Living Between What I Know and What I Can’t Comprehend

It’s easy to imagine when sitting in a safe place surrounded by other believers that if tragedy should visit my home, my faith would remain rock solid and unshakeable.

After all, I stuffed my head and heart with truth, kept a prayer journal, wrote out Scriptures and jotted notes and dates in the margin of my Bible.

I put on the full Armor of God and raised my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Our family didn’t just attend church, we served the Body of Christ inside and outside the four walls of the building.

But when the knock came and the words from the deputy flew at me and pierced my heart, I unraveled.

Not at first, mind you.

Oh, I screamed and couldn’t catch my breath. I fell to my knees and barely made it to the sofa where I had to make phone calls. I was shaking and crying.

Still, a blessed numbness fell over me and my first Facebook posts and my first words to friends and family affirmed my belief that God was still in control and we would somehow make it through. It was reflex to lean in and take hold of the faith that had carried me that far.

I clung to the only life raft I could see in that awful storm.

It really wasn’t until a few weeks later, when my heart and mind began to fully comprehend the neverness of Dom’s return that the questions started.

I soon realized that if my faith was to endure, I had to examine everything I thought I knew about God and how He worked in the world in light of child loss.

Platitudes and hand-me-down interpretations of Scripture were not going to be enough.

So I brought the questions to God Himself in prayer and pleading, in whispers, shouts and writing. I sat silent waiting for His response and I searched the pages of my Bible looking for new insight into old, familiar passages.

I got some answers.

But not all of them.

And I had to decide what to do with that.

My heart is utterly, absolutely convinced that God is a good God, a faithful Father and the trustworthy Savior of my soul. He is all-knowing, all-powerful and ever-present. He knows the end from the beginning and I can trust Him to work all things (even child loss) for good.

So I’ve learned to still my spirit, to quiet my heart’s restless quest for answers and abide in the arms of my Shepherd.

I will live in the mysterious space between what I know and what I can’t comprehend.

I will wait patiently for the answers or until eternity when my pain is redeemed and what is lost restored and the answers won’t matter.

Because they who wait on the Lord will never be put to shame.

Learning To Trust Again: Access The Truth

I have loved Scripture as long as I can remember.  When I was in second grade I got the notion to read the whole Bible straight through-in the King James Version.  I made it to Leviticus before I threw in the towel.

By the time my kids were grown I had read and studied Scripture for decades. 

But three years before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I realized my reading had become rote-I felt like I “knew” all the stories.  So I slowed my study to a crawl-only one chapter a day-and I usually copied the whole chapter plus my notes into a journal.  I had just finished this time through the Bible in January before Dom was killed in April.

And all that truth stored in my mind and heart was what I “read” for months when my eyes were too full of tears to see print on a page.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/10/16/trust-after-loss-access-the-truth/

Learning To Trust Again: Acknowledge Doubt and Ask Questions

Grief forces me to walk Relentlessly Forward  even when I long to go back.

I can’t stop the clock or the sun or the days rolling by.

Those of us who are more than a couple months along in this journey (or any journey that involves tragedy and loss) know that it is ABSOLUTELY POSSIBLE to feel worse than in the first few days.

Read the rest here:https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/10/15/trust-after-loss-acknowledge-doubt-and-ask-questions/

Journaling My Way Home: Doubt Is Not Disbelief

When I was asked several months ago to speak to a group of hospice care workers, I titled the presentation “Lifting the Veil on Grief”.

One of the topics I covered was how experiencing the death of a loved one-especially out-of-order or untimely death- can cause even the staunchest believer to doubt.

And the first thing I said was, “Doubt in the face of overwhelming sorrow and hard circumstances is absolutely normal.  But doubt is NOT disbelief.”

So often friends, family, clergy, social workers and others want to steer hearts away from doubt because they are afraid that entertaining questions or expressing disappointment in God will always lead to someone losing faith.

That is untrue.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/03/02/doubt-is-not-disbelief-journaling-my-way-home/

The Opposite of Faith Isn’t Doubt

The opposite of faith isn’t doubt, it’s certainty.

Anne Lamott

Somewhere in the pursuit of truth and light, the Protestant reformation embraced at least one of the very practices it sought to discard.

I absolutely believe that by the time Martin Luther tacked his theses to the door the church needed reforming.

Men’s traditions and human “wisdom” had adulterated the pure truth and freedom of Christ’s Good News. No longer a source of liberation, it had been transformed by those in power into a form of bondage.

But humans are a stubborn and prideful lot and it wasn’t long before the liberators became slave drivers.

“Sola Scriptura” didn’t allow for any deviation from the accepted interpretation of those Scriptures. And the interpretation often went past the text and included making absolute assertions about how God works in the world.

Men began to once again place God in a box.

