Dressed in a black robe sitting high and mighty behind the desk of justice, God looks down on you with a sneer, twisting the gavel in his hand. He can hardly wait, it seems in your mind, for the hammer to fall, the sentence to be announced, and the jail door of eternity’s judgment to slam behind you. Maybe you have thought of God like this: A law-enforcing, merciless adjudicator. Or maybe is he an apathetic, absent in mind and presence, old man. He teeters around heaven on his walker, clueless to the suffering and confusion of his world. His sight has gotten bad, his hearing even worse. And when reading the Bible it seems that when he was younger, and still had his faculties, he was a bit more able. But now he’s playing shuffleboard and bingo. Sure, he’s out there, but we are pretty much on our own. And you’ve thought of God as a dominating father figure: A broad-shouldered, authoritarian who runs his household with an iron fist. He’s busy with his heavenly work until you do something wrong, and then. “Just wait until your father gets home,” becomes a chilling word of condemnation from many a pen and pulpit.
We are not unlike the salesman who had a flat tire on a lonely country road late one night. It was dark, cold, and raining. The salesman rummaged through his trunk and removed the spare tire, only to discover he had no lug wrench. He saw the porch light of a farmhouse across a field. So with no other options, he started out on foot, through the mud for help. “Surely,” the salesman thought, “this farmer will have a lug wrench or at least a telephone.” But it was dark, cold, and raining; and walking through a spooky cornfield in the middle of it all began to affect the salesman’s thinking. He started talking to himself: “What if the farmer refuses to come to the door?” No, he’ll come to the door. “What if he comes to the door afraid, with a shotgun, and shoots me?” No, he wouldn’t do that. “What if he comes to the door angry at being bothered this time of night?” Yes, that’s what will happen. He’ll probably say: “What is the big idea getting me out of bed like this?”
This thought stuck in the salesman’s mind. The longer he walked through the field, the angrier and more distrustful he became. “Why, that old farmer is a selfish old clod. How dare he get mad at me, just for asking for help? Who does he think he is, refusing to assist me? How could he leave me out here in the cold and the rain with no place to go?” He trudged on in the dark imagining what was about to happen, getting angrier by the step. He got to the door and began banging on it, frustrated and drenched. The farmer came to the door and called out, “Who is there?” The salesman answered: “You know good and well who this is! It’s me! You can keep that stinking lug wrench of yours! I wouldn’t use it if it was the last one in the county!” And back to his car he trudged in the rain.
Atheism is not a problem for most of us. We believe in the existence of God. We accept the fact that he is out there, somewhere. But we do not believe God really loves and wants to help us. We are not atheists, but we are skeptics. This makes us distrustful of God. But have we ever thought that God is actually on our side, that God really wants to help us, fight for us, and love us? What if we give God a chance to be our friend and “ever present help in time of trouble”? Yes, God is good, even when life is not. He really wants to help us – if we will let him – and love us; especially when it is dark, cold, and raining outside.