Have you ever poured out your heart, time, and resources to someone only to have them respond with ambivalence, perhaps even contempt? How long would your kindness last? At what point would you grow frustrated, or perhaps deeply wounded, throw your hands up, and walk away?
A few years ago, our family opened our home to a troubled teen. Initially, we knew very little about him. We soon learned our original perceptions were false. His issues were far more extensive than we anticipated, including deep-seated anger and contempt that caused him to lie and manipulate. Our efforts and sacrificial acts of kindness were deemed manipulative.
Nothing we did or said penetrated his bitter, cynical heart. Instead of responding to our care, he rebelled against us, unfortunately, to his own harm. He chose self-destruction over life and hope.
For centuries, Judah responded to God in the same way. He’d nurtured and reared them, providing for all their needs, but they refused to see His hand. Oh, they enjoyed the blessings, much like the resentful teen had ours, but their hardened hearts remained untouched. They drifted farther from their loving Father.
God pleaded with them to return, to consider their ways and His care, but they refused:
“I reared children and brought them up,” God said, “but they have rebelled against Me. The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand” (Isaiah 1:2-3, NIV).
The NLT puts it this way: “My people don’t recognize my care for them.”
Were they too focused on the gifts God had given them or too entrenched in their sinful ways? Either way, they spurned the One who’d faithfully cared for them and slipped into ever-worsening rebellion. God’s kindness, which is intended to draw mankind to Him, had no effect. Before long, and after repeated warnings, tough love followed.
I may never have turned to idols or perverted justice, but I can easily fail to see God’s hand. I can become so focused on the blessings, so expectant and entitled, that what was meant to draw me closer has the opposite effect and fuels my self-reliance.
I think that can be true of all of us. It’s easy to get so caught up in life, so accustomed to all our blessings, that we fail to see our Daddy’s heart behind them. That we fail to understand or recognize the extent of His care for us, and before long, greed and entitlement seep in, pulling us further and further from God. This breaks our Father’s heart.
God issues the same pleas to us as He did to the Israelites so long ago: Lift up your eyes. Return to Me. Leave your rebellious, self-reliant and apathetic ways and let My faithful care for you nourish, strengthen, and protect your heart.
God’s blessings abound, and His love radiates throughout the world. If we can’t see God’s hand, it’s not because He’s not reaching but because we’re not looking, or perhaps refusing to acknowledge the truth. If we but stop and turn our eyes and heart to our loving Father, we’ll find ourselves deeply rooted in His embrace.
Let’s talk about this! How readily do you see God’s care? How often, in the middle of your day, perhaps even in the middle of the hard, do you stop to contemplate the love and faithfulness of your heavenly Father? When blessings come, do you focus more on the gift or your provider?
How might your relationship with God change if you consistently practiced the latter?
Share your thoughts and examples with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.
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Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION(R), NIV(R) Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. (R) Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Scripture also taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.