It is No Sin to Ask, “Why?”

Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.

C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Sunday I sat through what started off as a promising sermon.  

The text was from  Jeremiah when he was sent by God to the potter’s house for an object lesson.

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.”  So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.  

Jeremiah 18:1-6 NIV

This story hits home in so many ways.  

I identify with Jeremiah’s tears shed over the message he was called to deliver (Israel was about to experience harsh judgement) and the image of God as Potter and me as clay in His hands, to be molded and shaped according to HIS purpose and plan regardless of how I might like to be molded and shaped.

But the sermon took a turn that hurt my heart when the preacher began suffusing the message with personal experience.  It is absolutely his prerogative to relay his own life story as but it is another thing to draw general conclusions from HIS experience as being relevant and instructive for EVERYONE.

His wife had been diagnosed many years ago with a brain tumor.  She underwent extensive surgery and therapy but ultimately survived and is still living today.

Hallelujah!

I am thankful their story has a hopeful and happy ending (so far).  The problem came when the pastor said, “I never asked, ‘why?'”  and then proceeded to imply that asking, “why?” was wrong and the mark of an immature faith.

I’m delighted his faith was strong enough (or naive enough) that his heart never argued with his theological framework.  

That is not my experience. 

And it is not the experience of millions of faithful Christ followers who have been asked to bear up under burdens that do NOT have a hopeful or happy conclusion this side of heaven.

It took every bit of self-control I had to not stand up and shout, “REALLY?  What about Job?  What about Paul?  What about David?  What about JESUS?”

The Psalms are filled with questions.  

Jesus Himself asked, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” from the cross.

God invites us to ask.  

“Come now, and let us reason together,” saith the Lord

Isaiah 1:18 KJV

My faith is stronger because I have taken my questions to the only One Who can answer them.

He doesn’t always answer. 

But He always listens.  

He doesn’t give me reasons. 

But He gives me Himself.  

I am the clay-I know that.  But unlike dumb physical material that can be molded and shaped without feeling or self-awareness, I am a human being, created in the image of God Himself and endowed with feelings, knowledge and a heart that longs to understand.

So I must chooseas an act of free willto offer myself as a living sacrifice, to remain supple and malleable under the Hand of my Creator as He makes me into what He intends me to be.

But submission does not preclude my questions.  

I would argue that true submission insists on acknowledging and asking the questions and choosing to yield anyway. 

Anything less is not submission, it is simply fatalism. 

I serve a God Who is my Father, not my dictator.  I serve and worship a Savior Who is gentle, humble and kind, not harsh, proud and uncaring.

It is no sin to ask, “Why?”

In fact, it is exactly the kind of exchange relationship insists upon.

You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth of falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?

C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

 

 

 

 

Repost: Feet of Clay

It’s not just my feet that are made of clay! I am clay from top to bottom and I am reminded of that fact every day. I try and fail. I strive but make no progress. I want to do better, but I don’t.

God is not surprised. I do not have to live up to some impossible standard in order for Him to love me. He made me, He knows me and He loves me. Covered by the blood of Christ I am free to live in that love, to love others from that love.

God is not offended by my human frailty.  He isn’t looking down from Heaven, shaking His head at my halting steps forward on this long, hard road.

we are dustHe understands my fear, my sadness, my longing for wholeness.

But sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that.

Read the rest here:  Feet of Clay

“Lord, Renew My Strength!”

 

I was pregnant or nursing for nearly a decade.  

With four children under six, I have no idea how I managed to get anything done, much less EVERYTHING done.  

dominic and siblings little children at nannys

Some days I didn’t.  But most days I muddled through.

But I was so. so. tired.

Every morning started with a prayer, “God, give me what I need for today.  Give me strength for today.  I won’t ask for tomorrow.  Just for today.”

As life accelerated to that frenzy only parents of teens can understand-one here, another there, cars everywhere-my body was rebelling.  My joints screamed, “No!  Let’s just stay right here for a day (or a week!).”

That wasn’t an option, so I leaned in and prayed again, “God, renew my energy.  Give me strength.  If You aren’t going to cure me, help me learn to live well with my limitations.”

I thought my middle-aged years would give me a bit of rest.  A time to catch my breath.

I was wrong.  

Dominic’s death plunged me into emotional, physical, mental and spiritual exhaustion I could never have imagined.  I did not know you could be so tired and still breathe.  

I found myself begging God once again for strength.

Now it is my daily prayer.

And He is faithful to do as He has promised.

Nearly four years and I have gotten out of bed every. single. morning. 

I do what needs to be done.  

I’m still standing. 

Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?
    The Eternal, the Everlasting God,
The Creator of the whole world, never gets tired or weary.
    His wisdom is beyond understanding.
     God strengthens the weary
    and gives vitality to those worn down by age and care.
     Young people will get tired;
    strapping young men will stumble and fall.
     But those who trust in the Eternal One will regain their strength.
    They will soar on wings as eagles.
They will run—never winded, never weary.
    They will walk—never tired, never faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31 VOICE

 

 

 

When God Disappoints Us

I know many faithful readers who also follow Christ may gasp at this title.  But the definition of disappoint is most literally, “not to live up to expectations”.  And if we are honest, every one of us has expectations of how God is going to act in our lives.  I know I did!

Aren’t there promises in Scripture that declare good things for those who obey the Lord?  Aren’t there proclamations of protection?

So when Dominic died I was most certainly disappointed.  ❤

I can identify with the faithful among the Palm Sunday crowd- joyful because all evidence pointed to a happy climax.

Here was the Messiah entering Jerusalem just like the prophets promised.  Surely an end to this pagan tyranny was near!

“Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord!”

palm Sunday

Just a little longer and this heavy burden will be lifted, this hard life transformed.

A few days later this same crowd would choose a murderous rebel over the gentle Rabbi because He had not lived up to their expectations of deliverance.

jesus in the garden

I can identify with those folks too.

God most certainly has not lived up to my expectations. He has not fashioned my life according to my plan.

woman-grieving-loss

He has not delivered me from this body of sin and death.

He allowed death to enter my home and my heart.

I am tempted, in my sorrow, to shake my fist and demand an answer.  And then, in a moment of clarity I realize how foolish that is.  

“Where were you when I [God] laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels shouted for joy?

Job 38:4-7 NIV

I am in no position to judge God’s motives, His heart, His plan.  I am bound by time and blinded by the limitations of my flesh.  

I want immediate relief because pain is painful and sorrow is heavy and grief is unbearable in my own strength.  

But God knows the end from the beginning.  He is weaving all these things into a story that will be told for eternity.  He is creating masterpieces to declare His glory, His faithful love and His grace and mercy.  

For we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago.

Ephesians 2:10 VOICE

So on this Palm Sunday I will join the crowd of worshipers shouting, “Save us!  Son of David!”  

I will lay my sacrifices at His feet and trust that He will redeem and restore what the enemy has stolen.  

I will refuse impatience when the time of waiting lingers long before me.  

wait patiently for gods promises

I will refuse despair when it looks like things are dark and may never be light again.  

light shines in the darkness image

 

I will trust and not be afraid because my King has conquered and is conquering every evil thing and every sad thing.  

in christ alone

 

Liquid Prayers

Is it not sweet to believe that our tears are understood even when words fail? Let us learn to think of tears as liquid prayers, and of weeping as a constant dropping of importunate intercession which will wear its way right surly into the very heart of mercy, despite the stony difficulties which obstruct the way. My God, I will “weep” when I cannot plead, for Thou hearest the voice of my weeping.

Spurgeon

I was not yet through the first 24 hours of Dominic’s absence when I decided I’d never hide my tears. 

I love fiercely and I understood-even in the confusion of that awful day-that my tears were as much a testimony to love as my hugs ever were. 

So I cried when I wanted to, needed to, couldn’t help it.  

courage and tears

At first I think my tears were mainly an expression of loss and sorrow. 

But as the days rolled into weeks rolled into months and now years, my tears are as often an expression of longing as of pain.  

The Spirit of God not only maintains this hope within us, but helps us in our present limitations. For example, we do not know how to pray worthily as sons of God, but his Spirit within us is actually praying for us in those agonising longings which never find words. And God who knows the heart’s secrets understands, of course, the Spirit’s intention as he prays for those who love God.

Romans 8:26 PHILLIPS

my grace is sufficientWhen my mind cannot find words for the deep things of my heart, I cry. 

I think of each tear as a liquid prayer and trust that God captures it in His bottle, takes note of it in His scroll. 

 

You have seen me tossing and turning through the night. You have collected all my tears and preserved them in your bottle! You have recorded every one in your book.

Psalm 56:8 TLB

And I hold on with both hands to the promise that there will be a Day-a wonderful, never-ending, light filled Day-when tears will be a thing of the past. 

blessed is the one who believed his promises to her

Every sad thing will be untrue. 

Every stolen thing will be redeemed and every heart restored to perfect peace in the Presence of the Most High God and Christ Jesus Himself!  

But here on this mountain, God-of-the-Angel-Armies
    will throw a feast for all the people of the world,
A feast of the finest foods, a feast with vintage wines,
    a feast of seven courses, a feast lavish with gourmet desserts.
And here on this mountain, God will banish
    the pall of doom hanging over all peoples,
The shadow of doom darkening all nations.
    Yes, he’ll banish death forever.
And God will wipe the tears from every face.
    He’ll remove every sign of disgrace
From his people, wherever they are.
    Yes! God says so!

