How many times can I hear the phrase, “Don’t put God in a box” before I feel the need to set the box on fire altogether? I’ve spent too many years believing that if I had just prayed a little harder, believed a little more passionately and trusted a little bit more, my prayers would’ve been answered…my way! I’ve known some pretty faithful people in my life, many unemployed with hours to pray, some who were so filled with the Holy Spirit that they could actually forgive someone who had horribly wronged them, and even a few who were so passionate about God, they could actually speak in tongues. All of them removed God from the box and many times in their lives He came through. What then to the athlete who prays tirelessly for a victory and yet suffers the agony of defeat? What then to the grieving family who cries out day and night for healing for their loved one and yet loses a battle with cancer? What then to the widowed wife who pleads earnestly for forgiveness for the drunk driver who stole her husband and still burns with anger and resentment? Did they not remove God from the box too?
I’d love to share the message of a God who can do all things (and I do believe He can) with everyone I meet, but I find it so hard to do when I know so many whose prayers have not been answered their way. I’m not an idiot. I’ve been around the proverbial Christian block long enough to see the forest through the trees (at least in this area). I do know that God answers ALL prayers, but not always with the answer we are seeking. I know that though He is silent, He is not still. I know that only He knows what is best for us and acts accordingly in our lives. I know that we see dimly what He sees clearly. I know there is a big picture of which I see about a millionth of a millionth of a fraction of a millimeter. For those who receive the amazing answer to prayer they so desperately needed, there are an equal amount of prayers that seem to fall on deaf ears. And regarding those for whom the mountain does not move when they tell it to, there are countless requests that are honored, some without even asking. The sun shines on us all, good and bad. The rain falls on us all, good and bad. There is a silver lining to every cloud and a cloud to every silver lining. So is it the outcome of our prayers that really matters or is it something more? As the author of Ecclesiastes writes, “Everything under the sun is meaningless.” So maybe the focus needs to shift to what is beyond the sun. Maybe the focus should shift from what God will do in our lives to what God has done in our lives...He has loved us and does love us in the most profound way – to the heights of a cross, the depths of a grave and the width of outstretched arms.
So often, the message reads a little something like this: “If you trust God enough, if you ask in His name, if you pray fervent prayers, if you believe in His power, if you say to the mountain, ‘move,’ if you don’t put God in a box, He will come through (and by the way, He loves you). I think it’s time we forget about the box, take God out of the parentheses and begin each sentence with His love.
My God is not a parenthetical God. His love is not meant to be caged. It is not an afterthought to the message; it IS the message. Let’s be honest, I can ask relentlessly, whole-heartedly and passionately for something specific in my life and I may or may not get the answer I desire. But if the question is whether or not God loves me, the answer will always be the same. So why then would I go down an uncertain road when I can stick to what I know and always be right? Sometimes I feel like I’m the one in the box and believe me, I package it up really nice, complete with a bright red bow. And there is definitely not enough room in there for God, but at the end of the day, who cares if God’s in the box or not? As long as He isn’t in the parentheses, I’ll be alright!