A short time ago I finished a book by Phillip Yancy called Disappointment With God. It was a great book, and one that I recommend to anybody, but particularly those who have/are in difficult times.
One of the main points of the book was to address why we can be disappointed with God, as the title may suggest. He does this by answering three questions: Is God unfair? Is He silent? Is He hidden? Instead of answering these questions and giving an explanation, as we so often do, he takes a different route. he addresses why we are asking these questions in the first place. In asking these things, we clearly have presuppositions in regards to how God should be and how He should act. If we think He is unfair, clearly we think He should be fair. If He is silent, clearly we think that He should speak. And if He is hidden, clearly we think that He should make his appearance known.
Typically, the answer to these questions revolve around philosophy and theology. using wordy responses and scripture references to show that He is fair, is not silent, and is not hidden. But to what use? For those experiencing things that raise these questions, they certainly seem to be legitimate questions. It’s more of a “Why is God not being fair now, why is He not speaking to me, and why do I not feel Him?” You can’t use the answers that we most often give to the original questions and expect people to say, “Oh, that makes sense. Ok. I’ll move on because that eases my pain.”
By addressing our presuppositions about God, we can see why His reality is not matching our expectations of how things should be.
If there are a few things that we can learn from the Bible and human history, they are that God has tried multiple methods of trying to reach out to us, and most have failed. This is not to say that God failed, but rather that we failed Him. He even knew they would fail, but tried anyway. For example, He led the Israelites out of Egypt, into a desert where He fed them every day in a miraculous way, “resided” in a tent and could be felt, and then led them into the Promised Land despite heavy opposition. Did the people continuously praise Him and act according to His will? Not by any means. They complained about the food they were provided, they doubted that they could take the Promised Land despite the fact that they had seen Him part a sea and cause the Plagues. He then tried prophets instead of interacting personally, and what happened? They were killed and hated. Then came the kings, who also failed. And finally the success of Christ. But if He knew that Christ was the answer all along, why try these other, pointless options, destined to fail?
I think He did it to show us that they fail. He wanted to be able to say, when people asked why He wasn’t making Himself clear as day, or not speaking directly to them, that it doesn’t work and that He has tried it before. He is able to say that He has spoken to people and they didn’t listen. In fact, He came down Himself as a person, a human, and we killed Him. Fortunately for us, that was the whole plan. But it still showed us that God is there, and that He does care, and that we need to trust Him.
Jesus suffered not only for us, but also with us. God wanted to be able to say, “I know the pain that you feel. I know what emotional and physical pain as a human is like. I have been there, and I made it through, so can you. Follow my example.” What a God we have that He would exhaust all options so that we could have no excuse, and then He suffered in our place and can say that and mean that, and we can know that in the end, God wins.