Just Be Held

Continued from here.

Once you replace asking God why with asking whether you will trust Him with even this, your perspective shifts. Casting Crowns’ song Just Be Held captures this beautifully:

 

Soak in the beauty of the lyrics. Let this song become a how-to manual for how to survive long-term suffering:

If your eyes are on the storm, you’ll wonder if I love you still. But if your eyes are on the cross, you’ll know I always have, and I always will.”

Your feelings will follow wherever you fix your gaze. If you fix your gaze on the storm, you’ll experience more anger, fear, anxiety, and despair. However, if you fix your gaze on the cross, you’ll experience God’s tenderness as He carries you through the storm. You’ll realize that you are not alone in the storm … that your Father is walking through the storm with you.

Lift your hands. Lift your eyes. In the storm is where you’ll find Me. And where you are, I’ll hold your heart. I’ll hold your heart. Come to Me. Find your rest in the arms of the God who won’t let go.”

Your God won’t let go, not even for a moment. The more powerful the storm is, the closer He’s holding you. The Bible says that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and near to those crushed in spirit. Let the words of these more modern translations of Ps. 31:18 wash over you:

If your heart is broken, you’ll find GOD right there;
if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.” (The Message)

“The LORD is there to rescue all
who are discouraged
and have given up hope.” (Contemporary English Version)

“The LORD is near to those who are discouraged;
he saves those who have lost all hope.” (Good News Translation)

“The Lord is close to all whose hearts are crushed by pain,
and he is always ready to restore the repentant one.” (The Passion Translation)

“When someone is hurting or brokenhearted, the Eternal moves in close
and revives him in his pain.” (The Voice)

Your God is not missing in action during your ongoing season of gut-wrenching pain. He’s right there with you, holding you close and already working this situation – even THIS – for good.

[Graphic: YouTube video of Casting Crowns’ Just Be Held]

 

Letting Go of Asking Why

Continued from here.

Since I made the life decision to stop asking God why, my suffering has become simpler – not easier, but simpler. When I ask God to give me answers that I am incapable of understanding, I grow confused. In that confusion, I question whether God really loves me. This places me in a tug-of-war with the Source of my comfort. I pull Him closer as I seek comfort and healing but, at the same time, I push Him away in my frustration and anger at not understanding why. Push and pull. Push and pull.

Since I stopped asking God why, I have removed the barrier that drives me to push Him away, enabling me to hold Him close as I pour out my soul to Him. The suffering is not lessened, but it’s also not compounded by conflicting feelings toward the only One with the power to strengthen me as I walk through places I don’t want to go.

My go-to song has become Twila Paris’, Do I Trust You?:

The question is not whether I understand why God is allowing me to suffer. There’s no answer in that moment that’s going to make me welcome the pain. Instead, my question is whether I trust Him. Will I trust Him when I’m wrongfully terminated from my job? Will I trust Him when I’ve prayed for my loved one 1,000 times but he’s still suffering? Will I trust Him when I’ve done everything I know to do, but I see nothing changing in my circumstances? Will I trust Him when absolutely nothing about my situation makes sense?

I have resolved that my answer is yes, not because I feel like trusting God but because I choose to trust Him. I sing along with Twila Paris at the top of my lungs until I push through my resistance and sense God’s comfort infusing me with peace that surpasses all understanding:

I will trust You, Lord, when I don’t know why.
I will trust You, Lord, til the day I day.
I will trust You, Lord, when I’m blind with pain.
You were God before, and You’ll never change.
I will trust You.
I will trust You.
I will trust You, Lord.”

To be continued…

[Graphic: YouTube video of Twila Paris’ Do I Trust You?.]

 

What’s Wrong with Asking God Why?

Continued from here.

What’s wrong with asking God why? It focuses your thoughts on the problem rather than on the Solution. It also presumes that you have the capacity to understand God, which none of us can do. This is why God’s reaction to Job’s demand to know why was to turn the tables on Job, challenging Him to answer God’s questions, as if a human could ever understand the ways of God. There’s no answer that, in our humanity, will make us say, “Sure, God. I welcome this pain and suffering. That’s the way I want my life to go.”

