Begin the Journey

God, I am angry with you.  You let me go through a horrific ordeal.  I prayed and prayed and prayed that the madness would stop.  Every morning, for years, I woke up wondering what evil would befall me.  There seemed to be no end to the torment.

People told me to find joy in the little things, but honestly, I couldn’t.  My whole world was crashing around me.  Everything I thought I knew was up for questioning.  Breathing became an act of my determination as my mind was willing to let the idea of living pass away.  I despaired of life.  I didn’t want to see the lovely anymore because I knew that all too soon it was passing away from me–out of reach.

God, it was horrible!  Were You not watching?  What were You thinking as I spiraled into a world of hopelessness and bewilderment?  Where were You?

I watched something happen though, that even now causes me to think.  I saw choices.  I saw human choices.  Those who could have helped stop the madness but chose not to.  Those who reached out for me to give me comfort and hope (even though I flatly rejected it), were many.  My rejections of hope’s offerings were choices.  My choices.

These thoughts bring me back to something I learned, “all men are given a gift of a free will to choose.”

But wait, I didn’t choose pain and suffering.  That was thrust upon me.  I didn’t ask to walk a long dark road with no end in sight.  That was not my choice!

Yet, even now, I am standing on the other side of that pain.  The long dark road gradually gave way to a light that warmed me back to life.  I am still alive.  I am still me, only much has been chipped away, and much is in need of rebuilding.  I’m still here–still here with choices to be made.

I read Your story about You and Job.  Job didn’t really seem to stand a chance.  But You said something that really got my attention.  You said to Satan,“Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” (Job 2:3).  You spoke highly of Job.  You believed in Job.  You had faith in him even though he was going to struggle to have faith in himself.  Do you hold faith for us even when we give it up?

Later in that story, You ask Job a lot of questions.  You ask him if he knows how the foundations of the world were laid.  (You know, we are still arguing over that question today.  Our science books are riddled with theories.) You ask Job if he knows who gives the morning it’s orders as to when it should begin and when the day is over.  God, You might as well have been asking questions of astrophysics, or quantum order.  Fifty+ or so questions later about darkness, light, snow storehouses, seasons, animals, and life in general, you leave Job speechless. (Job 38-40)

Job just wanted to know what the heck happened to his family, and why was he being tormented so ruthlessly.  He did nothing to deserve it.  Why did You ask him all of those big questions?

Okay, so You are God and we are not.  Your ways are not our ways.  That becomes clear enough in life.  But why the riddles?

Wait a minute…in the glow of the light that warmed me back to life I see something…if I drop my angry accusations for a minute, I get a glimpse of something…

Job wanted to answers for his pain.  He, like me wants to make sense of it before he can fully grasp Your hand, God.  Are you saying something in all of Your questions?  Are you proving to Job and to me that there are millions of mysteries in the universe that I do not have conclusive answers for?  Are you exposing my lack of knowledge for what it really is?

For years (40) to be exact, I have laid my head on a pillow to sleep at night never worrying if the sun would forget to come up in the morning.  Never in my seasons of stress and anxiety has the culprit ever been my concern for where the raven would get its food, or if the stars would stay fixed in their place in the heavens.  I have “trusted” for all of these things.  Why did I trust?  Well, there was nothing I could do about these things.  (It would seem that You were taking care of all of this.)  They carried on without me (with a precise order, beauty, and rationality).

The truth is, if I want to admit it, You have ordered the universe with such beauty, design, purpose, and faithfulness that I cannot escape the fact that my whole being and sense of  “life” derives itself from the peace Your handiwork affords me.  Are You saying that I don’t have to have conclusive answers in order to grasp Your hand?  Are You showing me that You are trustworthy in all of these things that sustain my life, and can be trusted with this pain that feels life shattering?  Can You bring order and beauty out of this too?

I guess it comes back to choices.  I have free will to choose to trust You or to choose to fight You for the rest of my life.  I’m reminded  of the lyrics from the song Rich Mullins wrote:  “I’d rather fight You for something I don’t really want, than to take what You give that I need.” (Hold Me Jesus)  I’m tired of fighting You, God.

What good will it do me to spend my life as Your judge?  What benefit is there in refusing to reach for You when You are the only hope there is in life? You are the only One who has promised that You will make all things new again.  Your plan doesn’t end with my pain, but continues with my redemption into eternity. (And not just mine, but the whole world).

Would You help me surrender?  Would You speak Your hope over me?  Would You hold me Jesus?

I become the product of my choices, but You redeem my choices and bring beauty from ashes.  Will You begin that work in me even now?

 

My thanks to Ravi Zacharias’ book “Cries of the Heart” for walking me through my pain in view of God’s goodness.  His chapters on the story of Job forever changed my view of God and helped me drop my defenses and let God into my wounded places.
Also my thanks to the late Rich Mullins whose words still challenge my heart, and draw me to God.

In the Waiting

Between the dreams and goals we have in life are these spaces of life called “the waiting”.  While we are looking ahead to the next bend in the road, or mending something torn from the last season of our life, there are moments, days, months, and maybe even years of waiting.  We all get them.  We all will continue to have them.

