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: Living Without Answers

We are a people who love a good mystery as long as it leads to a good ending-bad guys vanquished, questions answered, motives revealed and a tidy resolution.

But real life is rarely so neat and squared away.

Just consider your average doctor’s visit.  Diagnosis is often a result of trial and error when a simple blood test or throat culture is unavailable to confirm or rule out a particular malady.  Yet we blunder forward, trying this and that until something either works or the illness runs its course.

Relationships are even trickier.

Read the rest here:  Living Without Answers

Where Are All the Pieces?

If you’ve ever dropped a treasured china cup, you will know exactly what I’m talking about.

broken china

Finding the bigger chunks is easy.  But as you begin to put them in place thinking, “Oh, I can glue this back good as new”, you realize that tiny slivers necessary to make it whole are missing.

And you can look as hard as you want to, but you’ll never, ever find them.

Hearts are like that.

shattered_glass_heart_by_piggilovex3-d4qmv2p

When a heart breaks, the pieces are scattered everywhere.

It’s pretty simple to locate the larger bits-although putting them back in place is much harder than gluing together a fractured cup.

But those tiny bits elude me.

At almost four years I’ve had lots and lots of time to sort through what happened-at least in an intellectual way.

But what surprises me every time, no matter how often I pick through the debris like an archaeologist, is that I cannot find all the pieces.  

I have hunted hardest for the pieces to the faith I knew before my world was torn asunder.

I can’t find even a vague semblance of that old feeling that used to be my bosom buddy-that the blessing and favor of the Lord was resting on my family’s shoulders.  I can’t reclaim the confidence that I had at least a rough idea of how God works in the world.

I don’t feel as if God has abandoned me-but I do feel as if He’s pushed me in a corner.

And what I have to do now (have had to do all along) is decide: 

Do I trust even when I cannot see how it all fits together or do I abandon my faith?

I have decided to hold on. 

I have decided that it was foolish for me to think I could comprehend God in the first place.  My experience hasn’t changed HIM, it’s changed ME.

lord to whom shall we go

It revealed a flaw in my logic.  It gave me a glimpse into the vast chasm between what I thought I knew and what I actually knew.

There are so many things that cannot be known.  I have no idea why I once thought that number small.

Is this frightening?  Yes. 

But it is also helpful. 

As long as I’m looking for answers to every question, I will remain unsatisfied and unsettled until I find them. Understanding that I CANNOT “know it all” frees me to lean into my faith.

When Jesus was about to leave His disciples, He gave them this assurance: 

“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

John 16:33 MSG

Unshakable and assured. 

Wounded yet walking. 

Fearful but faith-filled.  

hard pressed but not destroyed

 

 

Repost: Trust After Loss: 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 POSSIBLEto feel worse than in the first few days.

Read the rest here:  Trust After Loss: Acknowledge Doubt and Ask Questions

Trust After Loss: Acknowledge Doubt and Ask Questions

This is the third in a series of five posts.  If you haven’t read the first two, I encourage you to do so.

I am sharing from the perspective of child loss but the things God is teaching me have much broader application. If you are struggling because you feel like God has let you down, please read on.  And please read the posts that follow this one.

God welcomes us to the divine dinner table to talk things out.

Join us.

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.

Because as the edges of the fog lift and the reality of an entire lifetime looms before you the questions form and the doubt sinks in:

Where ARE You God?

Why don’t You DO something?

Are You even LISTENING?

So many of us who have been in church for a long time think that Wrestling With God or entertaining doubt  is sin-or, at best- unhealthy and proof of a weak faith.

faith is not an epidural

But Scripture is filed from start to finish with God’s people asking God:

“Why?”

“Where are You?”

“What exactly are is Your plan here?”

Truth is, you can’t hide it.  God KNOWS it anyway.

Some say faith precludes doubt but I say faith is exactly what you cling to in the margins of doubt-when you have exhausted all the possibilities that exist in the physical, you-can-touch-it world and yet you KNOW there is MORE.

Even in my most doubtful moments I knew God was there.  Even if I couldn’t see Him, even if I couldn’t hear Him, even if I couldn’t feel Him-I still knew He was there.  Somewhere deep inside me I knew He was still God. 

But I was trying to figure out how to re-engage with this God that wasn’t at all who I expected Him to be and didn’t act in ways I thought He should.  The relationship had changed because I was not the person I used to be before I buried my son.

HE is the same, but I am most definitely NOT.  