And yet, we can experience peace as we transition from asking God why to inviting Him in and trusting that He’s going to take care of us. Interestingly, I have learned this lesson best through two Christian comedians. Check out this poignant testimony from Christian comedian Anthony Griffith, who lost his three-year-old daughter to cancer:

I don’t recall the name of the second Christian comedian, so I don’t know who to credit. (If you know the name, please post it in the comments.) Like Anthony Griffith, his young daughter also had cancer. He shared that the doctors drilled a hole in her chest so that medication could be administered quickly. When his daughter awoke with a high fever in the middle of the night, he drove her to the hospital, where she knew that needles and more pain awaited her. She sobbed, begging her father to explain why she must go through the pain.

The father knew in that moment that there was no way an adult could explain to a young child why she had to endure the pain necessary to save her life. All he could do was ask her to trust him. And then he understood – Just as a young child does not have the capacity to understand why she must endure the pain of a hospital to save her life from cancer, no human has the capacity to understand why we must endure the sufferings that God allows into our lives. Like the young child, we find our comfort when we stop asking why and, instead, trust that our Father loves us.

To be continued…

[Graphic: YouTube video of Anthony Griffith’s testimony.]

 

God Doesn’t Want to be Explained Away

Continued from here.

I am currently reading Lysa TerKeurst’s excellent book, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered. While I have enjoyed everything I have read by TerKeurst, this book is in a league of its own because it’s so real, raw, and authentic. She wrote the book while she and her husband were separated due to his ongoing affair, and she did not know at the time that God would restore, heal, and reconcile them in the future. (They renewed their vows in December.)

Of course, TerKeurst questioned why God allowed her husband to be seduced by another woman and why their many counseling sessions had not seemingly born fruit. For someone who built her ministry on being a Proverbs 31 wife, this kind of attack on her marriage had to be particularly devasting. One of the things she learned through this extremely painful season, which she writes about in her book, is this:

God does not want to be explained away. He wants to be invited in. ~ Lysa TerKeurst

When we place God on the witness stand and cross-examine Him, we put him in an adversarial position that He never intended. He doesn’t want the barrier of a witness stand erected between you and Him. Instead, He wants you to invite Him in to hold and carry you as you suffer and struggle. He wants to be your safe place to curl up and cry when nothing in your life is making sense. And He wants you to trust that He is working this – even THIS – for good. He wants you to trust His character and His heart when you cannot trust what you see.

I know this is tough to do. I’ve lived it. I wanted God to provide me with answers for why he let a helpless little girl be sold to the highest bidder as her body was exploited by one evil person after another. I wanted Him to explain why He didn’t step in and rescue me from the hands of those evil people for three more years after I received Jesus as my Savior at age 8. Why, God? Why? My healing didn’t come from receiving some magical explanation that enabled me to see how much sense my suffering made in the grand scheme of things. It came when I invited God in to heal my shattered heart by taking the dust of my brokenness and crafting it into something new.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered. Courtesy Amazon.]

Why, God? Why?

whyA couple of people in my life, whom I love dearly, have been enduring long seasons of perseverance. That’s a Christian-sanitized way of saying they have been suffering from such gut-wrenching, I-don’t-know-if-I-can-survive-this agony for so long that they both have questioned their ability to endure even one more day of misery. I’ve been there. I know from personal experience that they only way out of the pain is through it, holding onto God with both hands and trusting that He will bring good out of situations that appear to be anything but good.

When we are neck-deep in the muck and mire of gut-wrenching pain, it’s human to ask God why. “Why is God allowing this to happen in my life? Why isn’t He intervening? Does He not love me? Am I being punished for something I did in the past? Why would a good God allow such evil to prevail in my life?” As someone who battled post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, an eating disorder, self-injury, and a whole host of other aftereffects from severe childhood trauma, I understand the drive to call God on the carpet like Job did and demand to know why He allowed such suffering into my life. It’s human to question why when we hurt, particularly when our pain persists long past our breaking point.

I have found that asking God why makes the suffering worse, and so I have made a life decision never to ask Him why. I know that sounds crazy, but since I gave up asking God why, I find my life challenges to be easier to navigate. This week, I’ll do my best to explain this.