My intentions are not always yours,

        and I do not go about things as you do.

    My thoughts and My ways are above and beyond you,

        just as heaven is far from your reach here on earth.

Isaiah 55:8-9 VOICE

So much of the “faith” handed down today through Sunday School lessons and sermons is one that simply doesn’t leave room for mystery or for doubt or, honestly, for many of the actual Bible stories if you read them straight from the Book and not get them second hand from a loose retelling .

Jesus Himself-the exact representation of the Father (Hebrews 1:3)-didn’t greet skeptics with absolute proof. He pointed to the work He was doing, the truth He was telling and the miracles He performed but He left it to the audience to decide if that qualified Him as the Christ.

Yet we treat those who bring questions to the table of grace at best as immature and at worst as apostates or faithless wannabes.

How far we have fallen from Paul’s declaration: “We walk by faith and not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Worse, we often condemn those who want desperately to come trembling to their church to seek other people and spaces outside the community of faith where their questions will be tolerated.

I love how Philip Yancey spoke of this in a recent blog titled, “A Time To Doubt”:

Jesus had the opportunity to subdue doubts for all time. He could have appeared with a choir of angels on Pilate’s porch the Monday after his resurrection and triumphantly declared, “I’m back!” Or, he could have staged a spectacular display before thousands in the Roman Forum. Instead, he limited his appearances to small groups of people who had already demonstrated some faith in him—which tells me something about the kind of uncoerced faith that God values.

In one of those small gatherings, the apostle who would earn the nickname “doubting Thomas” confronted Jesus. I love that scene, for two reasons. First, it shows the gentle way Jesus treated a doubter, when he had a perfect chance to scold him or pile on the guilt. Listen to Jesus’ approach: “What proof do you need, Thomas? Want to touch my wounds? Shall I eat something for you?”

Second, I note the poignant fact that the other disciples, who had already encountered the risen Jesus, included Thomas in their midst. To them, Thomas was a heretic: he defiantly refused to believe in the Resurrection, the cornerstone of Christian faith. Even so, they welcomed him to join them behind closed doors. Had they not, Thomas may never have met the resurrected Jesus.

Perhaps that gives a model for how the church should handle doubters now. Can we provide a safe, welcoming place for those who need more light?

Philip Yancey, “A Time to Doubt”
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I know so, so many people who suffer greatly-often through no fault of their own and sometimes due to the fault and sin of others-who struggle to square their experience with all the declarations they’ve heard about “how God works”.

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I know others who have crossed every “t” and dotted every “i” on the long list of “what good Christians do and God rewards” and are living a life of desperation and sadness because life hasn’t turned out anything like what they thought they were promised.

Is it any wonder they are trying to figure things out?

Doubt is not denial.

If someone is asking questions, they are still seeking.

John Drummond points out that Jesus consistently made a distinction between doubt and unbelief. “Doubt is can’t believe; unbelief is won’t believe. Doubt is honesty; unbelief is obstinacy. Doubt is looking for light; unbelief is content with darkness.” (quoted by Philip Yancey, A Time to Doubt)

Jesus invited honest questions.

He only chastised the religious leaders who thought they knew it all.

Perhaps we could do the same and make space for those who are walking through a desert place to refresh themselves, renew their hope and restore their faith.

Image result for the church more than any other space should be a safe space to ask questions"

**If anyone is honestly searching, they are welcome to use the “contact” option to send me an email and begin a dialogue. ❤**

A Reason Can’t Wipe Away Tears: A Modern Lament

If it’s random or providence neither are a comfort to me

Are You cruel if You planned it or weak if You allowed it to be?

Half of me is still believin’, the other half is angry and confused

Oh, but all of me is desperate and longing to be held by You

Jason Gray, “Remind Me You’re Here”

I have lots and lots of questions.

And I don’t think ignoring them or shoving them in a chest and sitting on the lid is helpful.

But I’m far enough along in this journey to admit that if I let my heart and mind focus on the questions I’ll drown in sorrow and despair.

Because whatever reason I might come up with or answer I might get from God will never feel like it’s enough to wipe away the tears and satisfy my mama heart.

So I’m learning to live with mystery.

None of my pain has ever caught You by surprise

Still it’s hard to trust You when I’m lost in the wondering why

But I’ll trade every question just to lay down and rest in Your heart

And I’ll reach for Your hand, though You led me here into the dark

Jason Gray, “Remind Me You’re Here”

I love this new song by Jason Gray.

“Remind Me You’re Here” is a beautiful and honest lament before the Lord.

And like all good laments, it ends with asserting the truth about our faithful Father, His everlasting love, and the promise that I am never, ever alone.

