“You say God cares and that he looks after you. But do you think he would do that for me? Why would He care about me?”
I will always remember the day Simon asked me that question. It was fourteen years ago, and Simon was a fairly new friend. He lived down the road and around the corner in the townhouse development that my wife and called home. Having left the relative security of ministry in the United Church, Marion and I were raising our young family on a shoestring while shepherding a tiny church that we had planted in the Blossom Park area of South Ottawa.
I first met Simon in the spring of 1995 through a strange series of events. One spring day there was a neighbourhood garage sale and I was playing my guitar on the front step of our house. A few days later, a woman we had never seen before knocked on our door and in heavily-accented English asked “Do you have a Bible group in your home?”. Well, things like this don’t happen every day, and we had been praying for our neighbours, so of course Marion and I were pretty excited. Her name was Sigrid, she was from Germany, and she told us that she had heard me singing worship songs on the front step and had decided we must be Christians. She had known some Christ-followers in Germany who had impacted her life deeply, and we reminded her of them. We later learned that she was married to Simon (who was Canadian but of German-Jewish extraction). Within a few months they and their three children had become part of our little church, and I began spending quite a bit of time with Simon, sharing faith and practical help with him.
Fast forward a year to spring 1996. During the preceding twelve months, we had spent quite a bit of time mentoring Simon and Sigrid and had become friends with their young family. We had also reluctantly concluded that our tiny church was not viable, and the leadership team had come to a collective decision to shut it down. This was, for many reasons, a heart-rending decision – but that’s a story for another day. I had decided that no matter what God had in store for me by way of ministry, I needed to go back to school and learn a trade, which led to my current work as a technology consultant. During my year at business college we were living on Employment Insurance, which provided us with 56% of what had already been a poverty-line salary, so it was a very challenging period for Marion and me. Yet during this period of soul-searching and spiritual and financial distress, we were also seeing much evidence of the grace of God at work in our lives.
Simon and Sigrid had had seen us walk through the process of having to shut down the church; our struggles were not hidden from these baby Christians. Yet in the midst of all the testing, we experienced an inexplicable peace that I can only attribute to God. We knew He was upholding us, and of course Simon and Sigrid saw this as well. One day Simon was telling me about his financial problems and how he needed work, and I shared with him how God had always provided for our family through several years of poverty-line living as church planters, and that even now, during my year at business college, we were experiencing God’s constant provision and His kindness to us. I will never forget Simon’s plaintive, agonized response to my testimony: “But do you think God would do that for me? Would he care about me?”
People reject God for all sorts of reasons, but I suspect that deep down, many of those who have created sophisticated intellectual smokescreens to explain why God doesn’t exist are really wounded souls crying out to be loved, and finding it impossible to believe that anyone could actually love them. After all, when all is said and done, in spite of all the pop psychology that tells us how great we are, deep down we know we don’t actually deserve to be loved by God.
The thing is, although we try to hide from the truth, deep down we know that we are sinners – selfish, dishonest, unreliable, unrighteous, impure, untrustworthy, unloving, unfaithful. If you think I’m exaggerating, look in the mirror – or read Romans 3:10-18 and Romans 7:15-21– or look at human history. Yes, there is much good mixed in with the evil – but always it is flawed, and it never endures. Most of the time we succeed in convincing ourselves that this is all someone else’s fault – that it is other people who are perverse and unreasonable – that we, of course, are basically good people. But in moments of blinding honesty, when we see ourselves as we really are, each of us is forced to face the awful truth that if there is a God, and if He is good, we don’t deserve to be loved by Him because we most certainly are not righteous, pure or good.
The amazingly good news is that our own brokenness is not something from which we need to hide. Once we face ourselves as we truly are, we find that God knew about it all the time – and that He has been calling out to us, longing for us to come to our senses and see our broken condition, so that we can run into his arms and find our home in his love.
God doesn’t love you because you deserve it. You don’t have to deserve it, and you never could deserve it no matter how hard you tried. Take a look at the night sky sometime, in a place where you can get away from the city lights and you can really see the stars in all their majesty – and ask yourself whether anything you do could ever impress the maker of the Universe or make Him your debtor. He does care about you – cares with an infinite, fierce and unrelenting passion – but this is not because you deserve it. He loves you simply and purely because He is good.
I used to be a very negative, moody and convoluted man, but God in his kindness has healed my soul and made me new. I can truthfully say that I am no longer ashamed, no longer anxious, no longer worried about the future. In fact I haven’t lived that way for years, but I can still remember when I did. To clarify – I do admit that I still stumble at times, but my life is no longer characterized by these things – and when I do stumble, I know what to do about it. It was my Father’s kindness that rescued me – pure and simple. And I know He still has much more to do in my life. I want to be a much better reflection of the love, kindness and power of Jesus Christ. I want this because He is the only one who makes life worth living, and because His Kingdom will stand when all else crumbles. And because He is good, I know that I will stand. If you already have this same confidence, you know what I am talking about. If you want what I am describing, but don’t have it, it’s freely available to you. All you have to do is humble yourself, admit your need, and ask.