occur even in the absence of complete understanding. One of love’s greatest virtues is that it can transcend our understanding of our problems.

The Bible is emphatic on this point. We can experience God’s love even in situations where we don’t have complete knowledge or understanding:

. . . that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge. (Ephesians 3:17-19, emphasis added)

Christ’s love surpasses knowledge. It’s bigger than human understanding. Love supersedes knowledge.

In my state of confusion, it was as if I had heard an authoritative whisper say, “Let Me love you first; and answer your questions second.

What’s better? Knowing the details of God’s sovereign workings; or knowing and experiencing the full dimensions of His love?

I decided that knowing God’s love was the superior choice. Focusing on receiving God’s love, as opposed to making total sense of hard topics—was one of the best decisions I ever made.

It’s hard to describe what God’s love feels like. For me—at that time—it was the knowledge that no matter what, God was going to look after me (Hebrews 13:6).

God’s love was also this: Even in my heap of failure, God did not love me any less than when I was ostensibly a success. I realized that His love is greatest when I need it most (Psalm 73:26).

At my lowest, I felt His love go deeper than my low. How far I had tumbled. Yet how much further down His love extended. To find me, it had to go there (Psalm 139:8).

And down there, I had an experience of God. It was the experience of a lifetime. I learned to enjoy God’s company, just for His company’s sake. I learned His friendship. I learned that to worship at a deep level is to worship at a high level. I learned that His presence is ever near—even in the toughest of times. I learned to be conscious that He is close.

And now—years later, when all is well—I have answers.

One of my best answers is that difficulties are great times to experience God’s love and to know Him more intimately.

Thus, when we are tempted to ask, “How do I love God when life is tough and God is not providing me with answers to my questions?” we need to take a step back. We need to remember that when it comes to God and love, God is the First Mover. He loves first. It is His pattern, His way.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. . . And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.” (1 John 4:10, 16, emphasis added)

He loves first. When we can’t love Him, He loves first. When we lack understanding, we can at least understand that He loves us.

So when we are confused about life and God’s actions, and have mailed a list of 100 questions to God (but feel like we got no reply)—what can we do?

The answer is deceptively simple. The answer is God Himself. He is not just an Answerer; He is the Answer. And His answer is to be with us to love us.

The truth about Christianity is that Jesus has made it possible for us to be with God now, to know Him, and to feel the warmth of His face now. Jesus is Immanuel—God with us. He has promised to always be with us. We have the Holy Spirit.

Some questions are illogical and have no answer (“Lord, can a square ever be round?”).

Some questions God does not answer yet as a matter of timing.

Some questions God does not answer because they distract us from asking a better question.

But there is one question God always answers: “Lord, can you be with me now with your love and peace?”

It is a question He doesn’t necessarily answer with words, but He answers it with His own presence and His love.

As C. S. Lewis famously put it: “I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?” (from Till We Have Faces).

In moments of confusion and frustration, the best way to love God is often to simply be loved by Him.

From God’s Heart To Yours

Title: From God’s Heart To Yours
Artwork by: Estelle Quek (@morethanworks)
Description: 
It’s Valentine’s Day! We all know it’s d-day where we celebrate love, whether you are attached or single. It’s a day we associate with giddy feelings, chocolates and balloons, and of course, love letters!  

At some point in our lives, we’ve probably written a love letter to a loved one before (and you might even be writing one now). There’s something deeply personal and meaningful about receiving a love letter—especially when it comes from our Creator Himself. Here’s a few of them, just for you.

God’s love is eternal. He will always be with us through this life and beyond. It doesn’t matter what challenges life might throw our way, we can be sure that He will be there to walk us through it.

Deuteronomy 31:6 : “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

 

We might attempt to fill our lives with love through relationships, things, or experiences–but only God’s love can complete and satisfy us.

1 John 4:16 :  So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

 

God’s love is sacrificial. We were bought at a price—one that cost His life. Through His death, we’ve been redeemed and made right with God, so we can now put aside the things of the past and live lives of purity and holiness.

Romans 5:8 : but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

Sometimes it can feel like we’re far away from God when we’re in the thick of trials and troubles. But His Word assures us that nothing in this world can ever separate us from His love. Cling on to this truth and let it comfort and strengthen us through tough times.

Romans 8:38-39 : For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

When we receive Christ into our lives, He gives us His Holy Spirit so that we are able to fully experience His love for us, understand His ways–and fill the lives of those around us with His love.

Romans 5:5 : And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

 

 

What If My Closest Friends Are Not Christians?

Written By Madeline Twooney, Germany

At the moment, I find forming friendships in church quite challenging. Moving to a new city, as well as health issues, is probably part of the reason. I also have trouble connecting deeply with people at church, even though I join small groups, volunteer for service, and participate in church events.

My old friends, however, are still like family to me. Most of them are former teaching colleagues, and a few I know from my former church. Our friendships span a period of 16 years. Though our bonds have been tested through many seasons—job changes, marriage, sickness and death—we remain dear friends. When it is time to rejoice, we dance; in times of sorrow, we hold to each other and cry. We have grown up together.

None of my friends attend my current church. Most of my friends aren’t even Christians: in fact, some of them are atheists. One of them has even embraced the goth lifestyle.

Does that make it okay then, that l am closer to them than people l know in church?

 

Who Did Jesus Befriend?

Some well-meaning Christians have suggested that I give up these friendships. While I certainly put time and effort into making friends at church, I definitely do not think it is necessary to give up my friends outside of church. After all, Jesus was diverse in his interactions with people as well. He not only spent time discipling the Twelve, but He associated Himself with children, tax collectors, lepers, as well as others considered socially inferior. He sought to draw them to the kingdom of God. Why then, should we limit ourselves to being involved only with people from church?

