I still remember the way the chair squealed slightly as she twisted toward me. I remember the thinly veiled urgency in her voice as she looked at me with pleading eyes and asked me, "Where is he?" I remember the rasp of desperation in her tone, and I remember feeling a moment of doubt. My simple and shallow theology didn't know what to do with a God who seemingly wasn't showing up.
For six months, my friend and co-worker had been struggling with apathy toward God. She had cried out to God to persevere her, to interrupt, and to rescue her from the indifference in her heart. And for six months, I had told her the same thing each day when we came to work together. Keep reading your Bible, keep praying, he'll show up.
But that day the words got stuck in my throat, caught on doubt and confusion. Could I really promise her that one day soon he would make her feel all better? And if so, when? Is our God really someone we can coerce into making an appearance?
She explained it with a sharp edge in her voice, that could have been mistaken for anger if not for the moisture in her eyes: "He promises to persevere me, but he isn’t. I keep praying and nothing is changing. Nothing is happening. So what? Which is it: His promises are lies, or he's not real? Or I'm not his?"
The Great Gospel Reversal
The thing about the gospel is, while it delivers us from the painful burden of works-righteousness, it doesn't immediately remove the influence of the worldview that has held us captive for so long. We come to God desperate to learn and grow but with a mind still conformed to patterns that must be identified and sabotaged with gospel realities.