I am starting to believe that God is intentionally frustrating.
It seems like a bold statement, but as I listen to some of the things Jesus said on behalf of God, it causes me to wonder. The more I listen, the more things jump out at me as not quite right, or just plain frustrating.
Elusively Rhetorical Jesus
Jesus always asked questions to which He knew the answer. Or He would say things having full knowledge that reality was quite different. Why did He do this?
In one instance, He told a woman to “call her husband and come back,” knowing that she had had five husbands and was currently living with a man who was not her husband. Jesus was privy all along and yet He chose to bring up her issue in such a manner that appeared He did not know. Why the false pretense? Why the mystery? Why the elusiveness? Even if the result is good, that frustrates me; it bothers me because I wish God would be more direct with me.
Patiently Incomprehensive Jesus
Jesus’ mission did not begin with a punch line that got repeated over and over again. He did not pick up a banner with the same slogan and wave it for the three years that He did ministry. Rather, His mission and ministry developed and became revealed over the course of time. It didn’t change in the sense that it was one thing and then it was another. Instead, it was one thing that expanded, progressed, etc. As an infinite God subjecting himself to time, so too does God’s mission take place and unfold over the course of time.
It’s humbling to think that anyone, at any given point in time, has yet to see the completed plan of God. We just don’t know everything. Even those who walked with Jesus as He lived and taught and healed — they didn’t know. There is so much we are in the dark about and have no choice but to live by faith. Claiming more knowledge than we truly have would just be a lie. And so there’s a part of me that gets frustrated by the incomprehensibility of the revelation. I feel the lack. I wish I knew more.
Poetically Metaphorical Jesus
Even though Jesus always meant what He said, He didn’t always say what He meant. I mean, the guy talked about eating flesh and gouging out eyes! Those are striking images in their audacity, yet easy to understand as metaphorical.
Many other passages, however, are more difficult to discern. Is he always blending literal and metaphorical? In one instance He says that He can raise up a torn down temple in three days. His audience didn’t understand Him until much later, but we who read thousands of years later can see clearly He was speaking metaphorically.
But how about Jesus’s interaction with the rich man? Was Jesus metaphorically telling him to sell everything he owned to the poor? No, that was literal, judging by the man’s reaction. So how about to you and I? Does Jesus literally tell us to do likewise? Jesus’ highly metaphorical speech can be frustrating for someone looking to arrive upon certain and specific knowledge about how to live this life.
Painfully Permissive Jesus
There is so much evil that God either chooses or allows. I’m not sure which is the right word. God Himself is not evil, yet there are countless times where he works closely with evil. Take for example John 6 where Jesus said, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” God chooses the devil to accomplish his plans. That relationship between good and evil is way beyond me.
It frustrates me that God would allow/use evil to accomplish His mission. I know there is beauty in brokenness and that all things can be redeemed, but is it really worth it? In the end, will the suffering be worth the reward? Will the glory justify the pain?
Jesus seems painfully permissive, not only in His life, but in His departure as well. Entrusting all of us to carry on His mission? Really? Sinless Jesus hands off responsibility to us — who will trample His children, defame His name, and make much of ourselves. Frustrated isn’t even a strong enough word any more.
Intentionally Frustrating God?
These four attributes of Jesus lead me to wonder: is God intentionally frustrating?
I read the Psalms and I hear a man’s voice. David is a king of a people chosen by God. He is a king in a land that is blessed. He is a man after God’s own heart. In theory, none should feel closer to God.
Yet many of his songs are laments. They are cries for closeness. They are desert songs that beg for God to come near, for God to remember, for God to care. How could this possibly be? David, of all people, should feel close to God, should he not? Or… is God always just beyond us, calling us further? Calling us to more trust, more faith, more hope?
Regardless of our “closeness” to him, God still has greater depths for us to delve. I don’t care if you are the most reverent priest or rebellious heir; I’m starting to believe there is a God who wants to intentionally frustrate us into a deeper relationship and stronger commitment with Him.
More trust that comes from less assurance of our own ability to originate goodness and life.
More faith that comes from less certainty of our own intellectual capacity to grasp Him.
More hope that comes from less ability to redeem things falling apart.
He is elusively rhetorical in his deep probing of our soul. He is patiently incomprehensive in his revelation to us of our place in eternity. He is poetically metaphorical in his edicts for living. He is painfully permissive in his control of this world.
And I believe He is intentionally frustrating because He desires to take us from former glory to future glory. To deeper places. To darkest caverns where light sears and silence abounds.
Because there is more to God. There is always more.
Flickr photo (cc) by Jenny Kaczorowski