God as comforter.* The Lord as the giver of inner peace. Gentle Jesus, who never ruffles feathers. These sorts of things come naturally to us. It may be counter-intuitive to think of God as one who disturbs. But to really begin to consider God revealed in Christ is to become not more serene but more unsettled.
Consider how most responded to Jesus in the Gospels. Words so frequently used are amazed, astonished, marvelled. He causes hearts to burn. These are not reactions to a milquetoast guru. They are the reactions of the disturbed and unsettled; those whose calm pond of life has just had a big rock dropped in.
This is because God revealed in Christ is not something to be coolly considered. We don’t analyze him with detachment. When we’re coming close to who he really is, his claims start to bear down on us. It is not as much that we can know God but that this knowledge knows us.
…God is not a fit object for man’s detached scrutiny. You cannot fix God at the end of a telescope or microscope and say ‘How interesting!’ God is not interesting. He is deeply upsetting. The same is true of Jesus Christ. (John Stott, Basic Christianity)
We has thought intellectually to examine him; we find he is spiritually examining us… We study Aristotle and are intellectually edified thereby; we study Jesus and are, in the profoundest way, spiritually disturbed. (Patrick Carnegie Simpson, The Fact of Christ)
Is it so strange to think of God as the Great Disturber? Consider the reactions of the four children in C S Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe when they first hear of Aslan. They are all deeply unsettled. Lucy, Susan, and Peter are unsettled and intrigued. Edmund (who has something to hide) is unsettled and sickened. Reading this book to my own children last night – this very passage – I saw like reactions upon their faces. Hearing of Aslan alongside the characters in the story produced in them the same intrigued unsettledness. They weren’t merely interested, they were disturbed.
*there is real comfort from God, to be sure, but it comes on the other side of being unsettled.