When You Don’t Recognize God

When You Don’t Recognize God

North Wind
At the Back of the North Wind

“If you can’t see His way past the tears, trust His heart.” – Charles Spurgeon

It is one thing to have wounds inflicted by an enemy, another by your closest friend. At times I felt betrayed by God in dealing with my cousins death. She was so young. How could He allow this car accident? Why would He allow it? Why didn’t he intervene between her and the drunk driver? If she would have left 15 minutes sooner, if the swerve was just a a few degrees further, she might have walked away. Why God? Why did you allow it?

The enemy laughs. He uses my own heart to taunt me, “Is this your God? Your friend? Your high counselor? Is this who you serve? Is this who you have committed your life to?

Yes” I quietly respond to the assaults. “Though He afflicts me, yet will I trust Him.”

I admit, I am in the dark. I cannot see. I don’t understand why. I don’t know why He allowed this to happen. Over a year later, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it all. I’ve finally gained enough distance away from that fateful day that I can begin to try to reason again. But I see none.

I try to concentrate and hold on to what I do know. I do know that my God is sovereign.  He is aware. He allowed it. He filtered it. He is all good and all loving. He is perfect in all His ways. He could have prevented the accident, He could have spared her life. Just a few weeks prior he had saved and spared her life from another accident. But not this time. This time for reasons I don’t understand, He took her in an instant, in a twinkling of an eye she was taken and we were left. Her place knew her no more, her home knew her no more, her children knew her no more, her husband knew her no more, her mother knew her no more, her sisters knew her no more, her friends knew her no more and I knew her no more. Her life was gone and we did all we could to gather what was left behind of her, to salvage every precious memory and token unless they would somehow disappear too.  Yet will I trust Him though I do not understand Him or recognize Him in allowing this.

I love the children’s story of At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald and find so much comfort in it.  I may be an adult but my heart feel’s very much like a child’s heart right now and has a deep need to be held close, rocked and soothed as a child.

 At the Back of the North Wind is a  fantastic adventure story about a boy named ‘Diamond’ who is very young and ill. He lives in a hay loft in which there happens to be a small hole in the wall by his bed. The cold North Wind blows through this hole at night causing quite a draft. At first he protests against her intrusion but he develops a friendship with this beautiful ‘North Wind’.

Throughout the story, she appears to him in many forms and faces. Sometimes her unexpected forms frighten and tremendously confuse young Diamond.  Sometimes she is small and as gentle as a breeze and at other times she is large and fierce. Diamond knows she is the most beautiful and kindest person in the world but some of her actions bewilder him because they appear so cruel and there is much about her he cannot understand.  The North Wind deals gently with him and tells him to trust her. She is not two persons, but one and the part of  her he does not and can not understand because of his youth, is equally as good as the part of her which he does understand.

The North Wind takes Diamond with her at night  as she rushes through the city, sweeping the streets and brushing the cobwebs from the sky, zipping through houses and down alleyways. Diamond clings to her hand tightly as she flies and the North Wind warns him that no matter what he sees, no matter how she appears, he is to trust her and he is not to let go of her hand.

 In one instance she blows through the front door of a house. Diamond, in his fear and dismay, lets go of her hand when she suddenly appears as an angry wolf and violently swirls up the stairs of the house and makes such a racket that he thought she must be eating the children.  The North Wind quickly returns and grabs hold of him and rushes him out the door before he has a chance to see what had happened.  Later, when he questions the North Wind why she would appear in such a terrible form and do such a horrid thing,  Diamond learns that the North Wind was actually protecting a child because the babysitter had been drinking and was calling the child bad names and telling her how wicked she was.  The North Wind in the form of an angry wolf, rushed at her throat upon entering the room and knocked her over with fright.  She fell backwards with a loud crash and the bottle of gin fell right out of her hands. The loud fall caused everyone to run up the stairs to the child’s room where they saw the broken bottle of gin and drunk babysitter laying on the floor. The babysitter would be fired in the morning. The North Wind reminds Diamond if he would not have let go of her hand he would have had no reason to wonder what had  happened.

 On another trip. The North Wind is a raging storm that carries Diamond with her when she must sink a ship. Diamond can’t imagine the North Wind performing such a cruel action. He asks the North Wind not to invite him along when she does it. The North Wind says she finds no pleasure in it. Liking a thing and doing a thing are two very different things reminds him. She will not invite him but he must go with her anyway.

