Lenten Reflections: Embracing Mystery-I Don’t Have to Understand Everything

There have always been those who tried to reduce faith to something completely comprehensible.

But even a cursory reading of God’s Word and a casual experience with His ways makes that laughable.

When Jesus began teaching His disciples more and more about the Kingdom of God and His role as Christ, they were confused and dismayed. When I read His words they are still challenging and sometimes obscure even though I live on the other side of the resurrection.

Not everything can be explained.

When I insist on living life fully within the edges of rational thought, I not only miss out on many wonderful and inexplicable experiences, I also reduce my relationship with Jesus to rules.

If I am to fully embrace and inhabit the Kingdom life He has for me, I must be willing to embrace and inhabit the mysterious space between what I can know and understand and what I must trust I will one day know and understand (perhaps not until eternity!).

Thankfully, human reasoning neither leads nor limits God’s love. Consider passages in Scripture in which God’s words escape your understanding. What would it be like if God withheld His voice until humankind could fully comprehend it?

Alicia Britt Chole

Today’s fast is rationalism-letting go of a need to understand the mysterious, to insist on circumscribing God’s work in the world by human understanding and dismissing anything I can’t comprehend as immaterial or inconsequential.

How have you limited God’s love and work in your life by clinging to rationalism?

How can you let go and “let God”?

Take ten minutes to sit quietly with the Lord and allow Him to fill you with His Presence without demanding explanations.

Rest in Who He is and let His love overwhelm your heart.

**As promised, I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional). If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience.**

Lenten Reflections: Making Space for Authentic Faith

In Jewish culture, “It’s an act of reverence to ask questions of the story. The Jews are confident that the story is strong enough to be tried and tested….Around the table, a Jewish child has ‘That’s a good question!’ drummed into his or her soul, not ‘You don’t ask that question’…Questions are a sacred as answers.” (Dr. Leonard Sweet)

If you’ve read a single word I’ve written in the past seven years you know how close this truth is to my heart!

I think we do a disservice to ourselves and others when we reduce the complexities of Scripture to something like Aesop’s Fables. Real people lived real lives and had real questions. The Almighty God is big enough to handle them.

We weaken-not strengthen- our faith when we silence sincere questions. Faith in Christ is not an airy substance that rests on unquestioning souls. Biblical faith is muscular, thickened more through trials than ease. The Author of our faith is more than able to address the identity crises His unexpected words and ways may trigger.

Alicia Britt Chole

I am so thankful for the long but often underappreciated record of God’s people bringing their questions to Him.

The Bible is not propaganda, scrubbed clean of any references to experience that might undermine a preordained “message”. It’s a faithful rendering of human hearts wooed by our Shepherd, of hard things, hard sayings and wrestling with sin and with faith.

My story is messy.

My faith has places torn and mended. I still have questions. If God is God (and I believe that He is) then He is not threatened by my queries. He doesn’t owe me an explanation and I accept that. But I believe He welcomes my honesty.

So today I’m fasting tidy faith.

Have you lived with the false mantra: ” I know we aren’t supposed to question God” ?

What do you want/need to ask Him?

Use a concordance to find someone in Scripture who already has.

**As promised, I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional). If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience.**

When You Live 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.

There are smaller mysteries that sit at the back of our minds but we can ignore and then there are the big “What ifs?” and “Whys?”

The cosmic questions that rock our world and threaten to undo us.

These are the questions that filled my mind and kept me awake at night after burying my son.  Questions I was free to ignore before they took up residence in my soul and echoed in my head with every thump, thump, thump of my beating heart.

Read the rest here: Living Without Answers

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

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 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.  We stand toe-to-toe with others hoping we understand what they are saying or not saying, feeling or not feeling-all the while forced to act and react in the space between.  It’s a wonder we aren’t all at war with one another.

And then there are the big “What ifs?” and “Whys?”

The cosmic questions that rock our world and threaten to undo us.

These are the questions that filled my mind and kept me awake at night after burying my son.  Questions I was free to ignore before they took up residence in my soul and echoed in my head with every thump, thump, thump of my beating heart.

It took a very long time for me to learn to live with them unanswered. And there are still moments when I scream aloud and raise my fist to the sky, demanding an accounting.

But most days, I can rest in that space between the asking and the answer-if not exactly at peace-then at least in a state of suspended animation.

And that may really be all God expects of me this side of heaven.

Job never did get any answers.

He stood before God speechless and in awe.

That’s pretty much where I am right now.

I don’t have to like it.

I don’t have to understand it.

I only have to be willing to admit that He is God and I am not.  

Job answered God:

“I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything.
    Nothing and no one can upset your plans.
You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water,
    ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’
I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me,
    made small talk about wonders way over my head.
You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking.
    Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.’
I admit I once lived by rumors of you;
    now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears!
I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise!
    I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.”

Job 42:4-6 MSG

 

Arguing with God

I don’t expect to win and I don’t think I’ll get an audible answer, but I will tell you I’ve had some rip-roaring, humdinger arguments with God.

Now the pious among us will probably be shocked. They may tell me I’m pushing the envelope of grace or even sinning by asking God what exactly He is doing in this Valley of the Shadow of Death.

That doesn’t deter me-there are plenty of scriptural precedents for asking God, “why” and begging Him for an answer to the pain of this broken world.

Moses wanted to know how come he got stuck leading a bunch of whiny migrants tramping through the desert.

Paul begged God to take away the thorn in his flesh.

Jesus and Job both asked the question.

Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.
‭‭Job‬ ‭13:15‬ ‭NASB‬‬

We usually don’t quote the last half of that verse, do we?

We stop at the affirmation and leave off the doubt-Job’s desperate desire to understand just what God was doing when it seemed unfair and capricious.

Most of the book of Job is full of questions.  Job asking why he was targeted and his friends asking him what sin he was hiding.

Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Isaiah 1:18 NRSV

God invites us to ask.  He opens the door to questions.

He is willing to “talk”.

But He doesn’t always answer every question. 

In the end, Job’s mouth was shut not by God giving him assurance of anything except His “otherness” and the fact that He IS God.

A difficult truth to embrace.

One I ponder often.

I hurt, I sorrow, I agonize over the loss that has come into my life. A precious life has been taken away. I feel great grief and pain. It sears my every waking hour and casts a puzzling dreary shadow across my life’s journey.

At a time like this, it is imperative that I remember that God has not promised to keep my life bubbling with pleasing sensations. I must not prostitute God by giving Him the responsibility of being an indulgent Santa Claus in the heavens. God is not my servant. I am His servant.

As I come to grips with my grief, I reject the sentimentalized, sickly religion so popular today. God’s comfort is not insulation from difficulty; it is spiritual fortification sufficient to enable me to stand firm, undefeated in the fiery trials of life. God’s provision is not always green pastures and still waters. Sometimes God leads into the valley of the shadow, but I may walk there with confidence, assured of the love and presence of God.

No longer can I offer a mindless, frivolous assertion that God always measures up to my every expectation of Him and always gives His children goodies. I must declare that some things are beyond my human understanding in the ways of God. Those mysteries have destroyed my comfortable existence, but I proclaim: ‘Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him’ (Job 13:15). I will hurt for years to come. A hundred times a day I feel keenly the void left by death’s cruel blow. That pain, however, must drive me to stronger trust in God whose providence is not always compatible with my desires.

~James Means, A Tearful Celebration

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