How To Not Be Shaken When God Gets Bigger Than You Thought He Was

Have you ever asked God to increase your faith? A few weeks ago it dawned on my what we are actually asking when we pray this prayer - we are asking the God of the universe to make us more dependent on what we cannot see. If faith is “the substance of things hoped for and the conviction of what we cannot see”[1], this prayer might mean God removing the tangible things you thought you were sure of.

Lets pause for a moment and think on that. When we pray for increased faith, we are praying for more sureness in hope we cannot prove.

I have been going through this process for the past few months. Slowly, my eyes are widening around how the Bible was actually written and I am beginning to question some of the stories and histories that I always took for absolutes. I am beginning to see humanity within the Bible’s stories. I am beginning to see culture seep into the text. I am even beginning to see political agendas. But through this, I also see God getting bigger.

Madeline L’Engle says it better (she always does):

“If my religion is true, it will stand up to all my questions; there is not need to fear. But, if it is not true, if it is man imposing strictures on God, then I want to be honest an open to God, not what man says about God. I want to be open to revelation, to new life, to new birth, to new light.”[2]

So, how do we not be shaken when God gets bigger than we thought he was?

First of all, realize that this is not the first time in history when our interpretations of the bible have progressed as we have widened our view of God.

Back in Galileo’s day, the church believed that the bible very clearly stated that the earth does not move, referencing the Psalms, “the Lord set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved” [3]. The Catholic leaders of the day even took this so literally that they forced Galileo to recant his scientific discoveries that pointed to a more heliocentric view of the universe, rather than a geocentric one. Now, the bible does literally say that the earth cannot be moved, and we know that the earth moves constantly. How do we reconcile this? We know that back when the bible was written down, it was believed that the earth was flat. That paradigm worked its way into scripture.

One hundred and seventy four years later, a similar situation arose when William Wilberforce began advocating for the abolition of slavery. Men in Parliament used the bible as a defense of slavery, citing verses in the New Testament that reference slave ownership. Verses in Ephesians 6, referencing how slaves ought to behave and serve their masters, as well as verses showing how a master should treat his slave, were clearly interpreted in the days of Wilberforce as biblical concession for slave ownership.

How do we reconcile a book, clearly written within the scientific and moral implications of its time, with a perfect, errorless bible?

Stop focusing on the errorless bible and instead focus on a true bible. Not all stories are factual, but most of them communicate truth. Poems are not based in fact most of the time, but they allow us to see beauty. And even when a political agenda is worked into a long passed down oral history, we can begin to see pieces of how communities of the past viewed God. All of these interpretations add to our construct of God, allowing us to see bits and pieces of who he is, enlarging our view.

When we see something that looks, from all respects and appearances, to contradict the bible, allow it to for a moment instead add to God’s glory. Perhaps this is part of having a “living and active”[4] word of God.

Remember that by removing what can be shaken, we are looking more and more to what cannot be shaken - the God of the universe. And as you walk through these moments of increased faith in God, continue to pray the prayer that asks God to widen your eyes and deepen your awe. 

[1] Hebrews 11:1, ASV

[2] Glimpses of Grace, Madeline L’Engle

[3] Psalms 104:5, NIV

[4] Hebrews 4:12, NI