Driving home in the dark from several weeks of Mama D duty, I was listening to an old-fashioned, very tame (by today’s standards!) BBC Agatha Christie podcast.
Suddenly the previously entertaining and mindless fare took a turn that plunged me into over an hour of mental wrestling.
One of the characters commented on the face of the deceased and said something like he “looked frightened and astonished”, his last emotion etched forever on his countenance.
THAT was enough to send this mama’s thoughts down an unfruitful and completely horrifying rabbit trail.
I wish that at almost eight years I could reach for a switch to shut out unwelcome images but so far I haven’t found one. I wish I could just will myself to ignore questions about what Dom might have felt, thought or said in the last microseconds of his life. I wish I didn’t know as much as I do about what happened.
I wish I knew more about how Jesus takes His beloved to Heaven.
These intrusive thoughts don’t come as often as they once did and I am (usually) better at pinning them down, changing my thinking and forcing my heart and mind to focus on something else.
Obedience is not a moment: it is a process connected by countless moments. Jesus neither started nor finished obeying in John 12. Thanks to the Holy Spirit’s inspiration and John’s pen, what we witness in John 12 is a deeply significant (but not stand alone) moment in Jesus’ journey of becoming ‘obedient to death-even death on a cross’ (Philippians 2:8).
Alicia Britt Chole
One of the things I regret most in life is when I’ve had the opportunity to be honest about my own struggles but refused to share because I thought it was “holier” to act like I never had a hard time taking hold of God’s promises or living out my faith.
Holy is hard.
Being set apart for the purposes and glory of God is going to involve some real wrestling.
But it’s the every day habit of leaning in, taking hold and choosing obedience (along with the Holy Spirit’s enabling power) that will ultimately give me strength to obey and follow even when the path is dark.
Someone said, “Faith is a long obedience in the same direction”.
I love that.
Each day, sometimes each moment, I must choose obedience. It doesn’t come naturally.
I can’t rush it though. I have to bring my confusion, my hurt, my questions to Jesus and allow Him to guide my heart toward understanding (or if not understanding, trust IN SPITE of doubt).
If I try to fake it (prematurely “resolve” the issue) then I’m doomed.
Doubt and fear will surface again and sweep me off the path of obedience if I don’t acknowledge them and deal with them.
So for today, think about what doubts, fears, questions and concerns you’ve been sweeping under the rug.
Drag them into the light and allow the Lord to help you deal with them.
**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.**
I was planning my daughter’s wedding and juggling a number of other pressing responsibilities. I managed to keep my composure most days when talking with caterers, family members and vendors but all that pent up stress kept me from falling asleep when I finally put my head down at night.
I had just begun to settle back into a decent sleep pattern when my mother suffered a stroke and died a few days later in September.
That threw me right back into the sleepless cycle that plagued me for years after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven in 2014. I couldn’t fall asleep or when I fell asleep I couldn’t stay asleep. What sleep I managed to get was filled with terrible and terribly vivid dreams.
I’m back in that pattern once again for no apparent reason.
I’m not sure I’ll ever enjoy the blissfully ignorant and pleasant slumber I knew as a young girl.
My heart won’t let me.
For the first couple of weeks after Dominic left us, I couldn’t fall asleep.
It was impossible to close my eyes without a dozen awful scenes flashing behind the lids.
When my perfectly healthy, strong and gifted son was killed instantly in a motorcycle accident on April 12. 2014 my world fell apart. My heart shattered into a million pieces. And after three and a half years, I’ve yet to even FIND all of those pieces much less put them back together.
So what does a heart do when that happens?Because, try as I might, I cannot stop time.
Even THAT awful day only lasted 24 hours.
When the sun rose again, the pain was still there. And behind that pain and mixed with it was something else-disappointment, disaffection, distrust.
The opposite of faith isn’t doubt, it’s certainty.
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.
9 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”
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”.
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.
**If anyone is honestly searching, they are welcome to use the “contact” option to send me an email and begin a dialogue. ❤**
Not just physically tired-although there are plenty of days when chores done in the Alabama sun beat my body down.
I’m soul weary.
My heart cries out, “No more! I can’t carry a single other burden! I’m buckling under the load!”
He knows that this world is a harsh place for tender hearts. He recognizes that other people heap heavy weights on already laboring souls. He understands that work and worry and even well-doing wear us to a nub.
And He offers a way of escape.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden andoverburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will [a]ease and relieve and [b]refresh [c]your souls.]
29 Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest ([d]relief and ease and refreshment and [e]recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.
30 For My yoke is wholesome (useful, [f]good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne. ~Jesus
Matthew 11: 28-30 AMPC
The Pharisees and Sadducees (religious leaders at the time Jesus walked the earth) had overloaded people with rules, rules, rules and obscured the truth of Who God is and what He really wanted from them. They focused solely on outward compliance with man-made additions to God’s law and blinded themselves to the inward attitudes that should be a hallmark of God’s people.
Like us, they wanted boxes to check off.
They wanted lists to maintain.
Above all, they wanted to measure themselves against a standard that made them look good, often at the expense of others.
More importantly, their holier-than-thou lifestyle made regular folks feel like they fell so far short and were so far from the heart of God they didn’t dare ask Him for help.
Jesus said, “Enough!”
He said, “I don’t despise your weakness. I don’t dismiss your pain. Let Me help you take that off and give you a perfectly fitted burden. Yoke your life to Mine and we’ll carry it together.”
The most caring teamster carved the wooden yoke that joined his two oxen precisely to fit their unique shape. He checked it often to see if it was causing pain and he made adjustments when necessary. He yoked well-suited animals one to the other so that the burden was distributed evenly.
Any ill-fitting addition to a creature being asked to do a job makes that job oh, so much more difficult. It wears sore spots and tender places. It guarantees that you won’t get full cooperation nor highest performance.
We have many burdens to bear in this life. Some are of our own making, some are thrust upon us by others. Some are just a function of the fact we live in a world tainted by sin.
Jesus promises that the burden He asks us to bear He will make bearable when we bring it to Him.
Are you weak and heavy laden?
Are you struggling under a load that threatens to undo you?
Have you yoked your life to Christ and asked Him to help you?
He’s waiting for you.
There are all kinds of burdens in this life. What feels heavy to you right now?
Have you offered it to Jesus? Have you asked Him to help you bear it?
Is it hard for you to lean on Jesus? Why or why not?
Do you ever try to hide your weakness or weariness from others?
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were focused more on rules and less on relationship. What’s your faith heritage? Have you been in churches where there was a strong focus on rules? How did that impact your understanding of God?
Father God, I can be like the Pharisees and make up lists of rules I think I need to follow to gain Your approval or at least to make myself look good in the eyes of others.
That’s not helpful for me or anyone else. Give me courage to tear those up.
Teach me Your gentle ways, Jesus. Help me lean into Your love and to yoke my heart to yours.