As for how I first came up with the idea to stop asking God why … I got this from Joyce Meyer’s TV show, Enjoying Everyday Life. She shared the story of a preacher who lost his wife to illness. They were either high school or college sweethearts, and he didn’t know how to live without her. He told God two things after she passed away: (1) Help me remember that other people are watching my reaction. I am fully dependent upon You to help me do this right. (2) I will never ask You why.

I was intrigued by the concept of removing my questioning of why from my seasons of suffering. This week, I’ll share how freeing it is to let go of the quest to understand and replace it with trust in a loving God who works out everything, even this, for good.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging her shoulders and asking, “Why?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Applying Critical Thinking to your Faith

goalContinued from here.

As I wrap up this series on tough questions, I encourage you not to be afraid to ask God your own tough questions. I did not receive a quick answer to any of these questions that I asked. Some took years of wrestling before I received an answer. At the end of that period, I found more than an answer – I found a deeper relationship with God!

The Bible tells us that we will find God when we seek Him with all our hearts. As we wrestle with the tough questions, search for answers in His Word, and spend time with God in prayer over them, we are seeking so much more than answers – we are seeking God!

I teach a college-level critical thinking class and encourage my students to apply critical thinking to their faith, regardless of whichever faith they have (or none at all). This surprises many students because there’s a pervasive belief that if we apply critical thinking to a religious faith, we’ll see that the religion is a bunch of bunk. So, we must choose between being rational or having faith.

My experience has been just the opposite! During my 11-year period of rejecting God, I applied critical thinking to every aspect of the Christian faith, which is how I arrived at many of the answers I have shared in this series. My belief then – which continues today – is that a faith (or God) that cannot withstand scrutiny is not worth believing in. If God is who He says He is, then my questioning should consistently result in truth – and it has! My faith is very strong today because of that season of questioning and the answers I received.

Don’t take my word for. Experience this for yourself! What are the hard questions that stand in the way of embracing a close, deep, personal, and intimate relationship with God? Ask HIM! Search the Bible for answers. Pray. Meditate on what you find. Consider the questions from different perspectives, including whether you are even asking the right question! Sometimes our questions are, by nature, self-focused, so they need to be redefined to broaden our perspective before those questions can be answered.

If you will do this, then as you seek your answers, you will be seeking God. And God has promised that when you seek Him, you will find Him if you seek Him with your whole heart. So, don’t do this halfway. If you really want the answers, then put forth the effort to seek them, and don’t rest until you have them. At the end of journey, you’ll find more than your answers – you’ll find God!

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace kicking a soccer ball into the net: “Goal!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Tough Questions Series

whyMany people in my life are struggling with serious issues. One just buried her mother. Another’s husband has been diagnosed with cancer. Another is struggling with depression, making it difficult for her to get out of bed. Another is estranged from her family. Another is struggling with serious marital issues. And the list goes on…

How do we hold onto our faith when we are facing serious issues in our lives? Where is God when our worlds are falling apart? How can we believe that God is good and loves us when our lives come crashing down around us? These are all questions that I have faced in my life, and I’d like to share the conclusions that I reached after much soul searching.

While I certainly have not personally dealt with every serious human condition, I’ve had more than my share. I was severely abuse as a child, including multiple rapes, over a period of several years and was diagnosed with an “incurable” mental health condition as a direct result. (I placed “incurable” in quote because God healed it, anyhow.) My father died unexpectedly when I was 16 years old. I am infertile and became a parent through adoption. I have been parenting a child with several special needs for over 16 years.

I have many understandable, human reasons not to trust God, but I do. I have many life experiences I could point to as “evidence” that God is not good, but I’ll shout God’s goodness from the rooftops! I could build a case for all the reasons I have to be angry with God, but, instead, I will tell you about God’s faithfulness through all of those painful life experiences.

I – an adult survivor of severe childhood abuse – I will tell you unequivocally that God IS good… that He did not abandon me in my childhood … that He does work all things for good … and that He does heal shattered hearts. I know because He has done this for me. Let my life shine the glory of God’s love, truth, and healing power into yours.

Note that timing is everything. If you are in the middle of the turmoil, you might not be in a place to hear the answers I discovered after much soul-searching. This does not make those answers any less true … only difficult for you to process in this season of life. This season will end. I hope this series will plant the seeds for your healing, even if now is not the time to receive them.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging her shoulders above the word, “Why?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]