I'm convinced that the majority of a Christian's most troubling internal conflicts originates in our nearly constant assuming that God is like us: He thinks like us, He loves like us, and He acts like us. After all, we are made in God's image. No disputing that. But notice the order: WE are made in GOD'S image. GOD is NOT made in OUR image. Mixing those two up is 6 tons of trouble. It's an easy trap to fall into. We live in our own minds. Our experiences and our baggage and our filters all tell us how to interpret everything in our lives: our work, our relationships, and yes, our God.
This is IMHO why Proverbs 3:5 warns us to "trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean NOT on your own understanding." Our own understanding is flawed and liable to lead to insidious conclusions. We can be sure of this because sin (our sin, as well as, the sins of others) infects our thinking. We are seeing things through fogged up glasses. But even if it weren't for sin, we'd still fail to see things as God does. We are human. We are lesser than He. God is "other."
Isaiah 55: 8-9 really hammers home the differences between our ways and God's ways: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." God is not telling us to throw out our brains. Nor is He telling us not to use the powers of reason He's given us to interpret life. But God is clearly saying that our human wisdom MUST submit to God's ultimate wisdom. When life crashes down around us and we scream out, "WHY?", God replies, "Trust me. I know everything."
Do you feel the relief in that? Do you feel the freedom, the chains of our own limitations falling away? I do. It means, when I condemn myself for falling short, and I assume that God has put me on His "bad kid" list, I am wrong. God's thoughts are higher than mine. He understands the situation I'm in, what I've thought, what I've done—and yet, He does not deal with us as we would deal with ourselves. I can abandon my own understanding of the situation and trust God to deal with me according to His ways.
Musician and author Andrew Peterson has a song called "Just as I Am," and it brings this point home (and crushes me) in this section of the song:
All of my life I've held on to this fear
These thistles and vines ensnare and entwine
What flowers appeared
It's the fear that I'll fall one too many times
It's the fear that His love is no better than mine
How often do we destroy ourselves, berate ourselves, condemn, and sentence ourselves because we think that God's justice, His understanding, and His love is no better than ours. But His ways ARE better, far better. As far as the heavens are from the earth better.
When we look at the world and begin to despair—that's our thinking, our understanding, our ways. God sees the world in higher ways. He is outside of time, and so He sees everything in Past, Present, and Future—all at once. He knows that evil does not win. He knows that our brief existence on this earth pales in comparison to eternity. And, in what is probably the most difficult reality to wrap our feeble brains around, He know how and why the tragedies, sorrows, sufferings, and seemingly senseless evils of this world can and will be used for good. We can't see it, but He can. We can trust Him to know better. Honestly, that's a relief to me. God's wisdom, His heart, His intentions, His glory—are all WAY above my pay grade.
What does this all mean in a practical sense? One: we have—at last—the ammunition with which to fight the thought battle. How many times a day do negative self talk thoughts invade your mind? How often do sinful thoughts intrude? "Look what I did. Look what I thought about. I must not be a Christian." Those are logical human thoughts based on our standards or our understanding of God's standard. Hidden beneath those negative thoughts, we are assuming that God handles things the way we would. "If I had an employee who screwed up like I do, I'd fire him and toss him out on his butt." We think that way. Society teaches such messages all the time. But God's ways are higher. His word, His promises are ironclad beyond our hapless analysis. He does not treat us as we deserve but offers grace.
Knowing that God's thoughts and ways are greater than our own can help us avoid sin as well. We walk down the street and see a homeless person—whoosh, instant judgment leaps into our minds. But God sees that dear person as a precious child of His own. God knows that homeless person inside and out, his whole life story, and God knows where that person's eternity will be spent. We. Have. No. Clue. And therefore, no room to judge. Knowing this, we can ask ourselves and ask God, "How do you see this person? Help me to see that person as you do."
When we are tempted by sinful pleasures and the mind is flooded with visuals and anticipated ecstasy, we can fight back. This pleasure that I think I need, it is just that: "what I THINK I need." My thinking is flawed. God says, "Avoid that act. It's a shortcut. It's a snare. Follow my ways and trust that I hold more pleasures and treasures for you than you can possibly imagine!"
When we are confused by passages in the Bible, we can do our due diligence and research and study…and still come up short. There, we must remember: God's ways are higher than my ways. His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. We can ask God for wisdom and then trust that when we need that wisdom most, God will provide it.
When we are divided over issues of race, politics, sexuality, social status, ad infinitum, we might be tempted to attach another person, unleashing the full might of our logic, condemnation, and judgement upon the other. If we remember that God's wisdom, His thoughts and ways are unfathomably higher than our own, we ought to humble ourselves. We ought to cool our jets. We ought to tell the truth IN LOVE. And, we ought to trust God, for He alone can change another human being from the inside out. I know. I know. It's crushing to think our facebook posts and snarky comments on social media won't change a human being's heart. But that's the deal: God is the heart changer. Instead of unleashing our bile on another human being, how about loving the human being, respecting his or her perspective (not agree with it), and seek to kindly find the threads of truth that God wants to weave into the conversation. Be kind. People are fighting battles we know nothing about. But God does know.
Maybe that crazy guy who cut you off in traffic this morning is driving recklessly because he's trying to get to the hospital where his daughter has just been admitted. Maybe that teenage daughter of yours rages at you because she's dealing with emotions and daily turmoil that we cannot see.
And, more than anything else, because God's thoughts and ways are higher than our own, we MUST realize that people are NOT the enemy. It may feel like they are. They may speak like they are, but beneath it all, there are spiritual forces at work. Ephesians 6:12 tells us "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm."
Sin and the enemy of our souls are the real antagonists. These are spiritual issues, so we need to fight spiritually. Pray for God to exert His will in the lives of "these people who just don't get it." And while we're at it, pray that God would exert His will in our own lives…since we don't totally get it either.