“Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them” Mark 11:23 (NIV).
I’ve always been kind of a slow learner. When I was in school, I had to study extra hard for tests and quizzes, writing and rewriting notes before the facts would sink in. To be honest, I guess I didn’t care enough about certain aspects of learning because some subjects never stuck.
I’ve read the Bible since I was a young child, but the more I study it, the more I learn and the more fascinated I become. In order to really understand the Bible, it’s necessary to know that the Old Testament (the parts of the Bible written before Jesus walked the earth as a man) was a time period of judgment. The people who loved God had to offer sacrifices when they disobeyed and God judged people harshly back then. However, the New Testament sees a shift from the period of judgment to one of grace. When Jesus entered the earth as a baby and lived among the people for thirty-three years before dying on the cross, being raised from the dead, and ascending back into Heaven, He introduced the concept of grace. Burnt sacrifices weren’t necessary anymore because Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice. He died on the cross so all people would be able to go to Heaven if they just admitted they were a sinner, confessed their sins, and asked Jesus into their heart.
Even though I’ve been a Christ follower for years, I’d been falsely living under the Old Testament way of thinking. I was expecting God’s judgment on me every time I made a mistake instead of living in the grace offered to me through Jesus’ dying on the cross.
One example of this involved a pair of headphones. I had fasted earlier this year regarding some personal things and afterwards, I was on the lookout for God’s blessings that come when we obey. Around that time, my headphones for my job broke. Now, to a medical transcriptionist, headphones are an essential part of giving my best to the job. It isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. My husband had found an amazing deal on a set of $300 headphones for almost 75% off. They worked wonderfully for about two years. Right before Easter, they broke. First we tried to jimmy rig them, but that didn’t work. Then we tried to glue them, but that didn’t work either. Well, turns out they had a lifetime warranty and when I called the company to inquire about whether or not they would be covered, it sounded as though all I would have to pay for was the price to ship the broken ones to their factory. I was praising God for this wonderful financial blessing.
Fast forward a month and I finally received what I thought was the new set of headphones. I opened the box and it was the original, broken set. Turns out that by gluing the headphones in an attempt to fix them, we annulled our warranty. Automatically, my thoughts turned to Old Testament judgment thinking. God must be angry at me to take a blessing He clearly gave and turned it into a financial hardship. He knows I can’t afford a new set of headphones.
A few days later, I was talking to a friend about my situation and she helped me put it into perspective. God wasn’t angry with me. Our society is facing financial hardship as a whole. I couldn’t blame a company wanting to save a few hundred dollars by replacing headphones for free when I was the one who made the mistake of trying to fix them. It wasn’t that God was mad at me and took away my blessing; it was that I messed up and God had another plan instead. God still loved me just as much as He did previously and I could either learn the lesson so I didn’t make the mistake again or I could continue to feel “blamed” and not learn anything at all.
I chose to learn my lesson and be thankful. God provided a different set of headphones for a significantly discounted price. I finally received them in the mail last week and they work just as well as my originals, costing considerably less than I would’ve paid for brand new ones. So…maybe God wants to work with me on learning how to be financially responsible. Maybe He wants to show me He’ll provide when I ask Him. Maybe He wasn’t trying to teach me anything specific except that He isn’t out to get me, but He’ll take my mistakes and turn them into something valuable if I let Him.
I don’t expect this lesson is quite finished for me. After all, I’ve had many years of practice automatically assuming God’s angry with me and punishing me for things I’ve done or not done. However, at least I’m starting down the road to considering the alternative to judgment, which is grace. I have to admit, it feels a whole lot better when I allow grace to penetrate my heart instead of harsh condemnation. I’m thinking that as I allow grace to fill my soul, I will in turn be kinder and more ready to show grace to others: My husband, my children, strangers on the road…the possibilities are endless.
When you think about God, do you consider Him to be a mean judge ready to punish you for your mistakes or do you see Him as the God of love that He is? Do you believe He is ready and waiting to take your mistakes and turn them into opportunities for blessings? Is there a particular time in your life when you felt harsh judgment or a time when you felt His blessings?
© 2013 Cheri Swalwell