What Is Your Image of God?

The New Testament book of James, while it calls itself a letter, is more like the Wisdom literature of the Hebrew scriptures. It gives insights and wisdom about nature and reality and the divine. James 1: 5-8 begins by telling us that if we lack wisdom, all we need to do is to ask God, who gives it generously. All is well. But then he says we have to ask for it in faith without doubt, ending with if we doubt we “must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” That stings. Who doesn’t doubt?!

Some people read this passage as saying that when we ask God for anything, if we have faith, we will get it; and if we doubt, we won’t. If we are good, God rewards us; if we don’t obey, God punishes us. If we believe with no doubt that God will cure our loved one with breast cancer, it will happen. But if we doubt, God won’t make her well. Ouch! Such a reading sets us up to be able to manipulate God—and then who is God?

I believe, instead, that this passage is simply telling about how life is. Time and again I can fall into the doubting mode, even doubting the very existence of God. What happens then is that my sense of purpose and meaning disappear. I am anxious, uncertain, and irritable—like an ocean wave blown by the wind. Nothing goes well. I don’t think God is punishing me. I think I am getting the consequences of my choices. And when I turn to God and ask for help, I am met. The turning isn’t an intellectual change. It is simply letting go of the doubt and opening to Mystery. I have merely dropped into God’s flowing stream, where life and gifts lie generously available. There is no reprimand for having doubted—only wisdom.

Queries:

What image of God are you carrying?

What experience have you had of the wind and waves of anxieties and doubts? And of their being calmed?

Prayer:

Ask for what you need, and be open to the presence and action of God in your life.

For further reflection:

“But when Peter noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” (See Matthew 14: 22-33).

“For the Lord gives wisdom. . .” (See Proverbs 2: 1-6).

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2 thoughts on “What Is Your Image of God?

  1. Oh my! I need to sit with this for a while. For me faith does not exclude doubt, and that in fact doubt is a necessary state of being for any of us except those willing to live on the surface of simple childlike belief. Of course we doubt. And God is there, whether we doubt or not. The spiritual life is filled with many paradoxes, and one (for me) is that when I feel most unsure, most confused, and most lost in the “cloud of unknowing” I often find that is when I have felt most deeply aware of the presence of the Divine. Perhaps belief/ faith and doubt are not polar opposites, but are states of being that are on a circle or sphere, or, even more likely, can co-exist simultaneously.

    I think I told you I am taking a course called “Faithful Doubt,” and reading a book by the same name. it is fascinating! More to say on that later, perhaps!

    Like

  2. Pingback: Looking for answers on the question Is there a God #3 Transcendence or Surpassing other gods and man – Questiontime – Vragenuurtje

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