Defining God by Circumstances

“You stand and fall by your definitions.” That’s something my friend and mentor Mike Wells used to say a lot. I’ve been working on a book about identity recently, and have realized how identity is really your definition of yourself. And this definition of yourself is often quite errant. We fall a lot because of a misguided definition of ourselves based on messages and hurts from our past mixed with an enemy who is doing all he can to keep us stagnant and stuck in ourselves.

We also define God based on what the enemy tells us. Satan right from the Garden of Eden was trying to tell humans who God was. He figured (and figured right) that if he could weasel his way in and cast doubt on the goodness, love and wisdom of God, people would turn from Him and try to run their own lives. “Did God really say” was his technique—cast doubt, bring questions and in this way begin to define God in a different way than He had actually been to Adam and Eve.

Satan wants us to define God by our hard circumstances and our hurts, seeing Him as the author of all of that. He wants us to define God by the questions that swirl around in our hearts. He wants the truth of God to be drowned in the lies that he throws at us continually, but in a very subtle way that we don’t often recognize.

People are in tough situations and are hurting. Maybe you are, too. The temptation is to take the situation and define God based on what we see there. Chronic illness must mean God is a real jerk to let me continue to suffer every day. Abuse in the past that haunts you must tell a story of a God who doesn’t care and doesn’t protect because this evil was done to you. The thoughts that race through your head say God is a liar. He’s unavailable. He’s waiting for you to fail again so He can punish you.

What if we were to turn this system on its head and start to define the circumstance by God instead of God by the circumstance? Illness, abuse, rejection is all real and painful, but God hurts with us and does not allow His loved ones to go through something unless it draws them closer to Him. So, let’s find Him in the mess. Let’s work to not blame Him for it, for we are allowing Satan to define God for us through the hard circumstances.

We don’t know what the next adventure will look like, and we don’t know how to prepare for it. Can you move into trust in God, even when you want so desperately to judge Him based on the circumstances? Can you allow Him to define Himself rather than allowing the evil one to do that? Can you invite Him into whatever mess you find yourself today, knowing (even if it’s only a small shadow of faith) that He says He is working and loving in it? And can you trust Him for the faith to believe, realizing that you don’t have to generate some feeling in yourself for this, but can simply come to Him for the faith, the strength, the patience—everything you need for this current situation?

One thing is for sure—I don’t want Satan or my bad circumstance to define God for me. That’s like listening to a liar tell you about the character of a person and believing them. Move into the truth of what God says about Himself, even when you can’t explain it. And let Him bring all that you need to the table like He promises to do.

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8


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