Just like Jesus tried to draw people from various backgrounds into His kingdom, so too, we can try to bring our friends into the church family. After all, the Great Commission commands that we share the gospel with our fellow man (Matthew 28:16-20).

For example, I invite my friends to church, and they enjoy themselves when they are there. l use discernment to determine the right moment to broach Christian-related subjects. It means stepping into unfamiliar territory for all of us and exploring deep-rooted issues, but l love how open-minded my friends are. More often than not, my friends talk about God of their own accord. I’ve also discovered that I can sometimes be a more effective ambassador for Christ through the way l live my life as a Christian, rather than through using my voice.

 

God Loved Us First

I cherish my friends. Our relationships have a realness to them—the kind of grit and spit that has survived the ugliness of hardship and seen the beauty in each other when we were at our weakest. We share a love which selflessly gives, genuinely wanting to contribute to the happiness of the other. We share a love that deepens through shared experiences and the revelation of life’s lessons. It is a love that does not leave anyone behind.

Our love for each other reminds me of God’s love for us—in His unconditional love, He gave up the life of His precious son Jesus to pay the bond price for our sins on the cross of Calvary (John 3:16). This is the love that breaks chains and sets people free.

I get to love my friends—though they are not all Christian—with the love that God has showered on me. I pray for them and hope that one day, they get to know God’s love for themselves as well.

 

Friendships in Church

While I am incredibly thankful for these friendships God has blessed me with, I am also aware of how important it is to have strong friendships within the church. The depth of my relationship with my closest friends encourages me to reach out and work to build meaningful relationships at church.

Instead of simply trying to get to know everybody, however, I am now focusing on getting to know a few specific people better. I try to keep in mind that we are all imperfect and ask God to help us understand each other.

There are a few women at church with whom I share a mutual sympathy, and we have a similar perspective on faith as well. We now stay in regular contact. We pray for each other and try to get to know each other over coffee. It’s taking time, but our efforts are bearing fruit, and we are opening up more to each other.

In a letter to the church in Colossae, the apostle Paul lists his dearest friends: Jews, Gentiles, cellmates, a physician, and even a slave (Colossians 4:7-18). This extensive list encourages and inspires me to nurture Kingdom friendships with people from all walks of life, so that we might work together towards the glory of God, both within and outside the church.

 

Perhaps you have close friends outside of church as well? I thank God for the deep love you share with them. Do you pray for them? Have you ever considered inviting them to church or small group?  May you keep loving them the way God loves you and me.

Searching: How Far Will You Go For Your Loved Ones?

Screenshot taken from Official Trailer

 

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Searching, the first film from 27-year-old director Aneesh Chaganty, is a crime thriller starring John Cho who plays David, a father in a desperate search for his missing daughter.

After his daughter, Margot, goes missing, David is not allowed to take an active role in the police investigation, so the only way he can help is by combing through her digital persona in search for clues to her disappearance. Filmed from the unique perspective of smartphone and laptop screens, the movie explores the different masks that we put on to hide what is going on inside. Through the twists and turns of the investigation, David learns how little he knew of his own daughter and also what lengths he would go to find her.

Searching isn’t the first film shot from the exclusive point-of-view of a laptop screen, but it is by far the most engaging one, nearly perfectly capturing the millennial generation’s online experience. From its opening shot of booting up Windows XP, the film begins by playing on nostalgia with footages of the MSN messenger, the original YouTube interface and even the early versions of Facebook as we view memories from Margot’s childhood. I haven’t seen such an emotional first five minutes to a film since that heartbreaking opening sequence from Pixar’s Up.

The film proceeds to utilize present day communication apps like Facetime and iMessage as well as popular social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and even Tumblr to reveal the story of Margot’s disappearance. David even uses Google Sheets and Google Maps to help in his own private investigation. The little details from director Chaganty of the dropped frame rate during a video call or a typo while messaging or deciding to delete a 200-word rant and replace it with a short, passive aggressive sentence all added to the realism of the online experience.

Although the film-making techniques used to craft the story of Searching certainly make the movie unique, it is the emotional pull of David and Margot’s characters that makes the film a great one. Some of the buzz around Searching is that it is the first mainstream Hollywood thriller with an Asian actor as the lead. Interestingly though, John Cho being of Korean descent had very little to do with David’s character arc. The film instead focused on universal themes of complicated family dynamics, of grief and loss, and—most powerfully—of a father’s love.

This theme of a father’s love was the one that spoke to me the most when reflecting on the film. I was reminded of Jesus’ Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7) where he tells us of the Shepherd who will “leave the ninety-nine” sheep and “go after the lost sheep until he finds it” (Luke 15:4).

In Searching, David discovers things about his daughter that he couldn’t have imagined were possible. He finds out how Margot has been deceiving him and doing things that he couldn’t believe she would do. At one point in the film, David laments to the lead investigator, “I did not know her. I did not know my daughter.” Despite those discoveries, David’s ultimate goal of finding his daughter never wavers.

In the same way, God’s love for us is constant and unwavering. But in contrast to David, our Heavenly Father knows His children intimately. He knows about the masks that we put on and the lies we tell people in order to fit in or seek approval. He knows about the sneaking around and our sinful behavior. He knows that we will disappoint and disobey Him and go our own way. And yet despite that, he will “leave the ninety-nine” and chase after us with an even greater fervency than David does in the film. In fact, our Heavenly Father has made the ultimate sacrifice for us, not because of anything good in us, but because of the intense love He has for His children.

Although we will hopefully never have to experience what David and Margot went through in the film, my prayer is that we all experience the love of our Heavenly Father and allow ourselves to be found in Him even if we lose our way.