I have never understood why people think this is an acceptable view of the Divine. I suppose it comes out of scripture passages like the story of God testing Abraham’s faith by asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering. In 17 years of preaching I avoided this passage for the sole reason that I don’t believe God does this, but I finally decided to tackle it head on this last Sunday.
Here is a brief refresher on the story… if you remember, Isaac’s birth is miraculous… Sarah (Abraham’s wife) had been unable to bear children and when she was about 60 (and Abraham about 90) and angel came to her and told her that she’d have a child. And so she did. God promised that Abraham would be the father of great nations through the descendants of this very special boy, Isaac. Then, suddenly, God decided to make sure that Abraham’s faith was good enough for this distinction. With no explanation, God essentially tells Abraham to take his son 40 miles away and offer him as a burnt sacrifice on Mt. Moriah. Abraham is supposed to bind his beloved son, slit his throat and light him on fire. Really???
Never mind that God sends a ram at the last minute to take the place of Isaac. Never mind that this may have been a story explaining why God doesn’t like child sacrifice (what about animals?) Never mind that Isaac may have symbolized the nation of Israel that went astray and yet God saved them anyway. The ramifications of how churches and people have interpreted this have spiritually effected people for thousands of years.
You see, I get stuck at the very beginning with God even asking Abraham to kill someone. What happened to “thou shalt not kill?” What I read online was that lots of people seem to be ok with God requesting someone’s death, because, well, it’s God and so God can do whatever God wants including killing people. We don’t have to understand that. Baloney.
People, in general, also seem to be ok with God testing us, but for me that is the biggest disconnect. I just don’t believe that God tests us or our faithfulness. Yes, there are things that happen to us in life that “test our faith” but God isn’t sitting around on a cloud trying to figure out how to send us faith-challenging obstacle courses as a test to see if we are worthy.
One of my biggest pet peeve sayings is: God doesn’t send you more than you can handle.
People say this all the time. It is simply another way of saying that God was testing them by sending all kinds of difficult, if not downright horrible, things into their life. Certainly we’ve all had those times when one thing after another goes wrong. Last year in the span of about two weeks my partner found a lump on her thyroid, was laid off of work, my son got in a car accident with her car, and our basement flooded to the tune of about $10,000 worth of damage. Was it a frustrating, difficult and sometimes scary time? Yes. Was God testing us? Ridiculous.
God doesn’t send you more than you can handle. The passage this came from is 1 Corinthians 10:13 where Paul actually says something somewhat different “No test has overtaken you but what is common to all people. You can be confident that God is faithful and will not let you be tested beyond your means. And with any trial God will provide you with a way out of it, as well as the strength to bear the trial.” Nowhere in this passage does it say that GOD will test us, just that challenges happen to all people, but God hangs in there with us and gives us strength (it is just that sometimes we are blind to that help).
Are there things that happen to us that test our faith, our belief in God, our strength? ABSOLUTELY! That is common and normal… but it is not God who is testing us for some bizarre supernatural reason that only God knows and we aren’t supposed to question.
The God I know is the God of the Spirit Within who seeks the fulfillment of who we were created to be. It seeks wholeness, wisdom, and our spiritual growth through personal introspection about the things that happen to us. In other words, perhaps the outcome of the normal difficulties in life is not a pass or fail grade from God, but the opportunity to grow emotionally and spiritually deeper.
That seems like enough of a rant for one day!