Many years ago a well known Christian writer and Bible translator (like an early version of Eugene Peterson) wrote a little book called “Your God Is Too Small.” His idea was that people naturally failed to see God in His awesome greatness and almighty power. His thoughts were accurate and insightful. He began his book like this:
“No one is ever really at ease in facing what we call “life” and “death” without a religious faith. The trouble with many people today is that they have not found a God big enough for modern needs. While their experience of life has grown in a score of directions, and their mental horizons have been expanded to the point of bewilderment by world events and by scientific discoveries, their ideas of God have remained largely static.”
Without disagreeing with Dr. Phillips, I would like to say the opposite:YOUR GOD IS TOO BIG.
Often times I imagine, without really thinking I am doing so, that God in His transcendent greatness and almighty power is quite far away from me and certainly beyond being truly interested and involved in the trivialities of my little life. Why would the ultimate Big Reality of the universe, the Big Creator of all that is, the Big Source of all life, concern Himself with me and my little circumstances? Yes, He acted with cosmic power and grace to provide for our eternal salvation in Jesus Christ (that’s BIG!), but my little day-to-day disappointments? God is TOO BIG for that small stuff! Even as I outwardly affirm what the Bible says about God, inwardly it is easy to feel that I’m pretty much on my own with these little things and that to imagine Him present and accounted for in the midst of my little life challenges is to do a disservice to His transcendent magnificence. At such times I find myself symbolically singing along with Bette Midler and her old time hit song, From A Distance… “God is watching us. God is watching us. God is watching us… from a distance.” At such times I have a God who isTOO BIG.
This is not the God who reveals Himself to us in His Word. We are told that he knows us quite intimately, even the number of hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7). He presents Himself as the God whose relationship to His people is like that of a distraught father/husband and his rebellious children/adulterous wife (see the book of Hosea). And especially, He came to be born and to walk physically and intimately among us as Jesus Christ, God the Son. And we hear and believe that the Risen Christ does no less today.
The awesome greatness and limitless power of God neither removes Him to a place far away from us nor makes Him a force too big to be personally acquainted and involved with the details of individual lives. God is not BIGlike this. He is so BIG that He is found even in the SMALL corners of my life. His infinite fullness means intimate closeness and not indifferent distance. To live as thought this were not true is to have a God who is TOOBIG, and this may be a problem for people who have a belief in some sort of “God” but cannot accept the God of the Bible because any real God would have to be gigantically inaccessible to mere mortals like us. So, anybody who says they “know” God or “see” God or “walk with” God must be either deceived or a deceiver. But what if God, the real God, in His greatness and goodness comes into our history and into our experience, making Himself, in a sense, SMALL enough to relate to us?
Psalm 113:5-6 – Who is like the Lord our God, Who is enthroned on high,
Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth? (NASB)
All of this came home to me this last week during our Thirst Conference. Steve Canfield, whom we were blessed to have as our speaker for the week, was talking about the Sovereignty of God (a doctrine near and dear to our Reformed Presbyterian hearts). He said that because of God’s Sovereignty we have no room for ongoing bitterness. What he meant was that our bitterness toward one another, or toward the circumstances of our lives, is ultimately bitterness toward God since He sits over all our lives with perfect knowledge and transcendent power. God knows what is going on, and He always has power to make things different. So, when I am disappointed with my life, when I feel betrayed by others, when my inabilities and failures seize the headlines of my thoughts, when I am angry in my soul about the way things are going, when my heart is broken and it all seems terribly unfair… I am, ultimately, disappointed with and/or bitter toward God. Why is God allowing this to happen this way? He could do something, but He doesn’t. But we also know and affirm that God is loving and works for our good. So, can I stay bitter?
I can if MY GOD IS TOO BIG. Too big to get involved in the little details of our broken relationships. Too big to be found in the midst of the trivialities of my little troubles. If the bigness of my God removes Him from the day-to-day workings of my life, then I can hang on to my disappointment and my bitterness. But then I have the wrong God. MY GOD IS TOO BIG.
Steve’s remark caused me to think again about Psalm 22 which we remember and recite every year at our Good Friday Service. This great Psalm which Jesus quoted from His Cross (and may have been pointing people then and now to the whole Psalm which begins with dark alienation and doubt but ends in the bright light of God’s assured and ultimate triumph) begins with these words: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”
When I feel bitter toward others, discouraged by the gap between what I think I can do or ought to be doing and what I actually see happening, disappointed by my life circumstances, I can make Jesus’ prayer my own. And maybe I should.
Maybe I should try to pray this way as quickly as I can: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” Then I put my horizontal life troubles in the context of my vertical relationship with Him (a miracle, itself, of His Bigness and Smallness!). Then I set my sails to catch the wind of His presence, His goodness, His truth, His love. Then I make myself ready to be blessed by His Word to me, wide as the sky and sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel: “Why have I forsaken you?… I haven’t! I never have and I never will… I am carrying out my good plan for you and through you… I am making you into the man I have designed you to be, the man you truly long to be… And what I have begun in you and for you, I will bring to completion…
I have been blessed over the years by a little praise song that consistently warms my heart and helps to calm my fears. It offers a good counter-melody to Ms. Midler’s chorus above.
He Knows My Name
I have a Maker. He formed my heart.
Before even time began, my life was in his hand.
He knows my name. He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls, and He hears me when I call.
I have a Father. He calls me His own.
He’ll never leave me, no matter where I go
Soli Deo Gloria,