How do we make sense of this life's journey with the God we read about in the Bible? How do we reconcile the God who hears, with a life that seems void of God's presence? How do we reconcile the God who sees with a life filled with untold pain? How do we reconcile the God who heals with the death around us? How do we reconcile the God who provides with the extreme need we experience each and every day?
The child estranged from his father who prays for forgiveness and a relationship with him…only to learn of his father's unexpected and untimely death.
The wife who prays relentlessly for her straying husband to repent and come home…only to be served with divorce papers.
The father who wants nothing more than to be an active and involved participant in his kids' lives…only to have them taken away during a bitter, ugly divorce.
The girl who asks God not to bring anyone into her life unless it's the one she is to marry…only to have her first true love walk away.
The man who wants to provide for his family…only to be a casualty of the economic downturn.
The single mom who desperately wants to provide shoes and clothes for her children…only to have more month than money.
The Christian who longs to have a deeper walk with Christ…only to experience ongoing disappointments from God.
The parents who wait and hope for a perfect little girl…only to give birth to a severely mentally and physically handicapped child.
Let's be honest: this conversation isn't a nice, clean Christianity that we can tie up with a neat little bow. I love reading about the miracles others experience. Have you read The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson? That's the faith I want, the faith to circle my desires and pray until God brings them to fruition, to see modern-day miracles. I know God is still in the miracle business, and I want to be in on it! All of it!
But sometimes I'm more disappointed in the way God doesn't answer my prayers.
I know all the perfect Christian answers.
God has something better for you.
It just wasn't His will.
It's not His timing.
All things work for good to those who love God.
His ways are higher than our ways.
And yes. I've even given all those answers myself. I've been the one desperately looking for ways to encourage, to build up, to help someone I love out of the pit of despair and depression.
But the truth of the matter is; simple little answers just don't cut it in life's deepest hurts.
I write these words thinking of a text mesage I received today from a young man who feels as if his prayers are always unanswered. Honestly, it's not even that the prayers are unanswered. It's as if God takes delight in doing the exact opposite of what he asks. Every. Single. Time.
My heart aches. I have no words of wisdom or comfort. I just listen to him and tell him that God loves him like a good Father, like a Father who delights in giving Him good gifts.
But he can't see it.
As I've walked this journey called life, I've come to understand the crisis of belief: that place where your faith is tested, where the rubber meets the road, and you learn whether you can trust God. It's that place where you are taken to the brink of destruction and despair, and you find out whether God will meet you and rescue you. It's a scary place, a place where you must walk in faith and not fear. It's the moment when you must decide if you are going to trust God and walk in obedience, even when it seems like a dead-end road.
After years of experiencing God's faithfulness, of seeing Him carry me through hurts and disappointments, I have a relative peace in the face of disappointment. I can look back over my life and see where He took the disappointments and gave me something far greater, going so far as to change my desires to His desires. I can see where He provided exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it.
But this is my life.
How do I translate that hope to someone who hasn't experienced the fullness of God's goodness and grace? How do I encourage that young person on the brink of throwing in his faith because of the overwhelming pain and disappointment? How do I translate what I've experienced to someone else?
Even as I grapple with these questions. Even as I struggle with how to share my faith with someone whose faith hasn't been tested by the fire. Even as I struggle with the weight of the hurt and the pain.
I can see the future. I see the beauty God is bringing out of the ashes. I see the work He has started and I am so excited about what God is about to do in this precious life. I can see how this crisis of belief is about to give way to a faith that has been tested, that has been through the fire of purification. I know He is good. I know He is up to something. I know…
But until then, I cling to my faith. I cry with my precious loved one. I carry his pain. I beg God to do what only He can do, to do something so amazing that it could only come from the God of the universe.
And I cling to scripture, to His word that tells me His ways are higher than my ways. That all things work together for good. That He is the giver of good gifts. That we are His precious, dearly loved children. That God is faithful to do what He says He will do. That He sees our tears and holds them in His hand. That He hears our prayers and answers them. That He will set all things right and one day have us back on our feet for good.
I know that's been my experience in the trials of this life. And if I know my God, He will come through again.