Trusting? I don’t know…

Some days even a preacher’s kid struggles with believing and trusting God. Sometimes just when you think things are beginning to turn a corner, and there’s hope, it seems like something else slaps you in the face…and you wonder what the future holds for someone you love.

So what do you do?

You can scream and rage at God…you can dissolve in tears…you can shut down… You can turn your back on God…but deep down you know that God hasn’t turned away from you, even though you don’t understand what’s going on.

That’s sometimes when you begin to understand what it really means to pray the Psalms. Not just read them…but pray them.

The Psalms have every emotion that you can think of: joy…anger…pain…despair…hatred…hope…

Right now, Psalm 77 seems to fit my emotions. Here’s the CEV translation:

I pray to you, Lord God,
and I beg you to listen.
2 In days filled with trouble,
I search for you.
And at night I tirelessly
lift my hands in prayer,
refusing comfort.
3 When I think of you,
I feel restless and weak.

4 Because of you, Lord God,
I can’t sleep.
I am restless
and can’t even talk.
5 I think of times gone by,
of those years long ago.
6 Each night my mind
is flooded with questions:
7 “Have you rejected me forever?
Won’t you be kind again?
8 Is this the end of your love
and your promises?
9 Have you forgotten
how to have pity?
Do you refuse to show mercy
because of your anger?”
10 Then I said, “God Most High,
what hurts me most
is that you no longer help us
with your mighty arm.”

Our Lord, I will remember
the things you have done,
your miracles of long ago.
12 I will think about each one
of your mighty deeds.
13 Everything you do is right,
and no other god
compares with you.
14 You alone work miracles,
and you have let nations
see your mighty power.
15 With your own arm you rescued
your people,
the descendants
of Jacob and Joseph.

16 The ocean looked at you, God,
and it trembled deep down
with fear.
17 Water flowed from the clouds.
Thunder was heard above
as your arrows of lightning
flashed about.
18 Your thunder roared
like chariot wheels.
The world was made bright
by lightning,
and all the earth trembled.
19 You walked through the water
of the mighty sea,
but your footprints
were never seen.
20 You guided your people
like a flock of sheep,
and you chose Moses and Aaron
to be their leaders.

When I read it, it catches up my sense of despair and hopelessness…but by the time I get to the end, I am reminded of God’s work in the past in providing a way out, even when it seemed hopeless. So maybe…just maybe…there is hope for the future in what seem like currently hopeless situations.

 

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“God doesn’t give you more than you can handle…”

There are a number of statements that good Christians (and I mean that sincerely) say when someone is going through a difficult time that are less than helpful…and the title of this post is definitely one of them!

I do not believe in a God who looks at God’s creation and decides, “Hmmm…this person can handle this much difficulty…but nope, can’t give that person so much. They’d never be able to take it.”

However, I do believe in a God who walks with us in and through those difficult times, helping to bear those burdens…listening to our anger/fear/pain…being present with us.

Life happens. Sometimes it’s good stuff that takes place in our lives, but sometimes life stinks. Our children make choices that we know will give them heartache, but we can’t get them to see it. Sometimes we’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes accidents happen…or we get sick, regardless of how well we eat or how much exercising we do. Got doesn’t control everything that happens to us.

When someone is struggling with pain and heartache because of life situations, to tell them that God won’t give them more than they can handle is not a comfort. It presents a god who is almost sadistic in trying to see just how much someone can take before breaking.

The best way to help someone going through difficulty is to simply be there. Sometimes cry with them…sometimes hug them…run errands or do chores if needed…but don’t try to tell them what God is or is not doing to them. Just be there.

Once a parent…

I used to think that when your children were grown, your parenting role/responsibilities ended. Nope! They just take on different appearances.

You learn to let go of the decisions your children make that you might not agree with…at least, as long as the decisions are not life-threatening. You might still have some input into those decisions–but it’s on their terms now, not yours. And you learn (or at least you try really hard) to keep your mouth shut once the decision has been made.

It gets even more challenging in some ways if you become a grandparent. Things change from generation to generation, and attitudes and behaviors that were once accepted and expected when you were rearing your children may not still be so when your children are raising their children.

There are some advantages to being a grandparent. You get to spoil your special ones in ways that are not possible when you are the parent. You can act as a buffer sometimes between parent and child. You can be more relaxed.

But in some ways you’re still a parent. You can’t stop caring. In some ways it’s even more difficult when you’re a grandparent, because you have the advantage of seeing from a longer perspective than you did when you were a parent. You can see the pain in your grandchild–but you can also see the pain of your child who is hurting as well…and sometimes there isn’t anything you can do except hold them and love them.

Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ~Elizabeth Stone

Where is God?

Because of some family events the last several days, I’ve found myself wondering sometimes where God is. I’ve been teaching an online adult education course, and one of the questions I raised in it was this:

Is faith strengthened or tested when prayer and meditation have no feeling of divine presence during the act? If feeling is absent, especially for long periods, how can one know that God has listened and heard?

That’s not an easy question to ask…or to answer.

There were times when I felt that God was off somewhere else, listening to someone else–but not to me. My prayers seemed to go no further than the top of my head, and I really felt alone.

Oh, intellectually I knew that God was present because of past experiences, but my heart wasn’t so sure. I went back to read in some of my journaling and was reminded of a time when I felt God asking if I wanted the emotion of the experience or if I wanted the faith that would come from the experience. Ouch!

It’s easy to get addicted to wanting an emotional high. After all, we talk about “mountain-top experiences”…we focus on times and experiences when we have made special preparation and we know without a doubt that God’s presence is there. But those don’t happen every day.

As we go through our daily lives, we sometimes have go just slog through those times when simply putting one foot in front of the other can seem like a major chore…and we wonder where God is. But we’re not alone in that…not alone in finding it difficult to pray “your will, not mine.”

As I worried this last week, trying my hardest to pray “your will” and letting go of the one I loved–placing that individual into God’s care and keeping–I began to have a new appreciation of Christ’s prayer time in Gethsemane. He struggled then as well. Knowing what was facing him…knowing that he had spent his ministry trying to help others know of God’s love and care…he was still scared…still needing to know that God was with him.

If he struggled, then just maybe it’s okay for us to struggle as well. We don’t have to have all the answers; in fact, if we think we do, then we’re missing something significant in our life experience–and losing out on opportunities for ministry as we struggle both within ourselves and with others who have similar questions.

Jesus asked his friends to support him in Gethsemane…to be with him. They didn’t have to have answers; he just needed them to be present.

Sometimes that’s all we need as well…and all we need to offer to others.

Where is God? With our friends who support us in prayers…in presence…in tears…

God is found in the struggles and the questions…in the continued slogging, even when we’re not sure we can take one more step. God is in the persistence, even when it feels like no one’s listening and nothing’s happening. God is in the every-day-ness of life.

God is.