Tag: Despair

Thinking God’s Thoughts After Him

Thinking God’s Thoughts After Him

bible reading

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them. -Psalm 139:17 NIV

One doesn’t need to be an economist to see that our national and local economies are struggling. Circuit City, Linens and Things, and numerous others locally are closing up shop. The downturn is not just affecting the big chains but also the little guys too. People are losing jobs, receiving wage cuts, and living in fear of what may come next. The government and media are providing a steady stream of bad news and if you’re like me you are probably growing weary of it. Weary not because of the bad news, but because of the anguish of watching people you love struggle.

Last night I was hanging out with a friend named Matt. Matt is one of the most gifted woodworkers I have ever seen, artistic in fact. He has an incredible creative gift that in many ways mirrors God’s own sense of creativity. Sadly, in this kind of economy, people are not lining up to order high end woodworking, and so Matt and his family are struggling. Matt is what I call a “recovering fundamentalist,” that is he is learning for the first time that God is not a Cosmic Grump who is constantly out to punish people for their sins (insert mental image of the Rock carrying a large 2″x4″ whippin’ up on the bad guys). Matt is learning about the grace and kindness of God offered to him in Jesus Christ. Yet, Matt still struggles, wondering if he sinned in some way and that God is now getting him back by withholding work. Thankfully Matt is learning anew that God does not treat us as our sins deserve but instead is a loving Father who gives good gifts to His children.

I was struck as I met with Matt over coffee with Bibles open on the table. There we sat in a diner in the suburbs (sorry I had to confess) both wearing white beanies. It must have been a sight to people who frequent diners. We talked about his struggles with fear, stress, and despair. He shared his story and I listened, intently taking notes. As we talked my mind was flooded with all sorts of Scripture that I thought would bring him comfort. We talked about faith and I quoted Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” We talked about prayer and I read Ephesians 3:20: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” I read Romans 8:31-32: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” and reminded him that the cross is proof that God is not holding back anything from him. “If God gave His only Son to be crucified for you, don’t you think he’ll take care of everything else?” I asked.

Something about that meeting struck me, something subtle Matt did as we talked. Matt wrote down every Bible verse. He even underlined verses that held some kind of special meaning to his circumstances. He was inhaling every word that came from that book as though they were life to him! He needed those words to help him get through tomorrow. Matt was dependent on those ancient words to give him hope and certainty that everything was going to be OK; that God wasn’t going to let him down. That was so refreshing to me, watching someone devour the Scriptures, to feed on them, to breathe them in, to draw from the life-giving power that exudes from the precious book.

Some of us who have been in the Church for a long time can learn from Matt. A guy like that can pray with the Psalmist, “How precious are your thoughts to me, O God! My thoughts are so consumed with fear and doubt, I just need to get your thoughts into my head, so maybe I’ll read my Bible.” Does Matt need a change in his circumstances? Sure. The next day I sent out an e-mail asking some folks to help out, to send him some work if they had it and people are responding; just one small way we can all help the economy. But, what Matt really needs and is struggling to obtain is a change of thinking. Theologian Cornelius Van Til talked about our need to “think God’s thoughts after Him.” The economy may not change. Our hard circumstances might not improve as quickly as we like. How we process those things internally, in what the Bible calls our ‘heart,’ is the important thing. We can fear, stress, and despair and undergo the myriad of difficulties that come from having too much stress. Or, we can begin to rethink those things in light of the Gospel. In light of the crucifixion of Jesus for our sins, can we really continue to believe that God won’t provide for our needs? In light of this tremendous act of Fatherly self-giving, can we really afford to question whether God knows our struggles. God’s thoughts are intently focused on loving and caring for His children. We need to begin thinking those thoughts after Him. Like Matt, we need to recapture the tremendous joy of finding strength, hope, and comfort in mining God’s thoughts from the depths of the Scriptures. Spending that little time with Matt last night helped me to fall in love with the Bible again.