Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Divine Prison

Each of experience, or have experienced, times when we feel trapped, caught in a situation we can’t seem to escape, or even find relief from. It may be a job, a relationship, a financial difficulty, an addiction, an illness. It may be (for some of us) actual persecution, like Pastor Saeed in Iran, imprisoned for his faith.

Whatever the situation, it feels something like a prison – no alternatives, at someone else’s beck and call, completely not in control of our lives or those of loved ones. And the though naturally arises: why, God, why?

That thought has two parts – why and God.

The answer to the why is not an easy one, and often curtained off from our immediate understanding. In The Fire of Delayed Answers, Bob Sorge gives an answer that many of us might find difficult to comprehend and accept.

He says it’s because God loves us. And God is allowing these circumstances, because he has a larger purpose in mind, part of which is to teach, to mature, and to prepare us.

Intellectually, we as Christians can understand that. While we’re going through it, though, it can seem incomprehensible, as if we’re trying to move through pea-soup fog, and as if God is the Puppeteer and we are the puppets, being jerked back and forth.

God knows this, too. He knows what our human thoughts, emotions and responses will be. He knows we may rail against him. And he continues to love us anyway, even as we shake our fists in his face.

Once, for almost four years, I was pitched almost overnight in a career wilderness. I and my team had done everything right, with great success for the organization. And then, suddenly, the organization smashed it. From all outward appearances, I had been sent to the wilderness.

It was a difficult time. I considered leaving. A few opportunities arose but nothing worked out. I began to understand that this was where I was supposed to be, as difficult as it was.

And then it began to change. The organization began to understand that something had been broken four years before, and was not trying to figure out how to repair it.

Good things happened during those four years of wilderness, growing things, maturing things. The situation didn’t change overnight, but it did begin to change.

It was, as Sorge describes, a kind of prison – a divine prison. It was difficult to go through it, but there was a point and there was a purpose, and I eventually understood what that was. God allowed it to happen for a reason.

And in the meantime, he kept loving me.

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’re discussing The Fire of Delayed Answers. To see more posts on this chapter, “Prison Theology,” please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact.

Photograph by Vince Mig via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


Anonymous said...

What a tightrope it is, right? God doesn't cause the pain, but He certainly allows it so that Jesus may be formed in us. He allows it so that those around us in their own prisons (perhaps of their own making) can see Jesus. He loves us completely and He loves them completely. Until the knowledge of the glory of the Lord covers the earth like the waters the sea, we'll be privileged to walk through some low spots because everywhere must experience Him. Great post, Glynn. Thank you.

Maureen said...

In his interview in the new issue of Image Journal, Robert Clark commented on how as a writer he seeks to "[render]" the "'how' of our experience", noting that phenomenological philosophy, to which he's drawn, "maintains that we don't get to know in any absolute way the 'why' or 'what' of things."

The 'what' we might be able to fix. The 'why' is always a question. It is like the difference between faith and belief.

TC Avey said...

I'm glad you mentioned pastor Saeed. He and his family have been my thoughts and prayers.
I can't imagine the prison he and his family are enduring but God is with them and is working through it all.

We all have various prisons. This chapter by Sorge really helps give some perspective to our trials.

David Rupert said...

Yes to prayers for Pastor Saeed.

There are situations that God allows us to experience just so we can wrestle with answering the "why" question.

And then are other situations that are of my own doing and I know "why" and God had nothing to do with orchestrating it. Sure, he could have prevented it, but "why" would he shorten my education?

Anonymous said...

We can't imagine the prison of Saeed.
Whatever the situation be God is with every one to take care of them.