“Beware in your prayers, above everything else, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do. Expect unexpected things, above all that we ask or think. Each time, before you Intercede, be quiet first, and worship God in His glory. Think of what He can do, and how He delights to hear the prayers of His redeemed people. Think of your place and privilege in Christ, and expect great things!”
– Andrew Murray –
Ann Voskamp says she likes to read a lot of books at once because “the books start talking to each other.”
Or in my case, a two books, a psychology course, a Bible study, and a friend all started having a conversation.
I am not typically a cynical person. I tend to see the bright lining of every cloud and the possibility hiding beneath a dusty surface. I dream and hope and generally think the best of almost everyone and everything.
But not too long ago, I found myself giving in. I’ve seen a lot of things in the past few years, and they started to get to me.
Driving around a curve in the Ozark Mountains, I mulled it over to myself. “Maybe God just doesn’t work in those ways in reality,” I started to believe. “Maybe this is growing up. Losing the naiveté that expects anything to happen.”
I started to loosen my grasp on expectation. Instead, I started to expect less out of grim situations. At the best, I saw the dreaded slowness of possible change. It was all very drab and slow and grim. But I felt a slight satisfaction. At least I was growing up.
That is, until I realized something.
What kind of crazy world is this, where I need to lose a little faith in order to measure up? What kind of game was I playing with myself, getting satisfaction out of dimmed hope? And what kind of strange, awful thing was it to stop expecting good things to happen?
I don’t want to be Pollyanna. I don’t want to be annoyingly buoyant.
I want to go back. I want to go forward. I just want the eyes to see the possible again.
I’ve been reading a book about how our minds work called Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman. He talks about something called the availability heuristic. This means that we humans tend to answer questions based on what we can quickly think of. If I asked you to estimate how many stray dogs live in your city, you would probably use the availability heuristic to answer me. First, you would stop and think of all the stray dogs you have seen recently. If you haven’t seen any, you would guess a number a lot lower than a person who has seen 3 this week in their own neighborhood.
We can do that with God too. “God, I really haven’t seen You do something like this lately. How am I supposed to know that You really do it at all?”
Fill in the blank. Does God save marriages on the brink? Does He drastically call and redeem lost people? Does He really give help to the ragged and torn? Does He really protect, deliver, heal?
If you haven’t seen it lately, maybe your availability heuristic is answering for you. “Nope, God’s not in that business anymore,” your mind tells you. “I can’t remember a time when that happened.”
But, see, there’s a problem with the availability heuristic: it’s inaccurate. Just like your neighborhood might be a bad sampling of how many strays are in your town, so your recent memory might be a pretty awful indicator of the power and plan of our Father.
Let’s talk probability. Is it more probable or less probably that God will make something beautiful out of your situation? Well, that’s pretty good odds, since He always 100% pulls through on that promise.
But what about that falling-to-pieces relationship, or that unsaved family member?
What kind of God do we serve? He’s not some powerless or uninspired Deity that sits back and watches. He’s involved in our lives. And last time I checked, a broken home, difficult person, or stubborn situation wasn’t a challenge for him.
So what’s the probability that He will do something in your situation? Well, 100%.
And what’s the probability that He will do something amazing and glorious?
I’d say it’s pretty good.
See, my cynicism isn’t about growing up after all. It’s about faith.
My friend Liz says that a car taking off into the air and flying is a perfectly reasonable expectation to a child. They aren’t so tied down by assumptions. Anything is possible. Today in Bible study, Liz and I read the account of Isaac’s birth… a totally miraculous impossibility. But it was possible…with God.
Do I expect the Lord to part the heavens and start sending me direct revelation? No. He’s already given me all the Word I need for living. But is it ridiculous for me to expect Him to be living and active in my life? Is it odd for me to have hope for the seemingly-impossible and hopelessly-broken situations around me?
Is it crazy, or naive, or Pollyanna-like to expect a limitless God to make amazing changes in lives?
If I stop believing that God works, I must stop believing His promises. And if I stop believing Him…not one speck of this life is worth living.
So, I am taking a step.
Not into natural optimism. Not into jaded cynicism.
Into faith that actually believes. Childlike belief in a God who still does impossible miracles every day in hearts and souls.
What am I, if I do not believe this?
The same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us. So, I believe.
I believe God is definitely, doubtlessly, undeniably up to something good. Whether I can see it coming or whether it blows me away.
And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.”
– Mark 9:23, NASB –