It’s often called the “in between”, or the “not yet”, and it is that seemingly long pause in the midst of life.  You feel it when you are waiting to hear the results of your job interview, or the update on your adoption status.  It’s the down-time in the waiting room, or the layover in the airport.  It is the long season of singleness, or the journey of barrenness.  It’s the prayer that isn’t yet answered, or the dream that isn’t being fulfilled.  This list could go on…

The difference in your life in “the waiting” will be made in what you choose “here”, and how you live.  So, in the “in-between”:

Pray.  I say this not with the intention of reserving prayer only for this season of life, because prayer should be a part of our daily life and breathing, but these moments are precious and can be made deep and meaningful by relationship with God that we cultivate while here in life’s waiting room.  Have many conversations with God covering every topic you can think of.  You will be surprised and warmed by the heart of God that is ever turned towards you.

Worship.  Your deepest need and mine is to connect to our Heavenly Father and be caught up in His splendor in the midst of our “nothingness”.  When we feel there is nothing to celebrate, run towards, or achieve, it is then that we need a different perspective, and there is nothing like looking into the face of God to change our outlook.  Read Job 38 for a view of God’s abilities beyond your “nothing”, and worship.

Study.  Some of your best education happens in the “in-between” spaces of life.  Learn something new, try a new hobby, add to your knowledge by researching, traveling, spending time with people, joining a club, organization, or take a class or two.  Add disciplines to your life in these free moments.  Disciplines will help keep you from wasting your life in the now and in the future.

Embrace.  Embrace another along the road.  Share in the help and encouragement of another traveler on the way.  Teach what you know, give what you have, “pay it forward”.

Feel.  Your capacity for love and capacity for pain go hand in hand.  Don’t numb your heart to save yourself pain.  Open your heart to God, pour out your deepest pains, and be content with leaving them in His hands.  Open your heart to others.  Forgive, try again, start anew.  Laugh, smile, and engage.

Practice Thankfulness.  Delight in something daily and give thanks– if even the rays of sun through the window, or the faithful dog at your side.  Enjoy your food, gather flowers, read books, take stock of your life and give thanks to the One who gives it to you as a gift.

Remember.  Journal, photograph, blog, or record in some way the things God has done for you.  Share them with as many people as you can in as many ways as you can.  Never forget His faithfulness.  If He was faithful then, won’t He be the same now?  The answer is, “YES!”

Psalm 30:5

For his anger lasts only a moment,
    but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
    but rejoicing comes in the morning.

Jeremiah 32:27

27 “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?

Italy Window


When Even Answers Cannot Satisfy

Our community is suffering a tremendous sadness today due to the untimely death of a young student via suicide.  There are no words to express the deep grief, sadness, and pain that his family is feeling at his loss, and the deep sorrow that sweeps over our youth who were his friends and peers.  The tears flow freely and the hearts seem to hang so low that speaking just seems irreverent at times.  Questions rise to the surface about the “why’s” of this tragedy, and they linger like eternal echoes in the souls of all of us.  There are just no answers that can satisfy.  But there is one question that finds its way to the forefront of conversations among many, and that is the question:  “How could God let this happen?” That is the question I would like to follow-up on here in this blog.

Love that is forced is not love. What makes love beautiful and powerful has to do with choice.  We want to be chosen, we want to choose.  When we are moved by our free will to choose to love someone, we have the ability to express it to the deepest levels of our heart, and even beyond if we are conduits of the love God has for us which transcends our thoughts and feelings.  We feel the power of love when it chooses us, pursues us, and keeps us.

Choice.  Choice is a gift.  Choice is a gift given to humanity by a God who loves us.  With our choices we can build cities, paint pictures, love people, explore the world, settle down in our hometowns, raise families, foster children, work in hospitals, care for the orphans, feed the hungry, provide for the needy, bless our friends, and build our dreams.  With our choices we make faithfulness mean something.  With our choices  we become heroes, friends, soldiers, servants, and leaders.  With our choices we live life to the fullest and enrich the lives of those around us.  Without the power of choice, we are puppets who have no will, no desires, no outs, and no hope.

As long as we have the power of choice, we have the power to bless one another.  We have the power to “speak life” into the sorrowing soul of another.   With our choices we can be a conduit of healing, of hope, of love and forgiveness.  This is what God intended when He gave us choices.  “Choose life” God says.

Deuteronomy 30:19

19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

I don’t know why this beautiful young man decided to end his life this past weekend.  I can only stand on this side with sadness for him as he made his choices, and sorrow that his choice was not life.  I ache for his family, and I sorrow as a mom who cannot imagine a life without my sons.  With this sorrow I am made more confident in the love of God that has endowed me and you with choices.  He could have made puppets out of all of us.  He could force us to love Him, and force us to choose Him, and His desires; but He doesn’t.  He lets us choose.  He lets us use the depth of our emotions, and the epochs of our strengths.  He allows us to feel the depth of loss, and hold our loved ones close.  He, Himself, all the while, chooses us in love, comforts us, and holds our hope.

We may never know “why?”  And even if we knew the full story, our hearts could not rest in the knowledge of it.  Life is just too precious to be lost, and this young man was no exception.  My heart and prayers go out to my community tonight and in particular to the family of this beloved son whose life ended all too soon.  God be with you.

 

For more reading on the subject of “free will” I submit an earlier blog:

High Tide

https://catemorris.com/2009/12/10/free-will/