There are moments when I want to chuck my Bible at God and say, “Here, I’m done.”
Sometimes I look at Tage’s empty crib and think How did I ever think God really loved me?
I see the pile of maternity clothes folded neatly on the ottoman in my bedroom, staring at me daily while I figure out what to do with them now, and wonder How could a loving God put such a strong desire in my heart for biological children only to allow the mixture of Josh’s and my genetics to create the life destroying horror that is Leigh’s Disease?
I watch the stories on the news of babies abandoned, killed, neglected and abused and think How can there be a God? How could He refuse to give us healthy babies and instead give them to a drug addict who doesn’t protect them? It doesn’t make sense.
Those are the days I convince myself the atheists must be right: all this Jesus talk must be a fairy tale that my optimistic, weak heart convinces me to believe so I can feel better.
Those are the days I sit across from a dear friend of mine at a coffee shop with tears in my eyes and have to look away from her as I whisper, “What if I’m wrong? What if Jesus is not real and there is no loving God? What if I’m just too weak to face the cognitive conclusion that Jesus is man-made and there is no Hope for the world? What if I’m writing a bunch of lies?”
But even on those days, I feel a still, small voice Who swirls around my heart beckoning, This is the way, walk in it. And so I found myself sitting in Tage’s rocking chair this morning with tears running down both cheeks as I said the only sentence I could muster: Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief.
I am reading through the Bible from cover to cover for the first time in my 30 years. On some of my darkest days, I found myself (unfortunately) in the third book of the Bible, Leviticus, reading about punishments and animal sacrifices and other things that were less than, shall we say, uplifting.
Now, in the Christian circles where I’ve grown up, the first part of the Bible (before Jesus was born) gets a bad wrap for being mostly about an angry God who is full of wrath and judgment. I wondered if perhaps this Old Testament was not the part of the Bible I should be studying right now. Yet, I also felt strongly that if the Bible is truly The Word of God, there should not be parts that are off-limits during certain times of our lives. If it’s His Word, He is in ALL of it.
So, I’ve continued to read the long, sometimes fresh, sometimes tedious, history that God has with His people, and daily I have been blown away and caught up in the incredible God I am discovering in new ways.
I have encountered a compassionate, generous God in those Old Testament pages. He is a God who is just, yes, but who is also quick to show mercy and very slow to anger, freely forgiving and lavishly loving. Time and time again, the history there demonstrates a God who is radically willing to open His arms to anyone if they would just turn to Him (even if they had betrayed Him countless times after countless warnings), a God who is always protecting and providing for His people, and a God who does not forget His promises to His people. No, He never forgets His people.
Disease struck. Families were enslaved. Babies died. But God was there. Sometimes He prevented, other times He allowed. Still hardest to comprehend: sometimes He ordained the circumstances that would ultimately bring suffering but that would lead to good, and other times He doesn’t record how He tied up the loose ends. However, His promises assured that nothing ever happened that was out of His sight and out of the boundaries of His perfect love.
But despite this mind-baffling love I encountered, there was still suffering, and He didn’t always explain Himself. To my feeble mind, love and suffering don’t mingle. Tears are left unexplained. Questions are left unanswered. Reasons are not given. How can death be loving?!
I want to know the why! And God stays silent.
This is messing with me, because I trusted God with other people’s messy stories. But now He’s messed with mine.
Sometimes, I hold His love hostage to this baby and shout, “Unless You explain Yourself, I’m walking away!
Sometimes, I doubt because I don’t have the facts and figures that show me proof He’s still really got this.
But God doesn’t measure in facts and figures. He measures in faith and obedience.
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” and “without faith, it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to Him must believe He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him,” (Hebrews 11:1, 6).
I do long to be sure and certain of the things I cannot see, but it was a lot easier to claim I trusted Him before I lost the ultimate. And now I see: Truly, I cannot say that I trust God until I am trusting Him with and for the ultimates of life.
Lord, help me with my unbelief.
I miss my son, and today, I seem to have overwhelmingly more questions than answers, more mystery and less understanding.