       Also at that time, people will say,
    “Look at what’s happened! This is our God!
We waited for him and he showed up and saved us!
    This God, the one we waited for!
Let’s celebrate, sing the joys of his salvation.
    God’s hand rests on this mountain!”

Isaiah 25:6-10 MSG

 

Flying Lessons

My dad is a pilot and flight instructor.  

He’s flown everything from a single engine private plane to a fighter jet in all kinds of weather-good and bad.

When I was a little girl, he’d take me with him sometimes while he gave a flight lesson.  If he was teaching instrument flying, the student would wear a hood that restricted his vision to just the plane’s instrument panel.

No external visual cues allowed.

student pilot instrument hood

The test came when the student’s senses told him something different than the instruments were telling him-would he give in to what he thought was true but couldn’t validate OR would he rely on the trusty instruments that had proven faithful?

Some students just could not let go of their feelings and never did gain their instrument flight rating.

airplane-instrument-training

Some learned (even when it went against everything they were feeling) to lean on the absolutely reliable instruments to guide them safely to their destination.

These years since Dominic ran ahead to heaven feel like instrument flying.

clouds

I’m in the clouds.

The landmarks I’ve used for navigation all my life are obscured and sometimes I can’t even tell if I’m upside down or right side up. I don’t know if I’m going fast enough to stay in the air or if I’m about to stall.  I’m tempted to use my feelings to determine true north and to decide on a course of action.

But I know if I do, I’m likely to crash.

If I ignore the trustworthy and unchangeable truth of God’s Word, I will find myself headed exactly opposite of where I want to go.

If I refuse to listen to good counsel-people I can trust and who are in a position to see my blind spots-then I cannot correct my path.

When a student decided not to pay attention to the instruments, my dad was right there to take over and get them safely back on the ground.  

But for this flight I’m on my own.  If I decide to trust my untrustworthy feelings, there’s no one to rescue me.  

I have to make a choice.  

I have to learn to acknowledge but not trust the feelings that would send me spiraling downward and reach for the truth that can help me steady my flight.

I have got to plot my course based on absolute, reliable Truth.  

The pilots that learn to fly in heavy clouds often still feel frightened.  They sometimes still feel confused and disoriented.

But they have learned that it’s possible to feel those things and not act on them. 

I am learning that too. 

hold-the-truth

To Him Who Overcomes: Promises I Can Count On

Some days I wake up and question EVERYTHING.  

Have I allowed myself to be tricked into believing a fairy tale in hopes that it will ease my earthly pain?

Is God Who He says He is?  Will He do what He says He will do?  How can I be certain?

And then I turn again to the Truth. 

Have you ever noticed how focusing your mind on the Word quiets your spirit? In that peaceful silence, faith dissolves fear. God’s revelations about Himself in the Bible—namely, that He is good, sovereign, and our loving Father—have a way of sharpening our perception about whatever we’re facing We can see the true nature of a matter and it is not bigger than our God. As a result, we cast off the staggering weight of our burdens and instead grow a deep-rooted confidence in the goodness and sovereignty of God. My friends, that is the definition of courage.

– Charles Stanley

 

I take hold of the promises in Scripture.  I recite the faithfulness of my Heavenly Father to myself and others in my family and countless generations before me.

I ask His Spirit to bear witness to mine that He can be trusted. 

He does.

i believe

And then He strengthens me for the journey, giving me what I need to endure.  

  • “The one who conquers through faithfulness even unto death will escape the second death.” ~Revelation 2:11b VOICE
  • “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” ~Revelation 2: 17b, c KJV
  •  “And he that overcomes, and he that keeps unto the end my works, to him will I give authority over the nations, and he shall shepherd them with an iron rod; as vessels of pottery are they broken in pieces, as I also have received from my Father; and I will give to him the morning star.” ~Revelation 2: 26-28 DARBY
  • “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” `Revelation 3:5 NASB
  • “He that overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go out no more, and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God which is the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from and with my God, and I will write upon him my new name.”~Revelation 3:12 JUB
  • “He who overcomes [the world through believing that Jesus is the Son of God], I will grant to him [the privilege] to sit beside Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down beside My Father on His throne.” ~Revelation 3:21 AMP

to him who overcomes

“Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I’m taking.”

~ Jesus (John 14:1-4 MSG)

in my fathers house are many mansions

 “See, I come quickly! I carry my reward with me, and repay every man according to his deeds. I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the Beginning and the End. Happy are those who wash their robes, for they have the right to the tree of life and the freedom of the gates of the city.”

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”

Let everyone who hears this also say, “Come!”

Let the thirsty man come, and let everyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

He, who is witness to all this, says, “Yes, I am coming very quickly!”

“Amen, come Lord Jesus!”

Revelation 22: 12-14, 17, 20  PHILLIPS

the spirit and the bride say come