Twenty Years of Rescue

I have always believed in God—except I also didn’t.

I grew up in a Christian home, so from the beginning I was taught that God exists. This conviction has only been confirmed as I have received more education and experience. It is clear to me that acknowledging the existence of God makes the most sense of the world, and not just in an abstract “there needs to be a first cause” sort of way. The world is best explained by the existence of a personal, good, creator God who both upholds justice and extends mercy. It is explained by the God of the Bible.

I knew God exists and God is good. But in the Bible, belief is more than intellectual knowledge. It is trust. It is believing God through the very actions of one’s life.

And for the first twenty-three years of my life I did not trust God. I did not believe.

I did not realize that this was the case, however, whether that was through blindness or through refusal to see. But in May of 2004 God brought to my attention that I was envious of the arrogant, that when I looked at the lives of people who rejected God, I wished I could have them. It looked like they had something good that God was denying me, and I was sorely tempted by what looked like the prosperity of the wicked. I was tempted, as Adam and Eve were tempted, to say “How can God know?”

When I fully realized the temptation, I was torn as to whether I would follow God or not. I knew that he existed, but I didn’t want him to. It felt like I was split in two, and I didn’t know which direction to go. When I thought how to understand what I should do, I was paralyzed, and overcoming this paralysis seemed to me a wearisome task.

At this point, God reached out to me. I was in the middle of running away from him, but he pulled me toward himself, as though bringing me into his sanctuary. He asked me to trust him, to believe in him, to take the first step in following him. And I did.

In the intervening years, it has become clearer to me that to choose the life I envied would have made me fall to ruin. It is also clear that when I was wanting to say to God that I would be better off without him, I was brutish and ignorant, and I was acting like a beast towards him. But despite my attempts to reject God, I am continually with him, because he is with me. He is faithful with me to the end, an end where he will receive me to glory. And his faithfulness is everything, since my faith flickers. My flesh still clouds my vision, and my heart is still weak. But my future is secure. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

My conversion took place twenty years ago this week. I could describe everything afterwards as twenty years of following God. However, the further I go, the more I see that my life is God’s story. It has been twenty years of rescue.

I realized that this anniversary was coming up a while ago, and I started writing a grand post with all sorts of clever expressions and great analogies to help the reader understand the workings of God. For various reasons, that post never came together.

Instead, I have ended up with something more appropriate. This is not a philosophical treatise but an account of what God has done. It is structured by and freely draws from the language of the Bible, the book where God communicates to us himself. It is saying that I have made the Lord God my refuge, and in light of what he has done, it is incumbent upon me to tell of all his works. This post is a simple proclamation: God saved me.

Psalm 73

A psalm of Asaph.

Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
violence covers them as a garment.
Their eyes swell out through fatness;
their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their tongue struts through the earth.
Therefore his people turn back to them,
and find no fault in them.
And they say, “How can God know?
Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.
All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
For all the day long I have been stricken
and rebuked every morning.
If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
I would have betrayed the generation of your children.

But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.

Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.
How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
Like a dream when one awakes,
O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.

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  • The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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