So I won’t ask You for reasons

‘Cause a reason can’t wipe away tears

No, I don’t need all the answers

Just be here beside me

Father, remind me You’re here

Jason Gray, “Remind Me You’re Here”

My Faithful God

As a little girl, temptation looked like cheating on a spelling test or sneaking a cookie from a tray that was supposed to be for after supper.

As a young adult temptation looked like going places and doing things I knew weren’t wholesome or savory.

As a middle-aged wife and mother of four temptation looks like blaming God and forsaking my faith because one of my children is dead.

But God is faithful.

At every step of my life, when tempted to do what I knew in my heart was wrong, He has provided a way out even when I refused to take it.

Image may contain: possible text that says 'Gord is (에aa He WILL NOT ALLOW THE TEMPTATION TO BE MORE THAN YOU CAN STAND. WHEN YOU ARE TEMPTED, He WILL SHOW YOU A WAY OUT so THAT YOU CAN ENDURE / Crmatnne 10:13'

Little children are often constrained by the thought that their parents might find out and punish them. Teens and young adults might be afraid they will get a ticket or get kicked out of school or end up needing bail. By the time you get as old as I am, you’ve figured out that there are lots of things you can get away with and no one but you will know.

God knows.

And He cares.

When the enemy of my soul whispers, “What good is serving a God who didn’t save your son?” the Holy Spirit answers, “Eternal good, even in temporary pain”.

Image result for light and momentary troubles"

When doubts creep up and flood my mind, truth steps in and pushes them back.

When I feel the pain of loss in every cell of my body, overwhelmed by the weight of it, undone by the thought of years and years to carry it, my Shepherd King reminds me that He bore it all-the sin, the pain, the shame and the awful separation from the Father-so that I could stand.

Am I tempted?

Yes.

Often.

Am I doomed to give into that temptation and turn away from the only Source of strength and hope I have?

No.

Absolutely not.

I can reach out (it’s really just a short distance because He’s never far), grab hold (He’s already holding on to me) and lean in to my Father’s arms as He carries me past the doubts, the fears, the worry and brings me Home.

Scripture Journal Challenge: Closing Argument

I was a debater and raised my kids as debaters.

There’s unique beauty in crafting an argument so it crescendos to an irrefutable conclusion.

For the the master orator, nothing is more satisfying than watching her audience lean in and anticipate the glorious finale.

Paul has been leading us to these verses since he began laying the foundation in chapter one of Romans.

So what should we say about all of this? If God is on our side, then tell me: whom should we fear? 32 If He did not spare His own Son, but handed Him over on our account, then don’t you think that He will graciously give us all things with Him? 33 Can anyone be so bold as to level a charge against God’s chosen? Especially since God’s “not guilty”verdict is already declared. 34 Who has the authority to condemn? Jesus the Anointed who died, but more importantly, conquered death when He was raised to sit at the right hand of God where He pleads on our behalf. 35 So who can separate us? What can come between us and the love of God’s Anointed? Can troubles, hardships, persecution, hunger, poverty, danger, or even death? The answer is, absolutely nothing.

Romans 8: 31-35 VOICE

In today’s vernacular (Melanie’s paraphrase):

“So here’s the deal, guys. What else is there to say? If God has provided for our salvation through His own Son-bought and paid for us-who else can make a claim? And if He was willing to pay that high a price for us, what is He going to withhold from us? No one can overrule God. No one can deny the evidence that the sin debt has been paid. The only thing that could separate us from God’s love is sin and that’s been handled. So, yeah, life can be really hard. We might even have to face death before we come into our full inheritance. But we don’t have to worry. It’s handled. It’s settled. It’s done.”

Paul’s closing argument is simple.

Remember, this is no contest of equals. There is no yin/yang dual universe where darkness has power enough to overcome the light. God has the devil on a chain. Sin mars creation and wreaks havoc but even all that awful is being woven together into a tapestry of beauty and usefulness that one day will display the glory of God and His love for us.

God is for us. REALLY for us.

So who can be against us? (That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.)

No one.

QUESTIONS:

  • What does it mean to you that “God is on your side”?
  • Are you ever afraid? Why or why not?
  • What do you do with that fear?
  • Consider writing these (and any other verses we’ve looked at) in your own words. When we make them personal, they are easier to remember.
  • Do you agree that Paul has made an iron-clad case for the supreme authority of God? Why or why not?
  • What makes it hard for you to believe that nothing separates us from the love of God? Can you bring that to the Throne of Grace and lay it down?

PRAYER:

Father God,

Too often I think the world is like a giant tug-of-war and I can only hope and pray You win. It’s hard to remember that You are still in control when so many things seem out of control.

Help my heart rest on the rock of Your sovereignty and goodness. Open my spiritual eyes to see how You are working all these things-the good, the bad and the heartbreaking-into Your plan of redemption and restoration. Give me strength to believe when my own is fading. Make Your Word my guide. Thwart the schemes of the enemy to tear down my faith and breach my wall of hope.