God invites us to bring Him our questions and our doubts.  He says, “Come let us reason together.”  Questions are how you mark the borders of what you know and find the edges of what you don’t.

God is not diminished by my desire to understand and make sense of my world-He doesn’t owe me an explanation-but He gives me freedom to ask the questions.

my-faith-is-a-wounded-faith

Wrestling is not UNBELIEF.  Wrestling is the hard work of true faith.

Walk through the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11-Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Gideon, Samuel, David-every. single. one. had questions for God.

God is not threatened by my wondering.  His throne is in no danger due to my queries.

It is most often other believers who find the questions unsettling.  Doubters can be shifted to the back pew-not because people are mean but because our presence is threatening.  For someone yet to face the test of faith, our test can remind them that theirs may be coming.

I don’t want nor expect to have the last word, I believe that belongs to the Creator of the Universe.  But I think He will hear my pleas.

In my trouble I called to the Lord, I cried out to my God for help.  From his temple he heard my voice.  My call for help reached his ears.

Psalm 18:6 ICB

God is God of the day and God of the night-when I can’t feel Him, He’s still here.

He knows my frame-He made me.

He knows I’m strugging, I can’t hide it.

When I swallow my doubts instead of speaking them all I do is poison my own heart.

Lament is a biblical response to deep pain.

I have to exhale before I can inhale. 

If my heart is full of unreleased anger and bitterness, then it has no room for the Spirit of God to move.

If I want to keep my faith, I’ve got to acknowledge my doubts.  

bereavement-is-the-sharpest-challenge-to-our-trust-in-god-if-faith-can-overcome-this-there-is-no-quote-1

 

 

 

Lots of Questions, No Answers

After screaming, “Oh no!  Oh no!”  the next words out of my mouth were, “Why? Why MY son?”

Nearly three and a half years later I have yet to receive an answer.

And I don’t expect to get one this side of heaven although every fiber of my being continues to cry out for some kind of explanation.

But, really, what answer would ever satisfy my mama heart?

Even if God allowed me to see everything He is weaving together through my sorrow and pain how could I embrace it as fully as I embraced the little baby laid in my arms over 27 years ago?  My flesh would continue to yearn for the physical presence of my son,  my soul would continue to mourn his too-soon (from my perspective) departure from this mortal life.

I am convinced that the only answer that will be enough is Jesus Himself.

When I meet Him face-to-face, my fears, my questions, my tears and my pain will melt away in the glorious perfection of absolute joy.  No corner of my heart will remain unfilled, no aching longing will be remembered.

I will not shake my fist and say, “WHY???”

I won’t have to.

I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?
― C.S. Lewis

those that wait in hope shall not be ashamed

Living With Unanswered Questions

It’s been fifteen years since the Towers fell.  Hard to believe-no matter how great the tragedy, life goes on.  

Image result for image 9/11

Like many, I was watching things as they happened that day.

My husband, an architect and engineer, saw the wobble in the first tower and knew, he knew, it was going to collapse.  Horrified I began to understand that whoever was still in that building was running out of time.

And I cried, oh, how I cried.  It was awful.

Since then I’ve lived my own tragedy.

My son was unexpectedly and instantly taken from us in an accident.

So when I’m reminded of 9/11 my heart takes me right to those left behind.

And while politicians and pundits can debate the reasons for the attack, can argue about what could have been done, should have been done and why and when-they can never answer the real question in the heart of every family who buried a loved one because of the events of that day.

Why MY husband, wife, daughter, son?  How do I make sense of this senseless tragedy?

The answer is, “You can’t.”

You cannot know why one person chose to go this way and lived and another went a different direction and died.  It’t impossible to understand the series of events that made someone late for work that day but lead another to show up early.

Last minute travel plan changes saved some from being aboard the fateful planes and put others in a seat.

I can’t know exactly why my son lost control of his motorcycle that night.  I will live the rest of my life without an answer to that question.

It’s an ongoing challenge to face the discomfort of things NOT making sense. It goes against human nature to acknowledge that the world is far less predictable than we like to believe.

It takes courage to greet each new day with knowledge that ANYTHING might happen-not only beautiful and wonderful things, but ugly and awful things as well.

If I let my heart dwell on the questions of “why?” and “control”, I am paralyzed, unable to take another step.

There’s no clear path through a world filled with the rubble of broken lives and broken people.

So I turn my heart toward Christ and His promise to never leave or forsake me.

And I am emboldened to take the next step because I know He is already there, even in the dark.

psalm-23_3