To answer the cry of the human heart, “Would that I could see him! Would that I might come before him, and look upon him face to face!” God sent his son, the express image of his person. And that we might not be limited in our understanding of God by the constant presence to our weak spiritual sense of any embodiment whatever, he took him away. Having seen him, in his absence we understand him better. That we might know him he came; that we might go to him he went. If we dare, like Job, to plead with him in any of the heart-rending troubles that arise from the impossibility of loving such misrepresentation of him as is held out to us by some; if we think and speak out before him that which seems to us to be right, will he not be heartily pleased with his children’s love of righteousness? Verily he will not plead against us with his great power, but will put strength in us, and where we are wrong will instruct us. For the heart that wants to do and think aright, that seeks to worship him as no tyrant, but as the perfectly righteous God, is the delight of the Father. To the heart that will not call that righteousness which it feels to be unjust, but clings to the skirt of his garment, and lifts pleading eyes to his countenance, to that heart he will lay open the riches of his being.
by Diane Adams
Suffering squeezes us like a sponge. It is going to wring out whatever is deep inside the soul, good and bad. Perhaps you were taught in church, like I was, to see God as a master-of-the-universe type, waiting to see who gets it right, armed and ready to pounce on and eternally torture those who don’t. This type of understanding comes from books about the Bible, from mental work that tries to put together a picture of how God thinks based on logic. It neglects the spiritual sense of knowing altogether.
It is very easy, in the infancy of spiritual understanding, to think that God is just like we are. He wants to get our enemies, wants to make sure everyone behaves, wants to beat up on anyone that does not. He lies in wait for the people who get on our nerves, and eventually will take care of them the way we want to do but can’t because we’re Christians. Blake wrote: “It is an easy thing to talk of patience to the afflicted, To speak the laws of prudence to the houseless wanderer.” I could add it is an easy to thing to love the God of wrath, until we need a father.
Only when we enter an experience of Job, the dark night of the soul, can we begin to learn from experience what God is truly like. When we see ourselves for what we are, deep inside, the desire for judgment begins to fade, and the merits of mercy become more appealing. Clinging to a theology that teaches a God of punishment and fear during a time of deep suffering is impossible. You’ll either lose that perception, your faith, or your mind altogether.
Through suffering we come to know God ‘face-to-face’. We meet him at the bottom of ourselves, where we can no longer protect ourselves from who and what we are by creating a God in our own image. As the soul gets squeezed, it becomes open to the actual person of God instead of ideas about him. It also becomes more compassionate, more merciful, less likely to condemn or blame others In other words, the road Jesus walked, that of the suffering servant, is the road to knowing the Father. In our suffering we cry out to him, and we find him a father in truth. Nothing else can save us.