Why Me God? or How to Deal with Life’s Frustrations
Perhaps the most frustrating experience we have as human beings is facing our powerlessness over our lives. From early on, even as infants, we are constantly confronted with things we cannot control. A baby does not get milk or food the moment it begins to cry, and by the time that we’re toddlers our parents are telling us No! we can’t have that piece of candy, or No! we can’t run out into the street. Things are placed out of our reach and we are forced to eat things and go places we don’t want to. We can’t even control our legs enough to walk, our mouths enough to talk, or even our bowels. We enter the world utterly powerless, yet, at the same time, psychologists assure us, utterly convinced of our omnipotence and right to control the world around us. This tension between our beliefs and reality is the source of all our frustration.
This frustration with reality, with not getting things the way we want them, with our limitations, and with limits placed upon us, doesn’t end with childhood. Maturity ought to be a Ocess of coming to terms with this of control over our world. But as adults, we don’t make as much ey as we would like, or we are able to get the job we want, or 1 things happen to us that we are erless to prevent. Sometimes in ng with these frustrations, we turn to various things to comfort ourselves in our frustration, such as food, alcohol, sex, or drugs, and then find ourselves enslaved to them. We find that we cannot even control our own actions, and our lives careen out of control. Perhaps the most difficult of all is facing death, the ultimate enemy which strips away all our illusions of omnipotence.
GOD INTENDS FRUSTRATIONS
Little do we know that this sense of frustration and powerlessness over our lives is just what God intends for us. So convinced of our own divine right to a life of comfort and ease, to control our circumstances, we hardly look to God as the source of all our frustration, except to blame and curse Him. How could God do this to me? we cry, or if we’re "good" Christians, how could God allow this to happen to me? But the same complaint underlies both: God has given me a bad deal. At some point we have all ranted and raved like lunatics at God, who surely tires of our spoiled-brat behavior and our temper-tantrums. We can continue to wallow in self-pity and depression or we can change our view of life’s frustrations and attempt to understand what God intends for us by these difficulties.
To understand God’s purpose in bringing frustration into our lives we must return to the garden of Eden, where humanity’s troubles began. Originally, God created mankind to be in His image, to be a reflection of God’s glory, the means by which God expressed His holy and loving character (Gen. 1:26-27, 2 Co. 11:7). An image is basically an idol (see Ex. 20:4, where the same Hebrew word is used to refer to an idol). In Ancient Near Eastern religion, an idol operated as the means by which a god in the heavens made known his presence and will in the earth. The presence of the god dwelt in the idol as in a vessel. What the worshippers did to the idol, they did to the god, and in turn, the god expressed himself through the idol to the people who worshiped and prayed to his idol. What, then, does it mean to say that human beings are God’s idols? It means that we as human persons are the means by which God expresses His presence and will in the world. Just as the idol operated as the vessel or instrument of the god, so we are the vessels of the Divine Creator, designed to express His glory. An image has no other purpose than to reflect back to the owner a picture of himself, just as a mirror does not reflect itself, but the image of the one who looks into it.
But a danger exists for mankind in the garden, Because of our glorious splendor as the image and glory of God, we might become enamored of this glory as if it were our own and not God’s. Instead of seeing ourselves as just vessels of the divine glory, means to the end of divine self-expression, we might exalt ourselves at the expense of God, seeking to replace Him as the center of the universe and usurp His authority and glory as the only independent self in the universe.
THE CHOICE BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL
Because of this danger, God frustrates mankind with a limit, and says: "You are free to eat of any tree in the garden, but you must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die" (Gen.2:16-17). God places this limit not because He wishes to deprive humanity of any good thing: that is the deception of the devil, who convinces Eve that God has deprived her of the wisdom needed to live life to the fullest (Gen. 3:5-6). God’s purpose in placing the tree in the garden is to confront man with a choice between good and evil. That is why the tree is named the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because it is the tree where humanity will come to understand the difference between them, not because the tree has any mystical or magical power to confer wisdom, as Eve mistakenly believes. Adam and Eve must choose between the truth of God, to believe that they are only dependent vessels/images of God, or Satan’s lie that they are gods or independent selves in their own right. By placing a limit on them in forbidding a certain tree, God sovereignly places humanity in a situation of testing or temptation, in the hope that they will forever close the door to Satan’s illusion of self-asGod. Will they obey and glorify God as God, or themselves as God: that is the good and evil they must choose between.
ADAM AND EVE CHOOSE SATAN’S LIE
But Adam and Eve choose not to believe that God’s provision for them in the garden is adequate for living lifeto the full, but rather choose to believe the devil, and reach out to take for themselves the knowledge of how to provide for themselves. Instead of trusting God to be a superabundant source of life for them, they look to their own pitiful resources to provide for themselves. This, then, is the choice between good and evil: good is looking only to God for life, fulfillment, and happiness, so that one is satisfied in being the image vessel of the Divine Creator, content to eternally be the recipient of divine grace and mercy. Man was never intended to do anything for himself, only to receive, receive, receive. Unfortunately. some translations of Gen. 2:15 give the impression that Adam and Eve were to work in the garden and till the ground in order to provide for themselves. In fact. this verse ought to read "The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden to serve (worship) God and obey Him." God’s eternal purpose was to be glorified by always being the provider, the giver, the loving and merciful one, and humanity was to gratefully receive His blessings.
