God's Dolls


My daughter, not surprisingly, appears to have the same philosophical bent of her scatter-brained mother. On her first day of second grade after being homeschooled for nearly two years, when her teacher asked if anyone had any questions, she raised her hand and asked,

“Why are we here? I mean, why are we made the way we are—why do we have hands, why do we have feet? Why do I have to go to school? Why do we sit in seats? I mean, WHY?”

He’ll never make that mistake again.

As long as I can remember, she’s been this way, and whether it’s nature or nurture or some complicated interplay between the two, I don’t know. But just like me, she prone to distraction and going “off with the faeries.” A couple years ago, while she was swinging, gazing up into the sky, her baby-fine hair blowing in the wind, legs pumping against the air, she abruptly exclaimed: “I know-- maybe… maybe the world is like a great big dollhouse. And people are God’s dolls.  Maybe we’re just God’s dolls!” Or maybe, like her mama, she needs to learn how to have a little fun now and again without over-analyzing everything.

But what if she’s right—are we just God’s dolls?

Over the last few years, many of us have gained a renewed vision of God’s sovereignty and His overwhelming majesty. We’ve

been reminded that all of creation is from Him and through Him and unto Him--that all of history truly is His Story. Our souls have swelled, our praises have deepened, and our provincialism and self-centeredness has gotten a well-deserved kick in the pants.

And it’s wonderful. That is, until life gets difficult, until suffering comes. And then suddenly we have to wrestle with a God who would allow our pain for His own glory.

But we know enough to be consistent and our theological construct has taught us that our good comes from pursuing His glory; so even in life’s soul-wrenching moments like the death of a marriage or losing a child we never even had the chance to hold, we say to each other, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” We sing "I long for nothing else as long as You are glorified” and we bless the name of the Lord even as He gives and takes away.

But I’ll be honest, I find those kinds of things very hard to say and even harder to believe without sounding somewhat insincere and inhuman.

The tension comes, I think, not from our talking about God’s glory but from our talking about it about in isolation, apart from everything else that He has revealed about Himself. In this one-dimensional approach, if we’re not careful, we can quickly make Him out to be some kind of cosmic bully that we have no choice but to submit to. He’ll be just like all other pagan gods who use people to make themselves look better. And we’ll end up dehumanized in the process because in order to embrace this kind of god—who would glorify himself at his creature’s expense—we’ll have to cauterize our own hearts against suffering and ultimately become callous to the pain of others. It will simply be “God’s will” for their lives.

But this is not our God.

He is not one-dimensional, and neither are we. We are not His pawns; we are not stock characters in His drama; we are not His dolls. The deeper magic is this: While our good is found in seeking His glory, it is His glory to bring about our ultimate good. This is what makes Him distinct, this is what sets Him apart—He chooses to glorify Himself by loving His children.

This does not mean that He will always shield us from pain or that we won’t endure the trials of this life. But it does mean that in them, He has an overarching purpose and that in them, He Himself will walk beside us. We may wrestle with Him at Peniel, but He won’t walk away until He blesses us.

And ultimately this is why we trust Him—not only because He has the power to work all things out for His own glory—but because it is His glory to work them out for our good. So when the trials come, yes, we should sing “as long as you are glorified,"  but only because we know that what glorifies Him most is loving us in ways that we can’t even begin to imagine.