Saturday, May 31, 2008

Chapter 1: Where is God when it hurts?

I believe there is much confusion in the Christian circles over what to do with these pesky negative emotions that are as much a part of our being as the positive emotions. Is it OK to have honest moments where we don't feel peace, joy, or happy feelings? Is it OK to be angry, frustrated, hurt, deeply sad, or confused? Or should we always proclaim "JOY in the midst of trials"??

I am stepping out here, but if you stick with me I hope I can show you a path of freedom in this area. A friend of mine shared of a past pastor's wife that ended up institutionalized for enduring years of very difficult trials, all along saying the right things that "God is on Control" and she was at peace while on the inside, suffering in silence.

Let's take a brief pause here to look at David's life. He was devasted as his father-figure Saul pursued him to kill him. He had lost almost every single relationship that mattered to him and was fleeing for his life. We catch up with him in Psalm 142 and Psalm 77 as he hides in a cave and here is what he is crying out:
"I cry out to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out my
complaint before him, before him I tell my trouble....Look to my right and see -
no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge, no one cares for my life....Listen
to my cry for I am in desperate need....Will the Lord reject forever? Will he
never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has God
forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?"
Raw honesty. Even a little complaining in there. Major questioning for sure. He poured it out. And he does it many times over throughout the book of Psalms. The first step towards peace, joy, and hope begins with honest out cries to God. Get it out!! Get a journal and write honest cries to God. This is not about complaining to your friends, it's about crying out to God.

I did this when the sad reality that feeling horrible, almost every day, was not going to go away any time soon. When my husband was diagnosed with a disease that was debilitating and never going to go away, I cried out. When I suffered for almost 2 years with constant fevers, headaches, diabetes, fibromyalgea, trembling, exhaustion, anxiety, I cried out. When my son was diagnosed with Acid Reflux at 3, I cried out. When my daughter, had ear infection after ear infection, I cried out. It is very difficult to lead our busy lives, raise children, work, and serve while trapped in a body that hurts, is tired, and is sick.

Stopping there leaves you bitter.

Where bitter melts away, and hope begins to take root is when we look up. Broken, even lifeless, David always wrote, "I don't feel your peace or joy yet but 'in the morning I lay my request before you and wait in EXPECTATION!" (Psalm 5:3). "Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning"(psalm 30:5). After questioning if God had all but forgotten him, he writes, "Then I thought...I will remember the deeds of the Lord...your miracles. I will meditate on all your works...Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God?" (Psalm 77)

I like this David guy. He thinks out loud like I do which allows the rest of us the benefit of seeing his thought processes throughout the peaks and valleys of his life.

So he poured out then he waited. And while he waited he Praised God with this basic truth in mind at all times: God is Good, all the time. This is where faith is defined: faith in who He is, even when we can't feel it yet. It's in this process that we are refined closer into His image, and that Peace, Joy, and maybe even a little understanding takes root in our hearts.

A mere 3 Psalms after crying out in the caves in Psalm 142, from Psalm 145 to the end of the book, David is singing, dancing, and loudly proclaiming, "Praise the Lord, Oh my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life...The Lord sets prisoners free...Great is our Lord and mighty in power, his understanidng has no limit...His greatness no one can fathom..."

David knew who His God was and knew that truths about God's character were consistent. He knew that one day he would be able to honestly say that God had faithfully filled him with a peace that knows no bounds, and a joy that knows no end. He praised God for who He was and lived, in the valley, in the cave, in despair, with HOPE and hope, fueled by the Uncreated One, has the power to get all of us through anything; not bitter, but better.

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." 1 Peter 5:10

If you are new to these ideas, here is a prayer that could guide you through your valleys, adapted from Psalm 103 and written by Late Tuesday.

My heart is empty it is broken. My mind is restless, it is torn. And all the
thoughts inside of me run rampant. And the doubts are all the words I can
afford. Amidst the caverns of my intellect, I am screaming for reprieve. For the
rebellion that keeps me from surrender, from a future that You hold, I can't
believe...Amidst the pain of my diseases, will I believe that you are Good? And
to those who have known such oppression, is Your Love enough to melt away my

Oh soul, oh my Soul! Praise the Lord, Oh my soul. Oh heart that is within me,
Praise!! Praise the power of His Name. Praise the Lord, oh my Soul. Oh heart
that is within me, Praise!! Praise His wisdom and His grace. When I know nothing
more, tell my soul to praise the Lord.

They cried out first and then they ordered their souls to Praise the Lord!!

1 comment:

Rob at Kintropy said...

Thanks for the additional perspective (and I found you through Diary of 1, BTW).

Coming from my Jewish experience, sometimes I just take a deep breath and look around. Seeing sunlight break through the trees (particularly here in Oregon) or something equally stunning can rebalance me quickly.