 Diamond is is frightened but he trusts her and goes willingly. He is frightened knowing that she is the storm that carries him.  At the same time, he is comforted as he trusts in her good nature. Diamond learns to cling more tightly to her. One of my favorite and most memorable parts of the story is when the North Wind is on her way to sink the ship, carrying Diamond on her back. Diamond climbs down from her back and clings to the front of her instead. She holds him him tight with one hand closely against her breast as she rushes forward on her mission.  She tries to persuade Diamond to climb onto her back again and cling to her hair as he had before, but Diamond replies:

 “I don’t mind.” He said. “It’s so nice to feel your arms around me.”
 “Well, then, I’ll keep you in front. I’ll need only one arm to take care of you, though I’ll need the other to sink the ship.”
 Diamond shuddered. “Then you do mean to sink the ship?”
 “Yes,” she said.
 “How can you take care of a poor little boy with one arm and sink a ship with the other? It’s not like you.”
 “What am I like, Diamond?”
 “The kindest, goodest, best person in the world,” he said, clinging tighter to her.
 “Why am I good to you?” she asked. “Have you ever done anything for me?”
 “No,” he said.
 “Then I must be good to you because I choose to be good to you?”
 That’s it. I am good to you because I like to be good.”
 “But why shouldn’t you be as good to other people as you are to me?”
 “But I am, Diamond.”
 “But how can that be?”
 “You say the arm that holds you is good. Do you think the other arm I sink a ship with is bad? Don’t you think the part of me that you don’t
know must be as good as the part of me that you do know?”
 “Yes, it must be,” Diamond said. “But it doesn’t seem good to me.”
 “That’s another matter,” said North Wind. “It may not seem so to you. 
I will just tell you that it is so, and you must just believe me.”
 Diamond snuggled closer to North Wind. “I do believe you, “ he said.“But I won’t like to see the ship sunk, you know.”
 “And that’s another matter too,” she said smiling, “Doing something is not always the same as liking it.”

This is what I do know. As in the story, with one hand God tenderly holds me close to His breast and comforts me, and with His other hand He accomplishes great and fearful works that I do not understand. There is much about Him and His ways I just don’t understand but I trust his good nature.  I know he is all good.  He is one person. He is either all good or all bad but He cannot be both.  He is not a mixture of  fluctuating traits at fluctuating times like we are. He does not change. He is all holy. He is all wise. He is all loving.  He is all good. Everything he does he works for good towards those who love him and who are called according to his purposes. (Romans 8:28) I still trust Him despite his many frightening appearances, forms and actions.

At times he appears as a storm and a whirlwind and yet He appears in the whisper. He appears as a lion and yet He is a lamb. He appears as a warrior and he appears as a Father. He is God and yet he appears as a man.  I bury my head in Him and His breast. I am only a child, an ignorant one. I do not and cannot understand His ways. They sometimes appear so wrong, but I know He can do no wrong. How can I love and recognize Him in all His strange appearances, when some of His appearances and forms scare me so much?

Can this really be Him? Can this possibly be His work?  I feel like the disciples on the boat crying out in the storm at the shadowy figure walking towards them on the water. “It is a ghost! No, It is the Lord!” His strange appearances shock me at times. This can’t possibly be Him. They challenge me. If He doesn’t reveal Himself to me, sometimes, I wouldn’t recognize Him at all at times, but I do recognize his voice when He speaks to me and reveals himself, “It is I. Do not be afraid.”  Sometimes He reveals his purposes to me but at others, He remains silent and his silence bids me to trust Him, to trust the part of Him I do understand with the part of Him I don’t understand for it is equally as good as the rest of him.

C.S. Lewis in his book, A Grief Observed describes God as the great iconoclast, an image breaker. He describes how we have a habit of forming one image of God in our minds, of who we think he is and what he is like but it is not always a divine idea. God is not contained in any of our images. He is greater then what we can ever imagine. Holier then we can imagine. More loving then we can imagine.  Our imagines of God must continually be shattered from time to time so that we do not worship an image of God but God Himself. God shatters these false images that we have made of him in our hearts from time to time so that we might know Him as He truly is, both beautiful and frightening at the same time. That is his glory.

I need Christ, not something that resembles him…. My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of his presence? The incarnation is the supreme example. It leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins. And most are offended by the iconoclasm, and blessed are those who are not.” -C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed.

We have all asked the same question at times, “How could He? Why would He?  I think we have all felt betrayed by God at one time or another when He did not appear or act the way we expected Him to. Times when we could not recognize God next to the image we held of Him in our minds. I’m sure the disciples asked the same question as they walked away from the cross and returned home after Jesus was buried. “How could God do this? Why would He allow this to happen?” There is no measuring the pain they felt. There is no measuring the pain we feel when we lose someone we love.

The answer to“Why?” often remains elusive.  I can’t tell you why it happened, other then we live in a sinful world and why it doesn’t happen more often confounds me sometimes if I allow myself to think about it. God holds back and prevents so much evil around me that when it is allowed to briefly touch me I am shocked by it. It’s not normal for evil to be allowed to touch my life regularly. I do live a blessed life. I think of those who live in repressive countries on the other side of the world, or even in abusive homes next door to us, where evil has free constant reign.  Physical abuse, emotional abuses surround many children, women, men, elderly people  daily to the extent that when something good happens, when someone shows love to them they are genuinely shocked by the gesture because kindness is not normal in their world. I lived in that world once. The Lord Jesus drew me out of it. He is truly the “kindest, goodest, best-est person in the whole entire world.

There is a lot I don’t know or understand but I do know this much: God is not my enemy. He is my friend. He would never betray me even though sometimes His appearance and actions confuse me. I need my friend now more then ever. I’m not going to let go of his hand no matter how frightening He appears.