The Bible makes a pretty horrible self help book.
Sometimes, that’s what I want it to be. I want to see a picture of God on the back cover of the Bible wearing an approachable sweater next to a golden retriever who knows a few tricks but not so many that he’s obnoxious.
I want to crack open a chapter, read a few verses, get some action items and then walk away from my relationship with God. The truth is, most of my self improvement efforts are geared at getting my life running smoothly enough to where I don’t need God anymore. I’m not opposed to self help books or self improvement, Quitter could be categorized as one in some ways. But if I’m not careful, I tend to mutate my own effort into my own Emmanuel.
Perfection is my secret goal, not a deeper relationship with God.
But unfortunately, the Bible is refusing to cooperate.
Have you ever read the book of Jeremiah? I did during the two years I spent doing a one year walk through the Bible, and noticed a word I’m pretty unhappy about.
In chapter 1:7-8, God is calling Jeremiah and says this to him:
But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.
The word that stuck out to me was “rescue.”
I’ve always read that verse like this:
“Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will make sure life goes so well that you never need to be rescued.”
I’ve always thought that a sign that you are doing God’s work, that you have listened to His voice and made the right the decision is that things are peaceful and easy. God is there after all, shouldn’t that verse say, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will comfort you?”
But it doesn’t say that, it says “rescue.” It reads like God is saying, “Look, you need to go do what I am asking you to do and it won’t be easy. I’m not calling you to safety and comfort, I’m asking you to go into a situation that’s going to be dangerous and difficult. Where I am calling you will require rescue, but I will provide it. That’s what I am going to give you, rescue. But in order to give you the gift of rescue, I need you to go somewhere that requires it and I’m going to be upfront, that won’t be fun all the time. Because if it was, rescue wouldn’t be necessary and that’s the gift I want to give you. So ….”
I don’t know where you are or what God’s doing in your life right now but I do know this, if you want to receive the gift of rescue, which I think is one of God’s favorite gifts to give us, you have to go somewhere and do something that requires it.
Does that mean we won’t know peace and comfort during the adventures God calls us on? Does that mean danger and hardship are the only indications we’re in God’s will for our lives? Does that mean the things God calls us to will be miserable? Not at all, I think God calls us to the things he uniquely and joyfully prepared us to do and there is deep, true, lasting peace amidst that.
But I do think that the Bible makes a horrible self help book and it never promises that upon following all it’s tenet’s we won’t have trouble. If anything, we’re promised in this world that we will have trouble, but God has overcome it.
And that is the best kind of rescue.