Forgiving God

Once upon a time, there was a man who had been selected to help save his nation. The following could maybe be some of this thoughts:

I am part of a very small group of selected men, and we form the core of what is to become one of the largest and most influential organisations and movements the world had ever known. We will restore Israel. God’s Chosen People.

I have some responsibility in this group – which maybe was given to me because I have proven exceptionally responsible – I am responsible for overseeing the finances. Maybe I was selected for this role because I am quite detailed and analytical, relatively serious, a bit of a black-and-white thinker, definitely not easily pushed around, not quick to change my mind, stable, looking to the future. I’m not trying to stereotype here – just pointing out some of the characteristics that often help someone to be good at managing money – and which are some of my strengths.

In my care, we have really done some good things with the money we had received, and we have helped many of the poor. If we could get more money, we could achieve even more. I know some people have accused me of stealing some of the money, but I have never used it for anything other than to advance our cause.

My fellow members of this little elite and I, have been following a very special man for some time now – a man who we all believed was going to restore Israel to its former glory. A man who had selflessly sacrificed his life for this goal. Together we had experienced the glory of a massive following, and seen the beginnings of what could very well become a movement that could unite Israel into the formidable powerful nation again, that God had called and selected them to be.

But lately, things have begun changing. This man, who was supposedly sent from God, and even claimed at times to be God Himself, had begun talking about dying. This didn’t balance well with the claims that he would restore Israel. And I like things to balance. Things must be clear. The large following we had, seems to have begun to shrink, and his teachings have begun to make less and less practical sense, becoming increasingly esoteric. He seems to begin to be more and more on some kind of individual mission, which none of us quite understand, and he seems to have lost focus of his mission to unite and save Israel.

And tonight, despite all he had taught us about humility, caring for the poor, and so on – he allowed some women to come and pour just about a year’s worth of wages in ointment all over his body! And when challenged on this, came up with a senseless answer about His burial and always having the poor with us! I think the Priests and the Pharisees had been right all along. He is really just another person who had tried to lead God’s people astray. He might even be truly delusional. Tonight he really showed his true colours.

I cannot let this go on any longer. This has to be exposed. Tonight I will go and speak to the Pharisees and do what is right.

You might have recognised by now, who the man is. It’s Judas Iscariot, the “baddy of all baddies” in the Bible. Now I do not know if my bit of psycho-analysis up here has any truth in it. I have never chatted to this guy. Maybe he was really just plain evil. But what I do know is that each of us have certain expectations. And sometimes, those expectations are disappointed.

And we also have expectations of God. That’s after all what faith is, isn’t it? Certain expectation. As much as we tell each other “you cannot put God in a box,” there are times in our lives when things happen that just don’t reconcile with our expectations of God.

You can go and read the history of the various people in this story yourself – it’s the last few chapters in each of the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And you will see various responses to this disappointment.

By far the most radical was Judas’s betrayal of Jesus.

Other responses were denying being His friend, following at a distance, getting together with fellow-believers, and mourning, whilst trying to make sense of it all, as well as going back to “normal work.”

Without doubt, at this point in their lives, for all the disciples, from the closest to Jesus, to those following at a distance, this was a time of disappointment. God had not done what God was supposed to do. And WE had poured our ENTIRE lives into this.

The other day I read a book, a really good book, by Bill Hybels, called “The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God and having the guts to respond.”

The author comments on the fact that when he was a youngster, someone challenged him to trust God. I cannot remember the exact phrase, but in effect he said that if God ever disappointed him, then he could decide that this whole God thing was not true. The author then comments that he had taken the challenge, and God had never disappointed.

I read that, and felt maybe a bit extra disappointed, because I have really always made an effort to do only what I believe God had wanted me to do, and to do it as well as I can, and following His instructions as closely as I could.

And yet, sometimes things have not worked out well for me, and for what I had believed to be God’s plans. In a way I felt that things hadn’t worked out well for God either, in some of those situations. And some of those situations are really big. Like extreme poverty and starvation.

And I think for many people it’s the same. We really try to serve God as well as we can, we walk in obedience, we sometimes even have confirmation prophecies of what God wants, and yet it flops. Nothing seems to be the way God said it would be.

I found it a bit liberating to suddenly realize that Jesus’s closest disciples all faced this. To realize that in some ways, it is a normal part of the walk of faith, to be disappointed in God.

I’m not going to label it a good or a bad thing, right or wrong.

Just a normal thing.

And acknowledging it when it happens can make you realize that you now have a choice, as to how you will respond. Are you going to build up bitterness, resentment, and mistrust? Or are you going to draw closer to Him, and ask Him to reveal His plan to you over time?

In a metaphorical way, I guess when we are really disappointed, then, Jesus dies. The hope that we had in Him for a specific issue, dies.

Judas went ahead and committed suicide.

Some others got together and started praying.

For Judas, Jesus’ death was the end.

For the others, it was a pause – a time of disappointment – but it was followed by resurrection.

Are you going to allow the death of your first hope to become permanent?

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