God Can't Do That
It was one of those times everything seemed to be going wrong. I didn't see how God could fix it this time.
It was one of those times when everything seems to go wrong at once. A dwindling bank balance, broken or strained relationships, and dissatisfaction at work, among other things, had left me wondering about my future and struggling with discouragement, stress, and anxiety.
I would try to muster up my soul by reminding myself of encouraging quotes. “We have nothing to fear for the future unless we forget God’s leading in our past,” I would whisper to myself, paraphrasing a quote by Ellen White. The trouble was, although I sometimes felt my hope rising, and I did remember episodes of God’s guidance in my life, I still often dipped into worry and pessimism about my future.
What God Can’t Do
One morning, I was listening to the Psalms during my hair and make-up routine, zoning out a little from one of Asaph’s poetic renditions of the Exodus story. Suddenly, the words grabbed my attention and seared into my consciousness:
“God can’t give us food in the wilderness. Yes, he can strike a rock so water gushes out, but he can’t give his people bread and meat.” (From Psalm 78:19-20)
I’m like that. That’s how I think. With a start, I realized that the doubts of the Israelites echoed my own anxieties. The Israelites certainly remembered God’s miraculous provision in their past, but now they were faced with a different scenario, and they didn’t believe he could deal with it. How many times do we slip, almost unconsciously, into the same way of thinking? God indeed might have been able to do this, but he can’t do that. “Yes, he can provide sponsors for my missionary trip, but he can’t give me the money for my bills this month.”“Yes, he can help me study for this test, but he can’t lead me to the right job, especially in today’s market.”“Yes, he can give me wisdom in my career move, but he can’t help my relationships.” I listened as the Psalm went on to describe God’s frustration at the Israelites because they “did not believe God or trust him to take care of them,” and how, “despite his wonders, they refused to trust him.” (vv. 22 and 32) “I don’t want to be like that,” I breathed to God. “Help me to trust you more!”
How I View God
What lies at the heart of my inclination to worry? I have realized that my anxieties tend to spring from a subconscious belief that I have to make things happen. That all my happiness and success and getting the best out of life is down to me. Of course, it's not that I have no role to play at all. I have power to choose and to act. But why the attitude that "it's all on me; I'm in this alone?" I was shocked when I first understood what a practically godless approach to life this attitude signified—or at least an approach that acknowledged God’s existence but assigned him a somewhat impotent or uncaring character. Did I really think of him as so small and so distant?
My view of God is the foundation for everything else in my life.
When I believe that I am entirely responsible for taking care of myself and making things happen, when I am living purely out of self-reliance and leaning on my own understanding (see Proverbs 3:5-6), it is a very hard thing to “be still, and know that [he] is God” (Psalm 46:10). It is hard to trust.
Yet, when I understand more fully the incredible depth of the love God has for me—and when I really believe he loves me that much—my heart responds more readily with trust. In so many ways, our view of God and our view of life revolves around grasping this love, being “rooted and grounded” in it, as Paul describes in Ephesians 3:17. It changes everything. It is changing my typically-fearful reactions to the challenges of life.
I resonate with a prayer John Eldredge shares in his book Walking with God:
“Jesus, I ask that your love would heal that part of me that feels I must make it happen, that all things—especially my happiness—are up to me… And, Jesus, I repent of that part of me that needs to make things happen. I transfer my trust from my ability to make things happen to your love and goodness.” (pp. 103-104)
Yes, He Can
Not every problem I have wept or worried over has been fully solved yet. But God has been working with me patiently to show me just how creative he can be in addressing my issues. He reminds me constantly, in all kinds of little ways, of the committed, personal love he has for me. And every day I have the choice of whether I will trust him in a new area, or whether I will respond negatively like the Israelites in the Psalm. Are you facing a situation in your life where you just don't know how God is going to come through for you this time? What are you thinking God can't do?
Trust him. He can do that, too.
First written in 2017