It has become a beloved classic. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, although written by C.S. Lewis as a children’s story, has powerfully communicated the Gospel message to many adults as well. Aslan, a lion and a Christ figure in the story, has a way of getting behind some of our unhelpful stereotypical images of Jesus and God. In one very memorable scene, the four Pevensie children are questioning Mr. and Mrs. Beaver about this lion they have just heard about and are having a difficult time understanding his appeal. “’Then he isn’t safe?’ said Lucy. ‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver; ‘don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? Of course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.’”
Lucy’s concern about this powerful being that she and her siblings are just learning about is similar to that of many Jesus followers. Am I safe in God’s hands? Do I dare allow myself to fully trust Him with my entire life? Will I in the end get hurt or regret making myself vulnerable to Him? These are fair and very natural questions. But ultimately, I don’t think they allow us to explore God to the fullest or open the door to know Him in the way He desires to be known.
Expectations and Disappointment
Most people are searching for ways to better control their lives. The pursuit of wealth, knowledge, and power are the classic means humans have always used to minimize the pain and unpredictability of living in this broken world. We search for pathways that guarantee safety, provision, health, success, and satisfying relationships. Uncertainty of desired outcomes is unnerving, stirs anxiety, and leads us to do almost anything to maintain a sense of control.
And for many Jesus followers, this is what drew us to God: the certainty of having every prayer answered, every need met, and even every desire fulfilled. After all, if God loves me, this is what He’ll do for me—make my life feel secure, fulfilled, and happy. For some, this is what their faith is built on. All the things that make life good is expected as part of our salvation. We believe that we have found the secret to the good life: all that one needs and wants for happiness is guaranteed from our loving and doting God!
Sooner or later, however, we come face to face with a dreadfully harsh reality. Bad things still happen to us and those we love, even as we follow Jesus. The natural response then is doubt, a crisis of faith, which can morph into bitterness, skepticism and a deconstruction of all that we thought was true about God, which inevitably slides us into a place of no faith at all. The conclusion typically is that God is either not powerful enough to do what we believed He promised, or He’s not really that good or loving, and perhaps doesn’t even exist.
The Good Life?
I have come to the conclusion over the years that my definition of “good” has been two-dimensional, self-centered, and just plain wimpy. It has usually been based on my getting specific and immediate outcomes that I expected or demanded. And when the expectations were at some point not met, I was left with the devastating feeling that goodness had abandoned me (and by default, God vanished as well).
It took me a long time to realize that I was really seeking control and certainty rather than the God who is revealed in the Bible. I wanted a way to manage the distribution of everything I consider good in this life. And when goodness (by my definition) didn’t show up at the time, place, or in the shape I had in mind, I questioned whether there really was an ultimate source of goodness. I confused God’s goodness with something that I could always predict, shape, and manipulate when needed. And when that failed, I was tempted to stop trusting Him. Another way of putting it is that I have viewed the goodness of God as something that is there to serve me rather than something I am called to serve.
I have had to make a subtle yet significant shift in my view of God and what is most important to Him. Whereas I am so interested in the product of what I want Him to do or give me, He is more interested in the process of what He wants to shape inside me. And while I demand to see the physical manifestation of His power in providing a good life for me, He is prioritizing the establishment of His Kingdom and rulership within me so it can then expand into the rest of the world.
Certainty or Confidence?
God wants to give something bigger and more transforming than the certainty of having every prayer answered the way we expect. We’re told that Aslan is not “a tame lion.” In a similar way, God will not be manipulated, “put into a box,” or submit to our demands. He is, however, offering an intimate connection with Himself. It’s not something we can control. We have to submit to Him and how He chooses to show us His goodness. But, of course, it starts with believing He is good regardless how events and relationships turn out in the short-term.
So, rather than the certainty of outcomes the way we think they ought to be, I believe He’s offering us confidence in the goodness of His character and the worthiness of trusting in Him. When the three young Hebrew men were given the choice of worshiping a golden image (and thus living a “good life”) or being burned alive, they gave an interesting response.
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if He doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18, NLT).
What amazing confidence in the One who is eternally good!
He is able to keep us safe, healthy, provisioned, and overall happy. But even if He doesn’t, He’s still the only One worthy of our trust and the ultimate source of what is good. And that is what I choose to base my confidence in. It’s because of Who He is, what He’s already done for us through Jesus, and what He has promised for our eternal future. He’s not necessarily safe (that is, subject to our manipulation and demand for guarantees), but He is good. He is the King. And He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us no matter the circumstances.
That promise is very good and something my faith can hold onto through it all.
(Edited and reposted from March 1, 2021)