God on Trial


In her excellent book Prayer in the Night, Tish Harrison Warren tells about a time when a friend’s infant son had to have surgery. As the baby was wheeled away, the mother said to the father, “We have to decide right now whether or not God is good, because if we wait to determine that by the results of this surgery, we will always keep God on trial.”*

We do that, don’t we? We consistently judge God by the outcome of our prayers, according to His provisions to address our needs or on whether or not things turn out the way we want. We believe God to be good when He does what we think He should, but we can quickly put Him on trial when life moves in a direction we don’t like.

None of us—nor our loved ones—wanted a lifetime navigating the thick jungle of mental illnesses. We have all prayed for a different path, a lighter burden, a better outcome. But for most, the path just gets harder, the burden becomes heavier and hope fades.

When that happens, we judge God as inattentive, indifferent or even cruel. “How can a loving God allow … ?” we rage, wagging our fingers in accusation. “If God is good, He would …” we insist, defining His goodness by our expectations. 

This court has been in session forever. Through all generations, we have been tempted to think we are the ones who set the standards and hold God accountable to our demands. Remember the accusations from the serpent in the garden. Think of the disappointments expressed in the book of Job. Consider the transparency of despair found in the Psalms. God’s good name is slandered and His lovingkindness is misdefined, not by the heathen, but by His own peopleHis own children, the very ones who have experienced His love and compassion.

Our trust in God’s good and holy character crumbles as we reduce Him to our image. When we expect Him to act like we think He should, we create a god limited to act in accordance to our finite, fallen and frail whims. But God rebukes such thinking: “You thought I was exactly like you” (Psalm 50:21 NIV).

Like the mother of the young child keenly observed, if we don’t stand firmly on the truth that God is great and God is good, then we will spend our lives judging Him instead of trusting Him. If we continually exalt ourselves as His judge, we will miss the grace of Christ through which He judges us.

* Tish Harrison Warren, Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep (Westmont, IL: IVP), 27.

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