Thank You for grace, mercy, love and courage.

Amen

On Suffering and Redemption

If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.

~Julian of Norwich

Truth is this life is not easy.

There is joy. 

Absolutely amazing awe-inspiring, breath-taking joy.

But there is also suffering. 

Utterly devastating, heart-breaking suffering.

Mark then, Christian, Jesus does not suffer so as to exclude your suffering. He bears a cross, not that you may escape it, but that you may endure it. Christ exempts you from sin, but not from sorrow. Remember that, and expect to suffer.

~C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Morning

When I ponder the pain of child loss, it helps to remember that Jesus suffered too.

Not just at the end, when He allowed evil men to crucify Him, but throughout His life when friends abandoned Him, people tried to kill Him, religious leaders mocked Him and sought to destroy His reputation and work.

It helps me to know that my wounds and scars, like His, will be transformed from evidence of pain and loss into a testimony of grace and redemption.  

The cross is both the symbol of our salvation and the pattern of our lives. Everything that happened to Christ in some way happens to us. When darkness envelops us and we are deaf to everything except the shriek of our own pain, it helps to know that the Father is tracing in us the image of his Son, that the signature of Jesus is being stamped on our souls. For Jesus, the darkness of night gave way to the light of morning.

~Brennan Manning, The Signature of Jesus

When Thomas doubted, Jesus didn’t perform another miracle or call down angels from Heaven to testify on His behalf.  He said, “Here, touch my wounds.”  

I don’t know what that felt like for Thomas, but it was the only proof he needed to believe.

And while Christ accommodated Thomas, He spoke a special blessing on those who would not have such proof.  

blessed are those who believe without seeing

I have doubts some days too.  

There are moments when suffering washes over me like a flood and I am swept under with the tide.  

It’s then I cling tenaciously to the promise that my wounds, like Christ’s, will one day not only be proof of pain but also evidence of God’s redemptive power. 

Could it be that God will wipe the tears from our eyes, but not from our memories, that the renewed experience of the glorified saint will be to recall those sadnesses with the transforming joy which God’s presence and God’s disclosed providence will bring? Surely part of our praise in heaven will not merely be that we are now saved, but that we have been saved, that the very title of being those who have conquered means that our memory of victory will include a transformed awareness of what the whole battle meant.

What a difference this could make to my suffering. The scars I bear in my body, my mind, my soul, the adversities and setbacks, the pains that may yet await me before I get to heaven, the relational wounds, the memories from which I struggle to recover, the darkness of doubt and the battles with unbelief, will not necessarily be removed when I get to heaven, but they will be redeemed, they will be transformed by the long view that being perfected in the presence of my perfect God will bring. What an experience it will be to probe the scars, but to no longer feel their pain – to see them as contour lines of God’s grace by which I ascended into glory. What could it mean for my wounds to sing his praise, for my scars to record his perfections, for my memory of old pains to be set in the context of a new and never failing joy. That makes suffering sufferable now, and glory all the more glorious then.

~Andrew Roycroft, Thinking Pastorally blog, 6.23.19

 

 

When I Feel Like God’s Not Listening

I think nearly every bereaved parent has a crisis of faith that takes one form or another.  

When I read scripture I see that most of the “giants” of faith had moments of doubt as well.

I have certainly felt sometimes like God wasn’t listening or if He was listening, He didn’t care.  He’s disappointed me because my prayers were not answered the way I expected them to be or they weren’t answered at all (from my perspective).

Those feelings are normal but feelings don’t always reflect truth.

If I’m to battle the lies my heart is tempted to believe, I must feed it truth until it’s able to take hold of it.

So I go to the Psalms of lament and follow the pattern laid out there:

  • Express my frustration, fear and disappointment (exhale my doubts);
  • bring my broken heart to God (position myself to receive);
  • and recite the truth that God does not lie and that every promise is “ yes” and “amen” in Christ ( inhale strength, faith, comfort and hope).

It’s not a once and done thing- sometimes I do this dozens of times a day. But I always come away stronger and better able to face my fears and doubts.  

If you currently feel like God’s not listening I pray you will take that pain straight to the Throne of grace.

Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?
    Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
  Why do you hide your face
    and forget our misery and oppression?

  We are brought down to the dust;
    our bodies cling to the ground.
   Rise up and help us;
    rescue us because of your unfailing love.

Psalm 44: 23-26 NIV

 

May you choose to trust truth even when your heart doesn’t want to.

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
  yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Habakkuk 3:17, 18 NIV

And may you hear the Lord sing grace and mercy over your soul.

The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.

Zephaniah 3: 17