How do we experience God in misfortune and inconvenience? How do we experience Him in good fortune and ease?
While sailing on the Potomac in the shadow of Mount Vernon on the fourth of July we lost our engine. On the way out we had discussed whether we could dock under sail alone, having never done it in the narrow and shallow channel that leads to the Fort Belvoir Marina. Now we had our chance. We tacked into the wind and slowly sailed toward the marina. My mother in law Susan asked the children to pray for success. My son David questioned whether God cares about little things like that. Though the wind sailing south was against us, when we turned to starboard to sail into Dogue Creek, the quartering tailwind was perfect. As we approached the marina we dropped the main and moved in slowly with the jib. Much to my mother-in-law’s delight, we docked successfully. We recognized it as a work of God in our lives.
While shooting archery at Fort Belvoir yesterday morning, my daughter Rachel shot some arrows off target. We looked for several minutes but in the 90+ degree heat, couldn’t find them. Hot and frustrated, she asked God to help her find the arrows. We tried again several times but still failed. Thirty minutes later on the last set, she shot another arrow off target. This last arrow landed next to one of the arrows that she had lost, enabling Rachel to find both. She recognized this as an answer to prayer.
Everything that we experience in our lives is experienced through the medium of creation, especially the physical world. God’s blessings, food, water, shelter, and everything else, come through the physical world. We experience pleasures, whether the relaxation of a warm bath after a cold hard day or the ecstasy of sex with our spouse, through our bodies. We experience pains, whether the discomfort of hot weather or the agony of torture, through our bodies. Sailing into a tight berth and finding lost arrows are everyday challenges that we experience in the physical world. Even the spiritual highs that we experience cause real changes in our bodies. This is not to say that we do not also experience these things in our spirits, the immaterial part of our being. However, we recognize these experiences through our bodies. God does most of His work on earth through creation. Miracles are not a violation of the laws of the universe, the creation which He Himself has made, but His work via means that we do not understand.
This being true, to believe that God did not create the universe is to eliminate all possibility of experiencing Him. The famous hymn “Great is Thy faithfulness” reflects a man’s gratitude for “summer, winter, springtime and harvest, sun, moon and stars in their courses above.” However if God did not create the universe, He gets no credit for giving these wonderful gifts to man.
Many secularists would argue that us making it home under sail was merely chance and skill. They would say that Rachel finding her lost arrow was mere luck. Certainly the winds on the Potomac and my sailing skill, however humble, made a difference, but that does not mean that God was not involved. It is God who provides the wind and the skill. It is He who choreographs a novice archer’s strength and aim (or lack thereof) to make an easy-to-find arrow land close to a hard-to-find one. It is God who allows us to take every breath. Far from being an unnecessary “big guy upstairs”, God is the foundation of everything. Most everyone, even people who reject the existence of God, takes personhood and individual consciousness as foundational truths, but God is more fundamental than even personhood and individual consciousness. The atheist sees the physical realities that operate in our world, but the Christian looks through and beyond them to see the work of God.
How many times does God act in our lives but we cannot see it because our presuppositions prevent it? He protects us, provides for us, comforts us, and encourages us, but because He uses natural means we attribute these blessings to chance, the characteristics of the universe (such as prevailing winds), or the work of other people. Does that ever make Him frustrated? It certainly frustrates us when others don’t give us credit for the things we do for them. How many relationships crumble over just such issues? Will our relationship with God do any better?
As a sidebar, people may scoff at the idea of the transcendent God of the Universe being frustrated at the misunderstandings of such inconsequential and short duration creatures as we.
Do we hope to experience God and then allow our presuppositions to limit what we will accept as evidence of that experience? Do we sit down to a tasty meal that we have worked hard to purchase and prepare and reject that as evidence of His provision? What then will we accept? A spectacular miracle? A man rising from the dead? The Bible teaches that if we reject its lessons, we will be not be convinced even if a man rises from the dead (Luke 16:20-31).
God is the source of everything good, wonderful and beautiful in the universe. How much of His joy do we forfeit with our foolish presuppositions? We can experience God in all things if we will just open our eyes, and our hearts, to see.