The Second Eclectic

Technology changes how we relate to God and each other

When God ruins your life

Joseph, Daniel, Job, Paul, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Jesus.

Off the top of my head, all these men's lives were ruined by their faithfulness to God. Each of these men saw their lives stripped of qualities considered valuable. Friends, family, spouses, homes, money, careers, pride, dignity, rights. They found themselves heartbroken, destitute, enslaved, broke, ill, homeless, widowed, dishonored, and violated.

And this from the God to whom they had devoted their lives. They had certainly learned that "in a man's heart he makes his plans, but God determines his steps," but it was this same God who had said, "I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future." That seemed like a pretty good deal.

Yet for most of them, "hope and a future" sounded like a mocking refrain of their real lives. For Ezekiel following God meant losing his wife. God gave him a day's notice about her death. Then he forbade Ezekiel from showing any emotion, any of the wretched heartache and emptiness he felt at the loss of his closest companion; the one, perhaps, who had supported him through so many other hardships, standing on God's side, against the masses who considered him merely an entertainer, not a voice for the Most High God.

For Paul, this meant giving up everything he'd ever truly believed. He exchanged the respect of a religious leader for the shackles of a religious prisoner. He quit following a set of rules to follow God and found himself beaten and left for dead for doing so.

For most of Jesus' disciples, except John, following the God with a hope and future meant death. Not dying of old age but of loss of blood, blows to the head, or suffocation.

For Hosea it didn't mean dying, but it meant a lifetime of heartache, of loving a woman who didn't love him in return. Of committing to a wife who would be divorced without a second thought today. For Hosea, following God meant spending his life committed to a prostitute, having his heart torn out with grief at finding her sleeping with other men, with humiliation as she continually rejected his love, with anger as she hurt him again and again.

Following God has ways of ruining your life. He has a way of reminding us that good lives aren't always right lives. God has ways of wasting our lives in order that he might actually find something redeeming in them, in us. Our lives are not our own, as much as we try to make them so. No matter how long we struggle and resist and manipulate others to make our lives what we think they should be, God has ways of putting the kabosh on all our schemes.

Of course, all our plans never look a bit like resistance, nothing like manipulation or underhanded scheming. It looks like peace, happiness, contentment, satisfaction, career goals, relationships. It looks like buying a car, buying a home, buying a ring, getting a job. It looks like life, liberty, and the pursuit of the American Dream. God has a knack for killing all that, depriving us of all the idols that we worship, letting us sob our eyes out for all the things he's taken from us.

But I think he does it for one reason: to give us a hope and a future.