This week I had a traumatic car non-accident when the wheel of my car flew off while I was driving 70mph on the highway. I spun around a couple of times, but I didn't hit anyone and no one hit me. When my passenger explained what she saw during this non-accident, she said it seemed like the cars around us were just melting away. I know I was mere inches away from a cement wall and almost slammed into it head on, but somehow the car shifted directions at the last minute and I ended up sliding parallel to it instead.
When I began to talk about my incident, I was quick to share with everyone that I'd been miraculously delivered from harm. I shared that God had supernaturally intervened and kept me safe. But even as I made the choice to say those things, I thought about how careful we have to be about what we claim to know about God.
Because even as I was saying that I was miraculously delivered, I wondered why my roommate's dad was not delivered from his fatal car accident a few years ago. I wondered why my younger brother suffered from cancer or my own dad passed away after a pulminary embolism. The minute I make claims about God's supernatural intervention in my life, that same minute I invite the question about why God didn't intervene in another time and another tragic situation.
Formal theologians have several different answers to this question, and each of us who lives with faith in God has to wrestle through those same questions. Some claim the ultimate sovereignty of God and rest in his goodness. Others speak about the already-but not yet aspects of the kingdom of God where sometimes it is breaking through and other times it is held back. Some say that we simply can't know but they are content to rest in the mystery of it all because they trust that God is good.
Whatever your belief about that issue, I think this brings up a really important point, which is that what we say about God has a real affect on how others perceive him and relate to him. If I walked into a funeral home where the guy had died in a car accident and I told my miraculous story of deliverance, I might unintentionally create an emotional barrier in the mourners' hearts to believing and trusting in God. If I claim that I know God and he has this character trait or that one, I might cause people to react emotionally before they ever get to know God at a relational level. What I say about God can profoundly impact another person's life and his ability to relate to God in the future.
So as I was sitting on the highway, waiting for the police car to arrive, I thought and prayed about the story I would tell about the accident. Was it fair to attribute my deliverance to God? Who should I tell this story to? Should I declare that it was a miracle and give thanksgiving to God? Of course. But maybe not in every context. And if I do, and when I do, I think it's important for me to acknowledge that I might be wrong. That my perception of God and my relationship with him is based in part on my experience, and I'm an inherently limited being. Yes, I want to praise God and thank God for his salvation, but I also want to respect where people are at. More than that, I need to be prayerful and sensitive to God's leading about what will be helpful in a situation and what may harm those around me.
What things have others said about God that created an emotionally negative reaction in you? Did that emotional reaction affect your ability to relate to God? What things to you tell or claim about the character of God? Might those things be appropriate to share in some situations and not appropriate in others?