God and the American Dream

Faith has felt like a rollercoaster recently; one day I am totally in the right headspace, trusting God in all things and believing His plan is best, and the next I am questioning everything wondering if I even know the God that I have devoted my life to. This is exhausting and scary. If I am honest, in the midst of a challenging and heartbreaking season, my prayers have consisted mostly of questions and swear words. I have small moments of clarity in the midst of it all, but not as often as I’d like. One of those was stumbling on this passage in Habakkuk.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

Habakkuk 3:17-18

I have been convicted recently of a few things. One, God doesn’t owe us anything. It has been surprisingly easy to create a God in my mind who owes me the American dream. Whatever specific circumstance you are facing, let me say with all the love and grace I have, He doesn’t owe it to you. There are no promises in Scripture telling you that He will bring you a dream job, a spouse, babies, or a white picket fence (or whatever your personal definition might be). And it isn’t just a “be patient and wait on God’s timing” sort of thing. Get comfortable with the idea that those dreams or ideas might not ever be a reality, because God’s promise isn’t that He will give us what we want, but that He will be with us. A mentor reminded me that God isn’t who we have constructed in our minds; He isn’t just “what has worked for us” all along. Suddenly when things aren’t going the way we thought they would or how we wanted them to, we question who God is and if He even loves us (or at least I do, maybe you’re farther along on the journey than I am). It isn’t that God brings challenging circumstances along to “teach us a lesson” (that turns Him into more of an abusive Father than an all-loving God), but that we live in a broken world where things will surely be hard, and if our faith is dependent on God making all of our wildest dreams come true, we will be quickly disappointed and disillusioned with Him. 

I read a devotional recently that talked about the story of Joseph. If you aren’t familiar or need a refresher, Joseph was imprisoned for seventeen years after being wrongly accused of sexual harrassment (side note: this was after his brothers almost killed him out of jealousy, decided not to, but instead sold him into slavery). He waited seventeen years for justice. Seventeen years of waiting for God to act and come through for him. This season has taught me that if I were Joseph, I would have given up on God after about two months of waiting. The author of the devotional shared this convicting idea: “The faithfulness in question is not His – it is ours!” Hard circumstances reveal to us what we believe to be true about who God is and how He feels about us. I have discovered that I had the underlying belief that because I have been good, God would (should) reward me. As far as Christians are concerned, I have done most things “right.” So what do I do with disappointment and suffering? 

For someone who has been walking with God for over twenty years, you’d think my faith wouldn’t be so easily rocked. But when it feels like God has disappeared, betrayed us and walked away in silence, it is surprisingly easy to make our own decision to turn away out of bitterness and give Him the finger. 

I am trying to make it a practice to lean into that “yet.” I have turned that Habakkuk Scripture into my own liturgy: Though things aren’t going the way I planned, and life feels disappointing…yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 

I will not claim to have come even close to mastering this. I probably live in that surrender like 3% of the time right now. But maybe by next week it will be 5% and that is what victory looks like right now. I don’t want you to read this and think, “Wow, she figured it out!” because more often than not I’m still angry and frustrated and questioning God. And He can handle it. But I write this instead to help all of us maybe take a step in the right direction, to help each other remember what is true of God’s character, and that it isn’t influenced by our circumstances. He is who He is who He is. It isn’t changed or determined by what is happening in our lives or in our world. We need to love Him for exactly who He is, because He does that for us. 

Maybe you can write our own Habakkuk 3:17-18. Here is part of mine:

“Though nothing makes sense and it all feels unfair, though this season of famine and disaster seem to never end, yet I will rejoice. I will be joyful in God my Savior.

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I write to process, and sometimes send those thoughts out into the void. Passionate about Jesus and people and bringing those two together. Living in and loving Denver. Working with college students, who are the coolest. Seeking Jesus and JOY in everything.

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