24 November, 2015


One day we'll understand the troubles we go through now,
 but for now it's as if we are looking through grubby glass.

Our daily Bible reading notes usually has a single, sometimes pithy, sometimes redundant or corny statement at the bottom. Today it was disappointing.
Jesus is the only friend who will never disappoint you.
Just quickly without thinking hard I could think of several people (most of whom are friends) who haven't had their prayers answered: two whose spouses have died young this year, one who desires joy but never seems to get it, one who has post-natal depression for the second time despite all precautions, and one who is lonely, despite many people around her, one who wishes her job were easier, even though she works for a Christian organisation, and another who yearns to be married. 

Those represent only a smattering, of people I know about or who've confided in me in recent months. I'd want to bet that there are many more out there, or perhaps everyone who's had something that they've desperately prayed about not answered in the way they wanted.

Philip Yancey's Disappointment with God delves deeply into this.

So clearly there are problems with the above quote. Everyone I mentioned above are Christians. 

Jesus is indeed the perfect friend, the only perfect friend, in that he doesn't ever do evil against us. But because we aren't perfect and we don't live in a perfect world bad things happen. In God's great wisdom he's using all this imperfection for his good purposes, but we don't necessarily know what that is. And it often hurts.

On Sunday one of David's colleagues preached about the Bible metaphor of God as the potter and us as the clay. It was great to hear a live sermon in English (I often listen to a  recording of a sermon from our home church during the week). But the metaphor is such a good one, and as a lover of pottery and the husband of a potter, he was able to give extra insight.

This image appears in several places in the Bible. Some examples are Romans 9:21 "Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?" and Jeremiah 18:4 "But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him."

The preacher on Sunday pointed out that if we were to imagine ourselves as clay being formed into a piece of pottery, there's a lot of rough stuff that happens during the process.

It is a helpful analogy when feeling that Jesus isn't appearing to be the perfect friend that you want. He's not just a friend, he's our creator, Lord, and is in the business of forming us into the vessels he wants us to be.

So I object to the simplistic statement that Jesus is the only perfect friend. He is perfect and he is a friend, but he's much more than a friend. And from our limited and flawed perspectives he can appear very imperfect indeed.

Do not be discouraged. Jesus' love for us is very great, greater than a best friend.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39). 


Karen Ellrick said...

All too frequently, pithy statements that sound Biblical at first... aren't actually Biblical.

In this case: Jesus will always do what's best for us, but that doesn't mean it's what we think we want or what's comfortable.

Wendy said...

Agreed regarding the pithy statements that sound wise and biblical, but actually aren't biblical.

I don't know Karen, I think sometimes Jesus will do what is best for his purposes, which isn't always best for us. It's hard to say that it is good for someone to lose their spouse. I think Romans 8:28 can be misinterpreted. I think the original must be a little confusing because there are alternative translations suggested. For example. ESV has "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." The footnote says, "Some manuscripts: 'God works all things together for good' or 'God works in all things for the good'." It's tricky.