“Unless You abide with me, all things that seem to bring peace and happiness are as nothing, for they cannot bestow true happiness. You alone are the End of all good things, the fullness of life, the depth of wisdom; and the greatest comfort of Your servants is to trust in You above all else.”
― Thomas à Kempis
Scripture: Genesis 9.8-9
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you.”
Reflection: Bargaining with God
The Park Forum
“Superstitious people do not believe in God,” reflects André Aciman in The Good Book. “They believe in something far more powerful but also far more mischievous and insidious.” And so many go through life haggling for a better deal: more comfort and provision in exchange for dedication—or the healing of another in exchange for personal misfortune. Aciman continues:
The human mind believes—but always provisionally—that in the course of a lifetime it can negotiate a couple of good deals with Providence. There may be a price to pay and there are no freebies, since Providence always exacts something in return, which is why we offer sacrifices and make sacrifices. I will give this up if you give me that. I will forfeit going after that, if in return I can continue to hold on to this.
But because the logic of divine Providence is not only ironic but frequently counterintuitive, we also know that it may be unreliable enough to bring about something other than what was asked for. You didn’t ask well. Or You asked too much. Or You asked too soon. Or You didn’t think through your request. You turn to me only when you need me. Be happy you got what you got. Now off with you before I change my mind and take back the little I doled out and give it to someone else, preferably your rival.
Aciman denies there is truly a divine being “out there,” noting, “We contend and tussle with him as we tussle and contend with ourselves.” Our own brokenness, projected onto God’s character. But this is not the God we meet in the Scriptures.
There is no better deal to negotiate because we have already been promised everything. There is no other sacrifice to make because the greatest sacrifice has already been made. Divine grace sits before us—any attempt to bargain for it is an attempt to assert ourselves over God.
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Grant that all who are baptized into his name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
— From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phylis Tickle
Full prayer available online and in print.
Genesis 9 (Listen – 3:50)
Matthew 9 (Listen – 4:56)