So much of the world appears to have what I call “God issues.”
At one point or another, most have had these issues. They drove some to search, question, and examine who, what, and where God is.
But, unfortunately, since so many of us want to be our own God and decide for ourselves what is right and wrong, many didn’t pursue him long enough to find the authentic God.
Thus, God issues have ensued.
It all started in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were given guidelines to protect them, ultimately from themselves: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). To possess the “knowledge of good and evil” was alluring, it seems. Since Adam and Eve apparently couldn’t resist the temptation, they eventually disobeyed and ate.
And humankind has been dead in sin and trespasses ever since (Ephesians 2:1).
For the most part, the world thinks you live first and then you die. God’s word teaches us that we’re dead first, then—if we receive God’s redemption through Jesus Christ—we live. Eternally (1 John 5:11).
From the day Adam and Eve ate of the fruit, humankind has been on a search to fill what Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) called a “God-shaped vacuum” inside all of us. People often try to fill it with all kinds of things. But the key to filling that vacuum and unlocking life is found only in Jesus Christ.
However, there’s a surprise once we embark seriously on the search.
God’s not hiding from us.
Back to the Garden
This is not a game. In fact, truth be known . . . he’s seeking us.
A late nineteenth-century poem even called him “The Hound of Heaven.” He loves us and has gone to phenomenal lengths to redeem us from the biggest obstacle to redemption: ourselves.
Years ago, I was influenced by a theology rooted in an “abridged” version of the Garden story. It was errant and completely misled me and untold numbers of others. I eventually wrote a book about that experience titled Heavenly Deception.
Anyway, I’ve gone back to the Garden story in Genesis many, many times trying to better understand who God is, who I am, and why humans have messed up so badly. I am intrigued by the three questions in Genesis 3 that God asked Adam and Eve in the Garden after they had eaten the forbidden fruit. I believe they reveal much about God and even more about us.
Before the Fall, there was a time when Adam and Eve were pleased to hear God walking in the Garden. Now, after their sin, suddenly they were fearful (Genesis 3:3). Note: this is not the reverential fear of Proverbs 9:10, but the kind that makes you want to run and avoid the object of your fear.
How was God going to respond to their disobedience?
The next three things God says to them in Genesis 3 are questions. It’s not that he didn’t already know the answers, but he wanted them to own their circumstance and respond in a way he could redeem.
“Where are you?”
God knew, of course.
But his question addressed more their spiritual condition than their physical location. God perhaps wasn’t so much seeking information as he was confession. God coming close ought not to render shame and guilt in us. God seeks us out to reconcile.
That theme is repeated throughout Scripture:
- “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lᴏʀᴅ: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
- “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
Many of us hide, at least metaphorically, when he comes close.
Sometimes, we hide in our disappointments and hurt. Adam even implied that God was at fault for having given him Eve (Genesis 3:12). Some of us hide in our shame and guilt because we rebelled or missed the mark through our actions. Some hide in a flurry of activity and busyness. Do we think that activity can fill the void of a missing God in our lives? (Guilty.)
Confession and repentance are what God is seeking when he comes close searching for us. They are the keys to unlocking the riches of God’s mercy and grace.
“Who told you?”
Many years ago, my daughter often found schoolwork challenging. Sometimes, in homework-induced exasperation, she would blurt out, “I am so stupid.”
My response was, “Who told you that?”
It was certainly not true, and from wherever that idea came, it wasn’t helping her.
The children’s nursery rhyme that “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me” is a lie. Words often do the worst long-term damage.
Could it be that God’s question “Who told you?” was his way of saying “Listen to me”?
If who or what we’re listening to is not drawing us into truth and a deeper relationship with the Lord, then it’s likely drawing us away. Nothing in the created universe is deemed of higher value and worth than each of us. St Augustine was right when he said, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”
One of the ways we learn who we are is through what others tell us. But to whom you are listening is crucial. Be sure you’re listening to godly voices and/or God’s word itself.
So, if “Where are you?” and “Who told you?” don’t draw you into confession and reconciliation with God, then his next question might.
“What have you done?”
Sin is not merely “acts,” but it is a spiritual condition often resulting in running, hiding, and blaming. Along with those acts, our behaviors and attitudes often become hardened. What sin and disobedience do to us is deeply grievous. God is concerned over the state of our hearts, not merely our acts.
As a Christ-follower, anything I might do is forgivable in God’s economy. The only unforgivable thing is an unrepentant, hardened heart that rejects God’s gift of salvation.
God doesn’t question us to condemn us. He does not question us to nag us. He doesn’t question us to discover something he doesn’t already know. His mercy, though, can come in the form of questions. His questions open the door to receive all he has to give.
- “Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lᴏʀᴅ. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lᴏʀᴅ” (Jeremiah 23:24).
- “Where shall I go from your Spirit: Or where shall I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7).
Thus, his questions make our confession and repentance appropriate, timely, and redeeming. The only thing then we must fear, I suppose, is no longer hearing his questions.
And what is the result of ignoring him?
As usual, God’s word says it best: “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:28–32).
Perhaps it’s time to stop looking for answers and start listening for questions.
These, indeed, are God issues.