Answers Amidst the Struggle

Train Wreck - Taber, Alberta

There is a collision that occurs within a kingdom heart, often unseen beneath the surface; it occurs in the spaces between empty knowledge and honest experience, fusing the two into something useful. Life is born in this expanse. I believe Paul once referred to it as a “renewing of the mind”.

It is a process that bewilders most of us. We often see the symptoms, the tentacles of this collision flailing wildly and grasping blindly in frustration. But the root eludes many. We seek to cut off these tentacles and treat each symptom as its own problem. There is a futility in this response, as a new tentacle, seemingly unrelated to the last, will spring forth soon enough. Unfortunately, many cover over this futility with shallow platitudes and trite euphemisms worn ragged from overuse. Inevitably they become antagonistic to us, and, having attached them to our knowledge of who God is, He can become antagonistic as well.

This is the point when fear is most potent in the hands of Pharisees. It is the last bastion of resistance that keeps us from asking ruthlessly honest questions. We fear questioning God.

We fear accusing Him—as frustration can lead to. So we grit our teeth and below the surface, sight unseen, our hearts harden. Yet, for those who do brave His supposed wrath, the questions seem to have no answers—other than platitudes of course. If God is good, why is there suffering? If God will take care of my needs, why is it such a struggle?

In fact, profound questions like these are the beginning of actual renewal, but they scare us because they tug at our very nature and press beyond the limits of our understanding, and most of all because we know that in and of ourselves, no satisfactory answer can be produced. Moreover, so, when a question is asked of that scope, we instinctively try to reduce its complexity to a platitude, but it rings false and shallow, and it becomes an exercise in frustration.

It can seem hopeless for those stuck in this cycle of longing for real answers, but always ending up with platitudes, but it isn’t, it’s just difficult at times; forCognativeDissonance though we can’t produce answers in and of ourselves, we are left with something useful: to know Him. Actually, that is all we’re really left with, and perhaps that is the point, because that’s where the renewing of the mind begins; and questions of that scope, ultimately, always revolve around who God is. Thus, knowing Him becomes the only answer.

Those Sunday School lessons that taught you how good God is, are just empty knowledge until fused with experience. Yes, you can regurgitate it a million times, but it is still empty without experience. And, if your experience of life includes suffering (as everyone knows it does), then your experience may clash with your Sunday School answers. What then? This is the collision that occurs in “desert times” when what the heart truly believes begins to surface and clash with the rationalizations of the mind. Yes, you say God is good; but do you really believe it, even live it, in the tragic moments of life?

Frustration in these periods is common because we attempt to hold onto the rationalizations, of which the heart is disagreeing. The only remedy is honesty and experience; for it is not enough to be taught God is good, you must know Him for yourself. Otherwise, you’ll end up cursing Him in the dark nights, rather than pressing into His embrace.

Actual renewing of the mind is when deep-seated judgments of the heart, based on prior experiences, slowly crumble in the exploration and revelation of who He is, not who we’ve been told He is. Too often we reduce discipleship to the dissemination of information. We think if we can fill ourselves up with knowledge, we will grow. But it is empty without experience. It is useless without a relationship. It is religion. It is Pharisaism, not a renewing of the mind.

We need a collision of mind and heart. We need this Spirit-led excavation of our deepest, oldest judgments of life. Without it, we will be like so many before us who do not live what we speak because there is no agreement within ourselves. But, when mind and heart unite in the love of God, renewed by His Spirit, you cannot help but live with integrity, and you cannot stop from speaking what you are already living. It’s time to rethink discipleship, and stop answering challenging questions with tidy systematic theologies. Instead, I suggest we begin pointing each other back to Jesus. Back to knowing Him beyond just information, all the way to a knowledge born from the fusion of information and experience.

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