The messiness of a relationship with God Love Does: When your lament is a love story

Christ in Gethsemane by Michael D. O'Brien
Christ in Gethsemane by Michael D. O'Brien

It would have been simple for God to just issue an order for us to obey him. For some reason, we humans tend to prefer clearly defined lists, which may in turn explain why we keep settling for ways to interact with God through a set of rules.

If the nature of the relationship with God is purely master-servant or watch-watchmaker or lawgiver and subjects, it appears that most of us prefer them despite these relationships being void of any warmth. They are cut and dry, and more importantly, we know who we are, where we stand, exactly how to behave and, furthermore, and how to forecast consequences.

By commanding us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength”, God does not opt for the simple. What he’s inviting humanity to is a relationship characterized by intimacy. And we all know the problem with love is that it is not as straightforward, black-and-white, and breezy as any would hope for it to be. Love is complicated.

Love doesn’t force, it patiently woos. Love is about freedom and not a programmed responses. Love elevates the status of the loved one, this is why Jesus says, “I no longer call you servants, but friends.”

A key pre-requisite of a relationship characterized by intimacy is a high level of honesty, in fact it is impossible without it.

And so God faces a dilemma: does he want mere obedience, or does he want obedience that comes from a heart that loves back? God takes a gamble on the side of the messy and does what love does, he makes room and creates the space for us to be us.

In the scriptures, when we look at the people we would consider closest to God, you won’t find sterilized stories of mere “yes men” or “yes women”, nor will you find passive, robotic interactions between God and people. What you do find is the full range of what a love relationship brings: incredible passion, an active dynamic of faith, doubt, joy, pain, both parties dealing feelings of betrayal when expectations aren’t met, and a constant negotiating of terms of what it means to be in this love relationship. It is everything but cut-and-dry.

This explains the many passages in the bible that feature people complaining, sulking, whining, lamenting, and even bargaining with God. You also have passages where God complains back. And the interesting part about it is that it seemed God rarely felt offended by the honesty of his people. It seemed like he welcomed it, like he was honored by it. Somehow, the back-and-forth was proof of a living and passionate love.

By wanting love, God accepts the full terms of what a real relationship might look. By wanting love, God made room for you.


What does it make you feel to know that God does not only want your honesty, but is honored by it, and that you can come to him not only with your prayers of praise and gratitude and with your honest complaints as well, including your complaints about him?

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