We had the privilege this week of seeing yet another friend we haven’t seen in AGES. Years and years. He’s in the military and moved away a few years before we moved to France, although I think we saw him a few times before we left. Anyway, in the intervening years, he married and we hadn’t met his wife. But they were in town this past week and we met for lunch and had a great time catching up (or meeting, as the case may be).

We discussed how living somewhere different and meeting people with different perspectives changes you and how you see God. Jake & I told them how we had (are still having) a very difficult time relating to church people after we returned, that they kept offering trite clichés and churchy advice that just didn’t help. When we were facing a deadline to move out of our last available housing, with no idea where to go, one guy told us, “Well, that’s great! You know God will give you an answer by then.” I just stared at him. Because I did NOT know that. Maybe I’m missing it in the fine print or something, but nowhere in my Bible does it say that God owes me anything. He does not owe me a place to live. He does not owe me food. He does not owe me life, or health, or answers to all my pressing questions. He is not indebted to me in any way.

I think people were trying to encourage us with this idea that God is somehow obligated to provide for His followers. I guess that might be comforting for some people, to believe that God “has to” do something for them, that He is somehow forced to meet their needs. I don’t buy that. I think it’s a very little view of God. I mean, I know there are verses that say God provides…but you have to look at the whole thing, not just a few pretty verses. Let’s look at Job, an entire book. Here is a guy who’s done everything right, so God should definitely be obligated to take care of him…but no. Everything he has is destroyed – not just “my house burned down so I don’t have my photo albums anymore” but like all his kids died. And God allowed his own health to be wrecked. Things never got that bad for us – at least we were all still alive and healthy, no oozing boils to speak of – so really we should be pretty grateful for what we DID have. Like a car to live in if all else failed.

Then there’s Paul. He got off to a rocky start but after that he was like a Christian rock star, God should definitely take care of him…but he spent the rest of his life going from prison to shipwrecks to beatings to stonings to prison to shipwrecks to whippings and so on, until (according to tradition) he got his head chopped off. Somehow God didn’t owe him food or a blanket in prison, but He owes me living quarters that include central air conditioning? I think not.

I know I’ve written about this some before, I’ve just been thinking more about it lately and trying to process my anger over it – anger toward both God and other people. I may not have bought into the idea that God owed me a place to live, or reliable income, but I did buy into the idea that He owed me an explanation for it. (Another churchy platitude – God allows trials in your life to comfort others.) I mean, that is actually in the Bible, I just think it’s been churchified. If my kids died like Job’s, I don’t have a Mickey Mouse hip* what God wants to do with that in the future, I would be really pissed at Him – and anyone who tried to comfort me by telling me I could help other grieving parents down the road. Who cares about that? The point is, He doesn’t owe me an explanation for that season in our lives any more than He owed me a way out.

He wasn’t less God when all 7 of Job’s kids died. He wasn’t less God when Paul was getting 39 lashes…again. And He isn’t less God if I don’t have a home. My circumstances may not be what I want but they have no effect on His abilities – just because He doesn’t do what I want doesn’t mean He’s not capable of it. And He’s not accountable to me to explain why He does (or doesn’t do) the things He does.

*One of Jake’s friends in France said that once. He was trying to say “give a rat’s ass.”