Years ago a woman approached me after our weekly church service. Since I was her pastor, she wanted to tell me something she had experienced in order to hear my perspective.
She said that, as a young teenager, she had experienced various forms of abuse, both within her family and at church. One day she made a firm decision about her life, a decision she carefully explained to God.
“God,” she said, “I want you to know that I am going to start drinking and partying and doing all kinds of things that I don’t think you’re going to like.”
She told me that she heard words in her head—tender words that she believed were from God—saying, “All right. I’ll go with you.”
During her years of self-destructive behavior—right up through her time in rehab—she never doubted that God had been with her all the time. She had no illusions about God’s approval or endorsement of her behavior. She believed that she had broken God’s heart, but that he still remained quietly with her.
I had to really think about this one. It was an important question: In our worst circumstances, when we have chosen paths of pain and dehumanization, does God abandon us or wait patiently alongside us, grieving over our self-inflicted choices?
I think that the biblical history of Israel has something to say about this. What do you think?