We were sorting through Christmas decorations the other night. My mind went back to this time of the year many years ago in my early childhood. I held in my hands on that occasion a tiny house with bright baubles for slates, frosted walls, beautiful red glass windows, and I said to my mother, “Would you like to live in a house like that?” “Oh yes,” she replied, “I would love to live in a house like that.” Well, that evening as usual I was being tucked up in bed, prayers were being said and my mother left my bedroom to go downstairs. The nightly ritual at that point was that I shouted out “Night night!” She replied, “Night night!” Then I would shout out as she got further down the stairs, “God Bless!” “She would reply, “God Bless.” If it was my Father that had tucked me up in bed, the same conversation ensued. However from the day of that passing interaction about the little Christmassy decoration of the beautiful house, I added another shout to my mother, “You won’t go away to another house, will you?” To which she replied, “I won’t go away to another house!”
The thing is, I was such a secure child, deeply loved and I knew it. However it did not mean I didn’t need to hear that reassurance that I was loved, that I would never be abandoned. Did that extra question represent loss of faith in my mother’s love? That would be a harsh verdict to pass on our night time conversation. It simply represented humanness.
Today, I read a verse in Psalm 138 that greatly blessed me. In verse 8 of that Psalm, the psalmist says, “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.” However that assurance does not stop him from voicing the words that follow: “Don’t abandon me…” Was that a denial of his previously stated faith? No, it was just humanness.
At times I used to get myself tied up in knots about the whole faith thing, It happened increasingly the more I listened to “faith” preachers. Some charismatic teachers seem to unhelpfully confuse biblical and true faith with psychological certainty, so if, for example, you have prayed about something once with true faith, you never need to pray about it again, for that would represent you didn’t really have faith in the first place! At times, this psychological certainty view of faith is represented as not being double minded, which of course Scripture tells us we are not to be. Indeed, Scripture tells us if we are double minded we will receive nothing from the Lord. However absence of psychological certainty is not what being double minded means. To suggest it does mean that is bad Scriptural exegesis… but more of that another time…
There are forms of Christianity that are violent to humanness. However the Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord knows out frame. As a Father pities his children so the Lord pities His children who are seeking to walk in His ways. He remembers that we are dust.
If you need to cry “Father, don’t abandon me!” you might be nearer true faith in God than you realise. In Romans 8 we read about the Spirit helping us to cry out, “Abba Father.” There has been a lot of teaching in the last decade about the Father heart of God, much of it very good, but some of it not so. The prevailing impression is that God wants to bring us to some dreamy, balmy assurance that we are loved by the Father, that our heavenly Father is some kind of Disney-like Papa (if our God is British) or Poppa (if God is American) or whatever. However Romans 8 envisages something very different. It speaks about crying, “Abba Father.” I remember hearing Dr. Sinclair Ferguson preaching many years ago now in my own home church in Glasgow saying that the imagery here was of a child who had fallen in the street crying out for help! “Daddy, help me! Daddy, don’t leave me.” Rowan Williams puts it even more strongly. He says “The cry to God as Father in the New Testament …is the Child’s cry out of a nightmare…It is the cry of outrage, fear, shrinking away, when faced with the horror of the “world” – yet not simply or exclusively protest, but trust as well: “Abba Father, all things are possible to Thee…” (Quoted in “Celtic Daily Prayer” Book One, Copyright The Northumbria Community Trust, page 28.)
If you feel you need to cry out today, “Daddy, don’t leave me!” then do so. It does not mean you are weak in faith. It is what God birthed and true faith sounds like in a human being. The cry will be heard. It will not be disregarded. It will not receive harsh judgement. When a father hears his child crying because they have fallen, if he is worthy of being called “Abba” he picks them up, helps them, consoles them with reassuring love and helps them to their feet and to have confidence to walk again; when he hears a cry out of a nightmare, his compassion runs towards the sound. Well, how much more our Heavenly Abba….
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