God's Stress Test
by Nathan Noble
I thought I'd share a study I did this morning that was inspired by the Fractal of 2 - 6.1 Stress Test blessing.
I didn't have enough time to write less! :'D
“Do you default to fear or do you default to covenant. Do you default to believing that this happened randomly on maliciously in the world? Or do you default to believing that you serve the God of covenant and that somewhere in here we can find the fingerprints of God?” - Arthur Burk from Fractal of 2 DC - 6.1
This feels very significant for me. So much of my struggle is in fearing the random suffering in the world. When things are bad, I am scared because they are bad. Even worse, though, when things are good, I am also scared, because - who knows how long the good will last? What chaos is around the corner? What unexpected evil is lurking?
For me this fear comes from my sensitive nature (being a Mercy/HSP) and the state of somewhat constant panic/fear I lived in as a child with a dad who might explode in anger at any moment.
I heard Bill Johnson say once something to the effect of "wherever you live without hope you are living under a lie." Although I am saved, redeemed, there are still parts of me, my brain, my emotional memories that have yet to acknowledge it. There is a part of me that is secular humanist, who only knows myself and none other and relies only on what I can see/know/taste/touch/experience.
At a visceral level, how far does my faith in God's covenant go? Is it words only? No, it is more than words. It is in me. And yet, when presented with certain situations, I still respond with panic, anxiety, even sin, where I return to sinful habits to assuage the emotional pain.
I felt an impetus yesterday to study the following passage (Jeremiah 17:5-10, 14)
Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
And makes flesh his strength,
Whose heart departs from the Lord.
For he shall be like a shrub in the desert,
And shall not see when good comes,
But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness,
In a salt land which is not inhabited.
The man with this attitude is the one who at a heart/kidney level does not believe. He might be a believer by intellectual assent but is not one at a heart level.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.
This is such a beautiful promise - a picture that combines of the tree-by-the-stream from Psalm 1 and the fruitful vine from John 15. In this picture is perhaps a key to a mystery. It is in the abiding that the tree thrives. It is not an instantaneous act. It is a relational process, as the root hairs of the tree dig deep and fasten into the soil (the ingrafting of the word?).
That same type of action needs to happen in our brains, hearts, and kidneys. As we become more rooted in God over time, the "Freudian slip" when the "heat comes" is less because our lives are more and more rooted to covenant rather than to the self or to idols.
The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
This passage is often quoted in the context of the sinful nature of man. And yes, that is true. But contextually, what comes next is just as, if not more, important, I think, because it answers the question posed above. If we quote just the verse above, we are left with a sense of a rhetorical, almost cynical question rather than an introduction to God's pending redemptive work/purpose.
I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind Note - mind is "kidneys" in Hebrew,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings.
Because of the desperate wickedness of the heart and in the inability of man to know his own heart, we may throw up our hands in despair/hopelessness, but God does not. We cannot know the heart. But God can and does. And this testing is how He does.
In response the deceitfulness and wickedness of the heart, God searches the heart. Yes. That makes sense. But he tests the kidneys too (what?!) The stress testing of God places us in process and through that refining process, He works out the dross, the impurities that are in the heart that we cannot see: the errors, hidden faults, presumptuous sins, and transgressions (per Psalm 19:12-13).
After all of the above Jeremiah responds to all God has said above with an earnest prayer in v. 14:
"Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed.
Save me and I shall be saved.
For You are my praise."
And that is the answer. God's revelation of our condition and then God's healing and salvation. It is not just healing here on this earth with no chance of salvation. It is not just a powerless salvation without healing. It is both. It is Jesus. It is the gospel. No more and certainly no less.