In our home group, we are looking at biblical ways to get unstuck. Christians get stuck in different ways. Some get saved, slip through the doorway into the kingdom and then refuse to go or grow. Some walk with God many years, but then plateau-out: happy to be a little more spiritual than most they know. Others get tangled and bound in sin—then condemned, then depressed. Others have played the religious game to a stalemate: not forsaking God but also not surrendering. As you can see, there must be different cures for different kinds of stuck, so this will be the first of a series of posts on getting unstuck.
When I think about what has helped me get unstuck, I realize it always a truth everyone thinks they know. For instance, few truths have more power to yank us out of the muck than the truth that God is good. When the serpent tempted Eve, he first challenges what God has said and then plants a suspicion that God is withholding something good from her. Although some make a point about Eve adding “shall not touch” to God’s command, Eve basically gets right what God has said. The serpent directly contradicts what God said and proclaims, “You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). In other words, you can’t trust God because He is wants to keep something good from you.
Like a lot of good evangelicals, Eve got right what God said, but she failed to trust in the character of God—in the goodness of God. Many believers get stuck at this same place. Temptation has power in their lives because they harbor a suspicion that complete surrender and obedience will mean giving up something good. Their mudhole is a cycle of temptation, sin, guilt, repentance—over and over. They live a life of faith with neither victory or joy.
A revelation of the logic of God’s goodness can free us from the tyranny of the cycle of sin. God is perfectly good in all his ways. All his commands are expressions of His love and goodness. All debate about whether to obey God in this area or that area is stupid—a waste of time. Why? Because God is good and anything other than his will is shoddy and has a thousand one-star ratings on Amazon.
A second way we get stuck is when the meanness or hypocrisy of other believers trips us into the mudhole. Of course, reading the Old Testament should cure us of the idea that God’s people are always going to reflect His goodness. Often church is like a hospital’s ER, wounded and sick everywhere. During his ministry, Jesus was literally surrounded by the sick and demonized much of the time. His love seemed to draw them. That the hurting can hurt others should not surprise us, but it cuts to the bone when those who should be doctors wound us. Again, we need only read a history of Israel’s kings to discover how much corrupt leadership angers and grieves God. In all this, God is on our side, grieved and angered by hypocrisy. Our hatred of hypocrisy is best expressed by moving closer to God and being absolutely and humbly genuine. God’s people are a work (sometimes a jerk) in progress. God, though, is always good.
We get stuck in this mud hole in another way. Many Christians have been surprised not by joy like C. S. Lewis, but by tragedy, disappointment, and heartbreak. Many believers have written a happy narrative of how their life should go only to see it shredded by one catastrophe after another. Some are bitter and others shell-shocked. Many are stuck with low or no expectations of God.
I have friends, however, who have seen their dreams shattered by a marriage falling apart, a spouse dying unexpectedly, and a child dying. Man is fallen, the world broken by sin, and our own bodies targets for disease and injury. The question of why God intervenes in some situations and not others goes unanswered. But the logic of God’s goodness means we will never let anything evil move us further from God and closer to the enemy. In the face of every evil, we must proclaim God’s goodness. In every tragedy and attack of the enemy, our reflex must be to cling to God more tightly.
I have been pursuing God for fifty years and only now feel as though an unshakeable revelation of His goodness has possessed me body, soul, and spirit. Because God is good, I have decided to ask for everything His Word promises. (I have heard that God is a good father who won’t give me a scorpion if I ask for egg.) None of this seems radical until you begin doing it. When you start expecting your church gathering to have the power, love, and purity of the church in Acts, everything gets turned upside down.
Years of praying for that which I have not yet seen has not diminished my confidence that God is good, that He loves me, and that at any moment—maybe as I write this—His goodness will break through like the sun on a rainy Oregon day. I am unstuck and pressing on.