But such is the essence of our faith – living a life of hope while staring mystery right in the face. We can’t have one without the other. My faith won’t survive without hope, and my hope won’t survive without the realization that all mystery will not be answered this side of the curtain. It doesn’t make sense to our humanly-limited minds. But if I embrace both, I can have a vibrant faith and an unwavering trust in God.
Still, some days, I doubt.
Again, I wonder if my optimistic heart is holding onto a fairy tale called Jesus so that I can feel better. I wonder if this is just my weak cop-out.
I came across another faith-filled Believer who must have been asked about the argument that to believe in Jesus Christ is to believe in a fairy tale. I was built-up as I read this excerpt from a sermon from the late Peter Marshall (1902-1949):
There are in our day some philosophies growing
in popularity that teach the attractive idea
that God always reveals His love by removing the
distasteful and the unpleasant from our lives.
But where in the Bible do you find support
for this attractive and alluring concept?
Certainly not from the lips of Jesus.
On the contrary you are startled to discover how
plainly and bluntly Christ told His disciples to
“In the world ye shall have tribulation.
But be of good cheer.” That is His message.
“Be of good cheer . . . I have overcome the world.”
No . . . Christians are not spared . . .
The calamities of life knock on their door
with the same startling swiftness . . .
and the rain falls on the just
as well as the unjust.
There is no hint or intimation anywhere in the Gospel
that they who follow Him shall never hunger
or be out of work
or be left alone.
No, there is no hint of such immunity . . .
But there is the promise of something far better . . .
the promise of deliverance . . .
not from these things . . . but in these things.
There is an air of reality about the Gospel . . .
It is not a fairy tale in which Cinderella’s rags
are changed into the robes of a queen . . .
but rather a promise in which Cinderella in her rags
becomes more queenly.
Yes, Lord. Make me more queenly. Oh, that You would make me more like Jesus.
Last week, I was driving down the road listening to the radio when I heard these words written by the apostle Paul as he was dying:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)
That last line struck my weary soul: I have kept the faith.
I have kept the faith.
I have kept the faith.
Faith during the good fight for Paul meant trusting God as he was being flogged, lashed, stoned, shipwrecked, lost in the open sea for two days, chased by thieves, sleep-deprived, hungry, homeless, naked and cold.
A man who keeps fighting like that is not weak.
Paul stayed in the battle when it got bloody. He persevered when the course seemed unending. And in the face of the ultimate, he didn’t walk away from his Lord.
And his faith was made stronger through the hardships. In the battle, he became more Kingly.
I was reminded in the sermon I heard this weekend from Mark Vroegop that to keep fighting like that, you have to know what you’re fighting for. I have to know Who I’m fighting for. And when the heat turns up, I have to remember the battle cry as Paul did in Romans 8:31:
“If God is for us, who can be against us?”
God. Is. For. Us.
It may not feel like it, but from Genesis to Revelation, He proves it.
The fight for us might begin as the doctor returns shaking his head, as he watches his wife back out of the driveway vowing never to return, as she walks to the car for yet another first date when all she wants is to walk down the aisle, as he stands next to his weeping wife who clutches a lifeless baby to her chest, as dreams are shattered, laughter is deferred, and futures are changed in an instant. But faith during the fight is when they get up the next day and the next day and the next and with a tear-stained face chooses to say, “I trust You, Lord. You are for me!”
A person who stays in the ring during those rounds, who keeps moving toward the finish line if only at a shuffle pace, who chooses to proclaim, “God is for me!” even when they have been beaten to their knees, is not weak.
No. Faith in an unseen God in the midst of suffering is anything but weak.
“…Blessed are those who have not seen [me] and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!” (1 Cor. 13:12 MSG)
Belief with proof is easy. Belief amid doubts is supernatural.
And so I pick my Bible up from its sprawled position across the floor. I sit down and spread its pages wide on my lap. Instead of giving up, I choose to settle in to the red letters. God…is…for…me. Lord, strengthen my faith, make me more queenly.
With a deep breath, my shoulders go down, my eyes close.
I remember the battle cry.