Jesus said that the greatest command was to love the Lord our God, but how often do we do the exact opposite…?
When Jayme Erickson got the call to head out to an accident, it was work as usual. A Canadian paramedic, she’d seen more than her fair share of gnarled cars twisted around trees, plowed off roads or smashed into one another. This particular incident was a car that hit ice, slid out-of-control and had collided with an oncoming truck.
She arrived on the scene with her coworkers. The passenger of the car was still alive, barely. The paramedics and firefighters fought to extract the survivor from the mangled wreckage of the car. The girl’s injuries were horrific, and they struggled to keep her alive long enough for a helicopter to arrive and airlift her to the nearest hospital. Alberta is a place of many remote stretches.
Jayme went home, another long day of work wrapped up. Minutes after she made it through the door, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrived. They were here to inform her that her teenage daughter Montana had been in a bad car accident.
As she listened to them with mounting horror, Jayme realized she knew more about the accident than they did. She’d been there. Montana had been the girl they pulled from the wreckage, disfigured beyond even her mother’s power to recognize. If only she had gotten into the helicopter with her child. If only she had known who she was holding together. If only, if only…
She rushed to the hospital. Staff informed her that “her daughter’s injuries were not compatible with life.” Montana had died.
What else can any feeling person experience in these moments than a kind of outrage at the maker of this world?
In their book Bold Love, Dr. Dan Allender and Dr. Tremper Longman described reading about a remarkably similar incident. A man who was a volunteer medic saw an accident happen ahead of him on the road; he pulled over to help, and as he opened the car door to rescue the children in the back, his youngest daughter fell out into his arms, dead. His children and their aunt were the dying passengers. “I read the story and I screamed. My tears were angry and cruel. I audibly shouted, ‘Good job, God.’ …My desire for relief and respite from the wounds of a fallen world and the demands of God was not, at this point, a hunger for a perfect, restored relationship with God, the One who loved me so much He died for me. Rather, it was the rageful grasping for soothing and solace in response to God’s unrelenting demands and cruel inactivity.”
The world routinely slaps us in the face with reminders that much of life is both unfair and unjust. In one hand, we hold this reality; in the other, we hold the belief that God is supremely in control of the world. Not only that, he demands that we forgive those who hurt us and love our enemies. How? These orders clash with brutal strength when we’re faced with the grotesque wrongs of a broken world. How dare God ask me to forgive my rapist? How dare God require me to acknowledge him as sovereign over all the world while he did nothing to stop my abuser?
Perhaps nothing that bad has ever happened to you. Maybe you feel that you’ve never been angry at God; you’ve never done anything as appalling as — Dare we say it? — ‘hate’ God.
Have you ever ignored your harm of others? Have you ever excused a break from God’s law because you ‘needed to do it.’ “I snapped back at someone or became angry at an injustice because I hate sin, and I want the evil one to pay! I want the wrongs of the world to be righted,” and you’ll see said justice done now, by your own hand, since God seems busy elsewhere. What else is this but a declaration of God’s incompetence? Self-protection, self-centeredness and self-righteousness are our subtle, seething forms of hatred for God.
Whenever I make decisions without consulting God, act out of self-defense in a tense social situation, lash out when I’m unfairly blamed for something, I am declaring my own mistrust or contempt for God. He is not someone I believe will see and judge fairly. I speak through my actions about my distrust of his heart or potency to address my circumstances. Even if I don’t feel ‘angry’ at God, my self-serving actions come from a place of condescension. “God is too busy or careless to take care of this, so I will.”
If we all partake somehow in the dumpster feast of hatred for our Father, what is the cure to this emotion?
I must first return to inspect my motivations honesty each time I become anxious, stressed or ashamed. What idol am I protecting that has provoked these emotions? My abasement at the feet of that idol is hatred to God, but I am so clever at hiding my own idols that sometimes even I’m not sure what they are. The foolish comment I made during that phone call with a friend and the burning shame I felt afterward — What was I worshipping that was abruptly revealed to be false? Was it because my idol is looking competent and knowledgeable? When a loved one tried to instruct me on how to fix something and I felt furiously angry, why? Was it because my idol of independence was knocked off its altar? When a work task is taken from one person and given to me, and I know they will be unhappy, why am I so anxious? Is it because my idol of being liked and seen as ‘nice’ is threatened?
Here I must turn with the cracked and tattered bits of my many idols and trudge toward God’s temple. There I must lay them down for the Father’s fire to consume. Who is all-knowing and perfectly capable? Only him. Who is entirely independent of all need and reliance on others? Only him. Whose service is far more important than being accepted? His, always his.
I have tread in the footsteps of my greatest ancestors Adam and Eve, assuming I could be like God. That is the coldest act of hate.
Repentance is my tonic; the burning of my idols is my cure. Secretly, even now, though, I am reconstructing them in other hidden alcoves of my heart and mind. How can I repent of my shameful desire for control, glory, independence one moment and then rage at someone who exposes my frailty and shame? God, have mercy on me!
I feel with painful clarity the Apostle Paul’s conundrum about my corrupted desire for godhood and my redeemed nature that longs to prostrate itself before my Lord. “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (Romans 7:21-25).
The ancient clutching desire to be adored as a god builds one idol after another in my heart, and yet I am most gloriously a reflection of my divine maker when I am free of that sick craving. My hatred for God feels so ‘right’ many days, but my view of the world is through the keyhole of my limited body and time in this world.
Again and again, I return to break my idols and offer up the pieces on God’s altar. Again and again, I ask him to forgive the anger, shame and anxiety that I have caused myself by trying to glorify myself. Again and again, I grieve the sorrow that my pride and sin has helped to sow in the world.
Finally, I raise my head and long for the day when I will stand face to face with God, a fiery presence to fiercely bright that no false substitute can even flicker into existence. All the fabricated idols will vanish in the flames, becoming no more than snowflakes of ash.
I will bow and glorify the one who has set me free.