That fear that even though we have may have smiles on our faces in church, and we may say, “God bless you!” when someone sneezes, and sign off all of our emails with “Blessings!”, deep inside, we wonder if God really does want to bless us.
What if blessings are for everyone else, and for us–God’s just chosen to use us to go through suffering? That somehow He is hurting us deliberately?
I’ve walked through that. When you pour your heart and soul into a project, and give it years of your life, and you just don’t see any fruit. And someone else comes up alongside you and tries something similar, and they take off right away! And you think: Did I even hear God right? Does God even want me to succeed?
Or when all of your friends around you are getting married, and you’re still single, and you know you’re supposed to say, “God, you’re enough, and I’m so excited to learn what you have for me during this season of your life.” But you’re not excited. You’re sad. And you’re lonely. And you’re scared.
Or when your marriage starts to go sour, and you can’t figure out why God isn’t blessing you when you did everything right. You believed in Him. You went to church. You sang hymns at your wedding. And now your husband is distant, and you’re afraid to check his phone because of what you might find.
Does God hear? Does God care?
I think most of us go through this far more than we care to admit. And here’s a problem: We don’t talk about it enough. I’ve been in so many churches where the sermons never get to the meaty issues we’re dealing with. They talk about Bible stories but never apply it to anything modern we might be walking through. They stress salvation–which is great–but leave out anything beyond that. If every message ends up being a salvation message, what do we do if we’re already saved, but we’re lonely, scared, and defeated?
To tell you the truth, I battle with discouragement a lot, and it’s tiring to always hear that God loves you. I know that–but my deeper heart cry is, “but does God want good for me here?” I’m willing to serve even if He doesn’t–He’s God, and that’s His prerogative–but sometimes I just want to know.
I read a beautiful ebook devotional recently, called Trust Without Borders, that dealt with this reality we all fight with periodically. Here’s just an excerpt from an early entry:
William reasoned, “I think I’m one of those that have to be slaughtered for someone else to be saved. You know, like in the book of Job, all his children were killed for Job to see and know God better. God’s going to do what God wants to do and I’m one not intended for His blessing.”
He stops for a bit, then continues. “I’m okay with it if that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
My heart is shattered and I can’t believe what I’m hearing. “I’m not one of the elect,” he concludes.
Steve chimes in. “I feel the same way. What if I’m an Esau? You know the part that says, ‘Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated’?”
We sit there sort of stunned. Jackson, my husband, turns to me because he knows me. He asks, “Do you want to share anything?”
Yes, I do want to say something. It’s burning within me. It’s so close to my heart, my breathing shallows and my pulse pounds and oh, I get this.
“There’s a reason he asked if I want to say something,” I begin, trying to catch my breath. “It’s because he knows I’ve struggled with the same things.”
Do you ever wonder that? If you’re someone who has to be slaughtered so someone else can be blessed?
I’ve thought that about my son who passed away. God has used Christopher’s story so much, and it’s a key part even of my Girl Talk presentation I give about sex and marriage–but there’s a pain every time I tell his story. It’s not just because I miss him; it’s because I wonder: am I using his memory? Did God just bring Christopher to touch others? Did his life matter? And it’s tough. It’s really tough.
And too often we run away from those questions, because we’re afraid that if we actually start asking them, we won’t like what we find. And this whole tower of faith that we’ve built will come crashing down.
So we ignore it, push it down, paste those smiles on–until something happens and we break in two.
You can’t sustain a faith that can’t sustain questions.
God is big enough to handle your questions. He’s big enough to even handle your anger! I think He’d rather hear your anger than have you stuff it down, offering prayers that aren’t heartfelt. God wants authenticity, even if authenticity is messy.
And so today I invite you to take a journey with Arabah Joy called Trust Without Borders. I’ve been a Christian a long time, and I’ve taught many of the concepts she discusses in her devotional, but nonetheless, God still brought me to tears several times reading it.
Here’s just one more excerpt:
I had downloaded content from the internet, blessed gift, my cord of connection to the outside world. Derwin Gray was sharing his testimony, but it was God who had a message for me. The words that came from Derwin’s mouth pierced such that they lodged in my memory. Any momma realizes how significant that is for the mommy brain who’d just put the cheese in her purse instead of in the fridge. And Derwin Gray, on that stifling hot night a world away, said, “A false god is never satisfied.”
Six simple words had never rocked my world before like these words did. Piercing, shaking me up, turning me inside-out to expose what I already suspected: the god I worshiped, the one I thought was God Almighty, may not be the One True God. Just like the disciples walked with Jesus but didn’t know Him. Just how God’s people in Isaiah didn’t know their Redeemer. Maybe, just maybe, I didn’t really know God either.
Can we be Christ followers but not God knowers?
Like Philip, I knew what every other Christ follower knows about God. I could quote verse after verse and understood Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of God. But in the gut, the soul, despite all my knowledge, I didn’t understand the heart of God. I didn’t trust His intentions. When the winds blew (and they did) and the earth shook (and it did), I wasn’t so sure God would come through for me.
I think a lot of us are the walking wounded. We want to love God, but we don’t really know Him.
We can’t trust–or our trust only goes so far. We trust that God will do what’s good for God. We don’t trust that He’ll do what’s good for us.
If you’re there today, I hear you. I have been there too. I’ve been there at 2:30 a.m. in a hospital waiting room when they brought the body of my son out to me. I’ve been there on a sunny May day when my one true love left me before my wedding. I’ve been there in the middle of the night when two newlyweds just could not figure out how to get past the hurt feelings. I’ve been there when one of your children starts questioning some of the things you did a a parent.
And it hurts. And it’s hard.
And that’s okay–because it’s also real. And we should never run away from what is real. Give it to God instead, even if it’s scary.
If you’re floundering, please read this devotional, and pray over it. It’s filled with stories that bring the message home, and it’s an easy read. But it’s a deep read. And it will change your life.