I haven’t written much lately on the blog because sometimes I feel like I write the same stuff over and over again, probably because God is patiently teaching me the same things over and over again. It’s taking a long time for me to learn it, apparently. Be patient in suffering, trust God, believe that He loves me. So at the risk of sounding redundant, I am writing this post about my problem with God and what He is teaching me (again.)
Ok, this is my problem- God tells me to ask Him for things that I want and need. I ask God for seemingly good things and He tells me no. He is good and perfect and He loves me more than I love my own kids, but He lets me suffer. I have a problem with that, and I have been working through it ever since He let Lucy die. I also can’t stand to watch other people suffer, and there sure is a whole lot of suffering in the world. The past few weeks I have been reading two really good books that are helping me change my perspective and see the truth. The books are “When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayer” by Jerry Sittser and “Shattered Dreams- God’s Unexpected Pathway to Joy” by Larry Crabb.
I have always loved looking back in my journal and reading my prayers to God and seeing how lovingly He has answered them. But it is hard to look back and read my prayers and see how He has not answered them. Here is an excerpt from my journal from June 22, 2013, four months after Lucy died and just a week or two before her due date:
Oh Lord, thank you for who you are and for the wonderful blessings you give me. Thank you for keeping me afloat lately, even as Lucy’s due date approaches. You say to make my requests known to you. Oh Lord, I cry out to you with the deepest longing in my heart. Please bless my next pregnancy. Please let my baby live. Please protect my heart from another wound like this one. Oh Lord, please give me a positive pregnancy test this month on Lucy’s due date. What a beautiful gift that would be. I ask you these things knowing that you know what’s best for me. Prepare me for whatever comes. Let my relationship with you grow stronger and stronger. I love you. I trust you.
I read this last night and I cried because it’s sad to see how He answered that prayer. He did give me a positive pregnancy test on Lucy’s due date, and then He took the baby soon after. Sometimes when I start to pray I find myself suddenly doubting and I think, “Why should I ask you? You’re going to do what you want anyway.” Sometimes I FEEL like God is just a big bully. I’m sure there are things that you have asked God for, GOOD things, and He has told you, “NO,” as well. It doesn’t make it easy to trust Him when the suffering continues for a long time, or it is so devastatingly painful. Resentment and anger can start to build up towards God. Usually, when this happens, I don’t want to pray and I don’t want to tell God how I really feel so I decide to avoid Him. I want to remain “respectful” so I remain distant instead. Sometimes I am angry at Him, I doubt Him, I am afraid of Him, I don’t understand Him, I blame Him, and I almost never tell Him because I don’t want to “hurt His feelings” or “be disrespectful.” But I am learning that this just leads to a less intimate relationship with Him, a fake relationship, a cold relationship. That is not what God wants. He knows what I am thinking anyway! He wants me to tell Him how I feel and to share my laments with Him, even if they are against Him. That is what makes Him so amazing. I love this quote by Jerry Sittser:
We don’t need to be in a “good place” to pray. Where we are is the right place, no matter how bad the place might be. Any prayer, as it turns out, is better than no prayer at all…God allows us to pour out our hearts to Him and get rid of the poison, regardless of how much there is, so that it can be diluted in the ocean of His love.
God is teaching me that a true relationship requires honesty. I have found the most relief from my pain and the most peace in my soul when I have let it all out and REALLY told God how I feel. When I hurl my painful questions at Him and tell Him who I think He is and ask Him how He can sit by and watch the tragedy unfold and do nothing…then I feel Him gently bend down and slowly lift the burden from me. It doesn’t happen when I force myself to say the “right” things to Him, like a robot. After the burning questions and insults are gone, there is space for His truth to seep in and calm me.
Do you feel like God let you down? Do you question His goodness, His faithfulness, His justness? Tell Him honestly how you feel, why you’re mad at Him and what you’re afraid of. I love the picture of His endless ocean of love diluting our poison so that it can’t harm us (or other people) anymore. When you tell God what is really in your heart and you see how He still loves you, unconditionally, it creates true intimacy. And it’s even more amazing when you feed yourself with His truth after that and you realize that He delights in you and He is faithful, regardless of how you feel. No matter how much I doubt, He is still who He is. I AM who I AM. He doesn’t change with our emotions. He is good, perfect and just, even when we can’t comprehend it. And we can always trust that when He doesn’t answer our prayers it’s because He has something better in mind.
Right before Jesus was arrested and crucified He and His disciples went to the Mount of Olives to pray. Jesus was distraught and probably very scared. He prayed and asked God:
Luke 22:42-44 “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
What if God had answered Jesus’ prayer the way Jesus wanted? The world would have perished. God had something better, even though it was extremely painful and terrifying for Jesus. I love how God sent an angel from heaven to strengthen Jesus in His despair (I’ve never noticed that part of the story before.) And even though Jesus knew this was the best plan and there was an angel there to strengthen Him, He was in agony still. Just because God leaves you in pain it doesn’t mean He has forgotten about you or doesn’t love you. So many times since Lucy died I have been in agony, sometimes crumpled on the floor crying for my baby and I shout at God, “Where are you? How can you leave me in all this pain?” But He has been right there strengthening me to get through it, even though He leaves me in agony. And His plan will be better than my pain free plan that I try to coerce Him into accepting.
So I am learning to tell God how I really feel and go to Him for comfort. He IS listening.
Psalm 55: 16,17 But I call to God, and the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and He hears my voice.
Psalm 62:8 Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.
I am learning that even though it doesn’t seem like it, He loves me, He is acting on my behalf, and He has a beautiful plan for my life. No amount of pain can separate me from His love.
Isaiah 54:10 “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
Lamentations 3:22-24 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.”
I’ve always been a Christian. After Joshua died, I struggled to believe in our good God. Why would He allow my son to die? But, why not? Babies will die, and what made me so special that I thought it shouldn’t happen to me. And if it wasn’t for God’s goodness, I wouldn’t have even had Joshua in the first place. God is good even when we can’t see it (or refuse to see it). If I’ve learned anything from my experience, it’s that as much as I want to be in control of my life, there’s something bigger guiding my life in the direction it should be.
God bless you and your family!
That is so true. All of our babies are gifts from God, and they would not be here, or waiting for us in heaven, if it weren’t for Him. It is just so hard to hold them with open hands. And it is hard to come to terms with the fact that we are not in control of our own lives, but when I really think about it, I am much safer with God in control.
Thank you for this gentle reminder that God is always there, and we need to be honest with Him, sharing our grief and sadness. Letting him into those areas of our hearts so he can heal and strengthen us.