When We Don’t Understand

This week I’ve been reading in the book of Matthew. There is an interesting exchange of words between John the Baptist and Jesus. It’s recorded in Matthew 3:13-15: “Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John tried to talk Him out of it. ‘I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,’ he said, ‘so why are you coming to me?’ But Jesus said, ‘It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.’ So John agreed to baptize Him.”

John’s argument was plausible. There he was, an ordinary man serving God. Then, who should appear before him? None other than the Son of God Himself! We can easily understand why John was astonished that Jesus should request to be baptized. The Son of God? The Holy One? How could an imperfect man baptize the perfect Son of God? John could make no sense out of the request; that is, until Jesus gave the reason — because obeying God, whether we understand or not, is always the right thing to do.

God leads us along paths that sometimes make no sense to our human understanding. Most likely, everyone has at one time or another asked, “Why, God?” The road we travel can be a rocky one. We want a path that’s smooth. We want a path that doesn’t require great effort to walk on. “Why, God?,” we want to know, when we believe we see a better way than what God is requiring. “Isn’t there an easier way, God?” we plead, because the way ahead, as far as we can see, is scary. There is a corner ahead and we can’t see around the bend. “Do I have to go there, God? I can’t see what’s there.” God answers, “You can’t see around the corner, but I know what’s there; I’m going to use what you find, and what you go through, to make you even stronger. I’m going to mold you to be like me. You will thank me, my child. Trust me.”

Doing what God says to do, going where He says to go, being what He says to be, is the right thing to do because: God never makes mistakes, He loves you at all times, He is the Master Potter molding you and me into a character that is courageous, strong, full of peace and joy, and He blesses those who determine to obey Him. Why does He give us certain commands? Why does He lead us along paths that are sometimes difficult to walk on? Because He loves you so much that He designs a way to make you the best you that you can be.

Determine to trust everything He says to do and walk in the direction He says to walk. It’s the right thing to do because it’s the only way to grow God’s own peace, and a fearlessness inside you that can face all obstacles. Who doesn’t want that?

Like the old hymn says, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Watching Puppy Love

I visited some friends this evening who have a new resident in their home — a puppy!  To those of you who are dog lovers, you will fully understand the statement my friend made this evening as she held  onto an armful of squirming fur, “I just fell immediately in love.”  Yes, it was most evident indeed — that puppy was one greatly loved pooch and would be for all her days in her new home.

As I watched the continued demonstrations of love for this canine wonder, I could not help but think about God and His love for you and me.  However, too often, we grab hold of a great distortion of God’s love.  It seems, we sometimes feel that we have to earn God’s love.  We must obey Him in all things or He might not love us anymore.  Having those out of focus thoughts about the love of God can make us shrink back from Him rather than cling joyfully to Him.

But, mustn’t we obey Him?  Yes, we are instructed to obey God in all things.  Of course, no one is perfect and we all sin, but we always have before us a way of repentance that brings us immediately back into right relationship with our Heavenly Father.  When we sin, does God love us less?  No.  He loves us the same at all times.   If God loves us even when we disobey, then why do we need to be so concerned with obedience?

Questions like the above bring me back to my friend and her puppy.  She must teach her dog how to obey.  The dog is indeed learning but still has a way to go in knowing what is expected of her.  When she gets it wrong, my friend still loves her dog completely.  Even so, it’s vital that the dog learns to obey for her own protection and joy.  For example, if a car is coming, the dog must obey the command to “come.”   Ignoring this instruction could bring dire consequences.  It’s no different in our relationship to our Heavenly Father.

God doesn’t give us instructions to obey, as a way for us to keep His love; He gives us instructions to obey, to keep us safe and filled with His joy.  The words of a favorite hymn come to my mind, “For there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

God has a right path for us to follow, totally because He loves us.  The consequences of following His path will be joy, peace, wisdom, and courage to get us through all our days — or — we may choose the wrong path if we so desire, but like the puppy who refuses to “come,” we might get run over by life’s troubles, bringing unrest and absence of peace,  that could be so easily avoided.

It’s really true the words to that hymn — “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”