But Satan came along and presented evil as though it were good. Evil is when the creature plays at being God by attempting to provide for itself, and by assuming rights that belong only to God: I will provide for myself, I will do as I please. Humanity bought into Satan’s self-deception that we could be like God, i.e. independent self-operating, self-expressing self-providing, self-sufficient selves, rather than images of God, whose only purpose was to reflect the divine glory back to God. Sin is self-as-God, as opposed to good, which is God-as-self, or the glory of God expressed as and through the self. Henceforth, we decided, we would be our own selves, and determine for ourselves what kind of people we would be, independently of God. That, of course, was only a deception.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF FREE CHOICE
Since humanity was not satisfied with the limitations that God placed on them, God escalated the degree of frustration. In response to man’s choice, God laid down consequences. Although the text does not state this explicitly, Adam was in a covenant relationship with God, as indicated by the presence of commands and sanctions of blessing and curse. As part of any covenant between a king and a vassal, there are sanctions, or consequences for obedience and disobedience, usually referred to as blessings and curses. if one obeys the terms of the covenant, one is rewarded with certain blessings, but if one disobeys, one is cursed or punished in some manner.
As a result of their choice to disobey God, God curses humanity by letting us endure the consequences of our own choice. Since we desire to be independent selves, He withdraws His blessings and allows us to attempt to provide for ourselves and live from our own sufficiency as best we can. God withdraws his blessing and support from mankind, and women have increased pains in childbearing, and men are afflicted with the painfulrequirement to provide sustenance for themselves from the ground, which will only grudgingly yield its fruit (Gen. 3:16-19). Death, too, is a natural result of God’s withdrawal of His sustaining presence, since human beings are not deathless by nature, but have eternal life only by the supernatural power of God. Death is the natural consequence of ceasing to depend on God. In Ps. 82:6-7, the author describes men as gods, only to sarcastically remark that they will die like mere mortals. God mocks mankind in his self-sufficiency, creatures who cannot even preserve their own lives, but still claiming to be independent selves. God does all this not merely to punish humanity, but ultimately to redeem mankind, for unless we face fully the consequences of our actions, that they ultimately lead to death, physically, spiritually, and eternally, we will never repent of those actions. Any alcoholic who has been delivered knows the necessity of facing the consequences of one’s actions.
THE PURPOSE OF FRUSTRATION AND SUFFERING
God sets up the post-fall world deliberately to frustrate mankind, in order that we may be delivered from the deception that we are independent selves who can make a life for ourselves apart from God: "For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to death and brought into the glory of the freedom of the children of God" (Ro. 8:20-21 ). The purpose of frustration and suffering is to force us to abandon the lie that we are gods, that we have a right to have things our way, the lie that we can provide for and be complete in ourselves, that we are anything other than vessels/instruments of the Divine Creator, created for his glory. If we repent, and respond positively to the curse of frustration, it will not be mere punishment and wrath. Instead it will serve the redemptive purpose of liberating us from death, and bringing us into the glory of the freedom of being Christ in our forms. True freedom, according to the Bible, is more than merely choosing between good and evil. It is the freedom to be the vessel we were meant to be, the freedom to be the fully mature sons of God that we were meant to be.
For this reason, the author of Hebrews exhorts us to endure all suffering as discipline from our Heavenly Father, a discipline which has eternal life, peace and holiness as its goal (Hb. 12:7-11). Discipline is only punishment if we fail to respond to it properly, but a means of grace if we submit to God and accept it from His loving hands for our good. What good? The good of forsaking the evil lie by which Satan deceived us and stole from us the glory of the freedom of the sons of God. Satan stole our inheritance through Adam’s choice, and we can only take it back by reversing that choice in painfully facing the lack of control we have over ourselves and all of life. If we accept our circumstances as God’s perfect circumstances for us, we will take hold of the life that is really life, the joy we were meant to experience as sons of the living God.
And so, with Paul, we say: "therefore, we do not lose heart, though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed daily. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (2 Co 4:16-17). To deal effectively with frustration and suffering, we must change our view of the circumstances. No longer must we see them as obstacles to our happiness, but as the road to joy, for apart from forsaking the lie of our own godhood, there can be no lasting joy or fulfillment in life.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 9 No 4
- More Than An Eating Problem
- Romans Six to Eight, Paul’s Key to the Liberated Life
- Editor’s Note
- Greetings From the Z News Crew!
- Wanted: Faith and Fools
- Why Me God? or How to Deal with Life’s Frustrations
- The Mailbox
- The Solution: The Law & The Cross
- To Think About
- I’ve Been Crucified
- Family Reunion At Blowing Rock, 1993
- Questions & Answers
- Powerless Over Alcohol & LIfe: Step 10
- Words To Live By
- Moments With Meryl
- Excerpt from The Intercession of Rees Howells
- A Look at a Book, A Review: Rees Howells Intercessor