In 2011, my family experienced an unexpected, unpreventable catastrophe. When my wife, Amy, and her mom were on their way back to our house from picking up my birthday cake, a car coming the other way crossed the center line and hit them head on. The result was horrific. Amy’s precious mother never regained consciousness and passed to Heaven several days later. Amy herself was nearly killed from the trauma. The ER docs considered amputating her leg which had been mangled. Her entire body was hammered by the collision and she went through multiple surgeries to be put back together again. Her pretty face was the lone place which showed no signs of the crash. A month later she was sent home from the hospital in a wheelchair. They told her that she may never walk again. After months of physical therapy, they told her she would be able to walk, but always and only using a cane. A few months after that, on a Sunday morning, Amy, leaning only on my arm, took her place on the worship team at the church for the first time since the wreck and sang His praise with a heart filled with gratitude. I am so blessed and grateful to be married to her. Not everyone could go through what she went through and go right back to the place of praise and worship when her body allowed her to do so. She bears physical and emotional scars for sure. But she will tell you that she bears not one of them alone. Amy overcomes every day the most devastating experience in her life. She has seen something greater than her loss. She has seen her Lord.
In my last post, I submitted the idea that most Christians, as they walk more deeply with Jesus by faith, will eventually encounter a season where God allows the unexpected and the undesirable to find us. Sometimes it is a head-on collision on your way to a birthday party. Sometimes it is the loss of a job through no fault of your own. It can be a wayward child that has stopped calling. Maybe it is a marriage or relationship that failed. Honestly, life is full of deep and dark valleys that contain enough trouble to shake the stoutest believer to his or her core (see Acts 14:22 if you don’t agree with this statement). King David found himself in a season where he was experiencing both anger toward God and fear about God. This is important because David was no fickle believer. David was a mere man, but God declared David to be someone who passionately went after God’s heart. Yet, when God struck Uzzah dead and ruined the national celebration which David had meticulously planned for God’s own honor, David experienced some deeply negative feelings toward God. As much as we do not wish to admit it, we are prone to the same potential emotional struggle.
Most of our negative feelings toward God stem from us being disappointed with something He proactively did or passively allowed. However we may view God’s sovereignty, we all end up sensing that God is in control, and we often presume that, because He is in control, He is obligated to keep the bad stuff away from our lives. When the bad stuff encounters us, we find ourselves in the awkward position of wrestling through our foundational belief in God’s goodness versus the reality that our good, good Father allowed some bad, bad stuff to find us. These seasons in life are times of a purifying test of our souls. They serve as a mirror for us to stare into and learn who we really are in Christ and where we are in our journey of faith.
Many Christians believe that the chief goal of God is for Him to make us happy and at ease. That is our default understanding of what good is. Things are good if things are comfortable, pleasing and easy. Things that are challenging, painful or intimidating are the bad things. This is how we feel about good and bad. Yet, God has declared that His ways and thoughts are immeasurably higher than human thoughts and ways. He operates on an eternal level while we typically think on a temporary, present level. We must come to the place where we confidently conclude that, in order to operate deeply with the Father, we must exchange our grip on the temporary for a grasp of the eternal. We must think all the way to the end of this life which crosses us over the threshold into the next life. What seems, looks and feels bad here and now actually has a connection to what will be good in eternity. We Christians make the mistake of disconnecting the here and now from the there and then. God does not do this. He is operating with us in the context of time and space with the view of that which is beyond time and space. His ultimate goal for us is NOT a constant provision of ease down here on planet earth. His ultimate goal is that we will become more like Jesus Christ in this life. He is intentionally making us reflections of His own glory. He wants to pour Himself through us now into a world that does not believe in Him. When we bowed in faith to Him, we surrendered to a Master. Yes, He is a Father – this reveals His kind heart toward us. He is also, however, a Master, who is committed to accomplish His plan through us. Few things more greatly reveal the authenticity of the reality of God in us than our trust and continuance in the context of our disappointments, disillusionment or our suffering. If God has willed that the glory of His Son be manifest through us, through His body, then we must embrace that the mystical body of Jesus will endure affliction as did the physical body of Jesus. If we will have intimacy with God and make His presence known in our generation, we cannot bypass the shared communion in the sufferings of Christ (see Philippians 3:10).
When our Father facilitates or allows trouble to find us, it is a mirror. This is your opportunity to learn more deeply the degree to which you are really His. If our praises are high and loud only when life is easy and comfortable, then we have greater faith in our circumstances than we do our God. Conversely, if we are able to enduringly and sincerely praise, worship and follow Him when life presents us with our own painful, private boot-camp experience, then we can know for a certainty that He has become our greatest reality. We are able to process in honesty with God any negative emotions we have toward Him. If we are angry, we can trust His goodness enough to tell Him that we are struggling with anger toward Him. When we are afraid of Him because He has proven Himself too big for us to control or predict, we should confess our fear and ask Him to have mercy on our shaking soul. When the Father sees us pressing in to Him through our negative emotions, our confusion, and the rubble of our presumptions about who we thought He was, He is so pleased that we did not stay in the fog of our heart-struggles.
God would much more prefer that you be honest and transparent with your emotional battles as you boldly enter His throne room to receive answers, than for you to shut down and give yourself over to an unquestioning religious posture with Him at a distance. He does not mind the hard questions. He has heard from countless Christians throughout the ages as they speak to Him in a torrent of confusion, anger or even hopelessness. Reading through the Psalms and some of the writings of the Old Testament prophets, you will see that they also asked God the hard questions – lots of them. When believers are feeling negative emotions toward God, they have His standing invitation to come to Him so that He, as our High Priest, can listen, empathize and then reason with them about what they are feeling. He actually cares. He actually feels you. He really does not mind when you are honest with Him about the inner-struggle.
In closing, let me return to the story of King David from my original blog post. David learned what they had done wrongly with the transporting of the ark that resulted in Uzzah’s death. The fear of God which David experienced slowed him down, bowed him down and raised him up. He reengaged with God and they safely, precisely brought back the ark successfully. Though David was far from perfect as he lived out the rest of his days, he displayed the resilience of soul that we all need when we go through something that strikes at the heart of our confidence in God. Circumstances would not silence David’s songs. Pride would not suffocate David’s faith. Pain could not assassinate David’s conviction that God was both glorious and good. David pressed in, pressed on and overcame the season of his anger and fearfulness toward God.
David remained transparent and open with his God. Though that doorway, he walked into the next chapters which God had written for him. They were good chapters from the Father. I am so glad that he didn’t stop at the place of his great disappointment with God.
I am confident that you will not either. He has been too good to you, my friend.
Keep. Pressing. In.