In light of the current condition of our nation and our world, it’s easy for one to question if God has given up on us and left us to our follies and pitfalls.
God didn’t give up on the Israelites. They did suffer the consequences of their choices, but God never gave up on them. His relentless love was committed beyond their present rebellion and idolatry.
God doesn’t give up on us, either, individuals or nations. We suffer the consequences of our choices, but God never gives up on us.
Sometimes we feel alone and think that God must have given up and forgotten about us. It’s important to remember that feelings often don’t reflect reality. Feelings can confuse us and distort our perspective. This is one of satan’s most powerful tools.
God is the God of perpetual chances. He never disinvites us from a close relationship with Him. When we feel as though God left us, the reality is that we left Him.
Our past is not a deterrent to God’s invitation to us. Look at Jesus’ interactions with folks everywhere He went. He invited them to leave their old choices and live a better life in Him. He didn’t first consider if their past mistakes made them worthy. We are all unworthy. Even on the cross, Jesus forgave his accusers, his murderers, and the thief next to Him.
It takes more than Jesus’ forgiveness of our past and His invitation for us to live the abundant life in Him as He designed and desires. It takes our positive response—our trust and willingness to go His way and not our own. Though Jesus forgave those who spat on Him, beat Him, tore His clothes, and cast lots for them, His forgiveness didn’t give them a better life. They would have to choose that. God gives us the freedom of choice. We can live in Him or apart from Him.
From the examples in the Old Testament of God blessing those who chose Him and the examples in the New Testament of the blessing to those who chose Jesus, we know that we have the option to choose God and be blessed, or we can choose ourselves and suffer the consequences. We can love God because He first loved us. He loved every person before he or she was born, and He beckons each person to a close relationship with Him (John 3:16, 1 John 3:16-21, 1 John 4:19).
We can choose to love God or walk away. We can accept or reject (deny) the truth. All three chapters of 2 Thessalonians speak of the consequences to those who choose to walk away. 2 Thessalonians 2:10b-11 says of those that perish that they perish “because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
We see the same warnings in Paul’s letter to the Romans:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 1:18-25)
According to Strong’s Concordance, the Greek word paradidomi, used in verse 24 to say that God “gave them up” means “to hand over, to give or deliver over, to betray. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon shows the uses of this word to mean “to give into the hands (of another); to give over into (one’s) power or use: to deliver to one something; to commit, to commend; to deliver verbally; to permit, allow.” God hands over or lets folks go toward their own desires after they continually refuse to turn to Him.
Some people say that God abandons us or gives up on us. He will give us up to our own desires, but He never gives up on us. It’s all about our freedom to choose God or something else. God never forces Himself on anyone, but He patiently extends an invitation to us all to know Him better. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promises, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
By nature, humans love to run. We try to run our own way. God puts a better option in our path. Sometimes we are so bent on our own desires that we ignore God’s beckoning and the better option He provides. The more we run from God, the easier running becomes. The farther away from God we run, the less distinctly we hear His still small voice leading us to the best life in Him.
If I were a cartoonist, I would sketch it in this way: God’s mighty hand holding back a man by the back of his pants while the googly-eyed man drooled and scrambled to reach a desire in front of him. God tries to prevent our calamity. He holds us back while showing us a better way—His way. But when we choose to focus on our own desires, we lose focus on Him, making it harder to know the choice He presents for us to walk away from our sinful desires.
When we continue to pull away from God so hard for so long to reach our own desires, He eventually lets us have what we want and what comes with it—negative consequences.
Our stubborn pride is our downfall. Throughout history, recorded in the Bible and otherwise, we see pride comes before the fall of any person or group of people. And now we live in a culture that celebrates pride. Lipstick on the pig doesn’t change it to something beautiful. It is what it is, and pride is a sin.
God’s Word is thick with promises of rewards to those who seek God with their whole heart and of punishments to those who chase their own desires. Seeking God earnestly, knowing that you need Him, is all it takes for Him to be closer to you.