Trust

It is no small task to trust, although we usually take it for granted. You trust the chair that you’re sitting in right now. You trust the foundation of the building that you’re in or the dirt under your feet to not give way.

That trust is easy when it’s never been tested. If you sit on a chair and the chair collapses, the next time you go to sit down, you’re going to sit differently. Your heart will speed up a little as you go to sit. Your legs will be ready to catch you if you fall. You’re on high alert for a while, because something unexpected happened. Every time you go to sit down, you wonder if what you’re relying on will do what you expect it to do.

As a Christian, I believe that God has a plan for my life. I believe that He loves us so much that He uses everything in this world to draw us towards Him. I believe that He “works all things together for the good of those that love Him.” (Romans 8:28) My definition of “good” is warped, though. I see “good” through the lens of a consumer: a nice home, a family, a good job, security. But that isn’t the “good” that the Bible talks about. God wants to draw people to Himself; to make us into His image. When Christ came to the earth, He wasn’t given the best body, a rich family, or a stable political environment. He was born to a blue collar father and a teenage mother, wasn’t much to look at (Isaiah 53:2), and he was born into a tumultuous political environment that He and His family had to flee from because His political leadership wanted to kill him (Matthew 2).

Christ chose to endure all of this even though He knew the kind of pain and poverty that He would have to endure. Why? Because He loved us and loves us still and wants to see everyone turn to Him to be saved. When I became a Christian, I committed to that goal, too. I committed to adopt that goal as my own (Matthew 28:16-20). I accept the greatest gift ever given: being reconciled to God through Christ’s sacrifice by admitting that I am a sinner and that Jesus died for my sins.

A lot of people think that becoming a Christian means that things become easier. That in an instant your problems are gone and that you’re free from sin. I’m forgiven of my sin, but I struggle with it every day. My problems didn’t go away, but I don’t have to go through them alone anymore. I don’t have the same goals as God automatically and I struggle with wanting material things instead of pursuing the goals of my faith.

And when something bad happens, I struggle with trust. When Cora died, it was like the floor fell out from under my feet. The Bible says that “children are a gift from the Lord” (Psalm 127), so why was my gift taken from me?

And the truth of the matter is that I don’t know why. I can’t tell anyone that Cora died so that one specific person would come to faith. I can’t tell you that she died so that other people’s faith would grow. I don’t know why she died, and I’m not supposed to know why.

That’s where real trust comes into play. It’s not the trust of sitting in a chair, either. Chairs are made by people, and people fail. This trust is that God is good even when He lets me walk through fire. This trust is that God still works together all things for the good of those that love Him, even when what He allows to happen hurts.

You see, that verse in Romans 8 that I quoted before isn’t talking about having super powers because of our faith. In context, it’s talking about suffering.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

It was one thing to trust God when I hadn’t known suffering. But I have suffered and I still suffer today. And I can tell you that I have to choose to trust God every day and He hasn’t let me down once. So, as you walk through your day, remember that God is good, but that His goodness doesn’t hinge on you getting your way. His goodness is the truth that we cling to when the floor falls out from under us, and His faithfulness is the very thing that sustains us when we suffer.

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It’s not “Going to be Okay”

 

This post is part of the 31 Days Writing Challenge, in which a group of writers post a piece every day for the month of October. Want to read all of my posts in this series? Click here

Day 29

When I’m having a rough time, I feel like the world is going to end. When I don’t know what choice to make, when my heart hurts because it longs for something that it’s not quite time for, when Husband-Man gets crazy sick out of no-where, when when Husband-Man and I aren’t speaking the same language, I feel desperate. I feel alone and hopeless. And I forget who God is. I forget His faithfulness.

My internal dialogue when I start to notice that I’m getting desperate and hopeless has been, up until this year, “it’ll be okay”. But that stopped helping me this year. Looking at the phrase, it doesn’t apply to today. It only applies to the future. It doesn’t speak to today. It doesn’t touch now. It tells my heart: “just wait. For some undisclosed future moment. One day, you’ll be fine. Today, you’re not.”

Looking at how God describes Himself in scripture, “it’ll be okay” doesn’t match. In Exodus, when Moses was flipping out about doing what God told him to do, the Bible says “God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14, ESV) God calls Himself “I am”. That, grammatically, means that God spans past, present, and future. Think about it. “I am” speaks to all of time. He is God and He is good across time. He is as good tomorrow as He is today. So “it’ll be okay” means that God is only good tomorrow to my heart. It means that I’m waiting for the end of whatever is making me panic and I’m not seeking God in the process.

I’m not working to honor Him now. I’m not praising Him for going through what hurts but is ultimately for good.

So, instead, I say “it’s okay now”. Why? Because God is good all the time. Because I don’t need answers or resolution. I need Jesus. And I can draw near to Him NOW. That’s the only thing that helps.

What is “okay now” in your life?

Bully

Stories of bullies and those that they bullied have gotten a lot of attention in the news in the past few years, for good reason. People are so much more “connected” than they used to be, and have access to one another in ways that allow to dissociate themselves from a feeling of personal responsibility. Bullying touches everyone’s lives, no matter how old or young.

I didn’t struggle too much will bullies when I was little. I wasn’t shy when I was younger, and a time or two, I had the opportunity to stick up for siblings or friends who were getting pushed around. In middle and high school, my cousins and I started to attend the same school. A couple of them are pretty big guys, and no one ever bothered me. In college, things were much the same. I had good friends, and my little liberal arts college didn’t have the traditional “clique” system. People were pretty free to float among groups, and we were a tight knit class.

The summer following my junior year of college, I had the opportunity to participate in an internship for underrepresented people groups (women, minorities, people with disabilities, low income students) in a Federal office in Washington, DC. My internship was fun. I learned a lot of cool stuff about a subject that I previously didn’t know anything about, and was told to “work slower” and maybe “watch the World Cup”. So I did. I learned that I don’t like living in cities, and that I longed for grass, trees, and neighbors that moo and neigh. I learned that Arlington National Cemetery was my retreat, and that I didn’t care for the same kind of “fun” as my fellow DC interns.

As part of my internship, I was provided free housing in a renovated apartment building. The company hired to manage the residential portion of my internship managed many internships, for students on scholarship programs, like myself, and for paying students. As part of my internship, I learned that living in an apartment with strangers was a perfect place for bullying to occur. I got along just fine with two of the young women with whom I lived, and keep up with one of them still.

But one of them was difficult to live with. She stayed up late at night, with the TV turned up loud, when I had to leave to catch my bus at 7:00 AM every morning and had trouble sleeping with the noise. She had loud guests over who left messes in the kitchen, and didn’t clean up after herself. She wouldn’t turn the TV down when I asked her to. She yelled at me, and told me that she paid the same amount of rent as I did (except I didn’t pay rent), so she could have the TV as loud as she wanted it, whenever she wanted it. The night before all the interns in my office were scheduled to meet with the Secretary of our office (the kind that’s appointed by the President), she kept me up into the wee hours of the morning with the television. Everything was a struggle. She wouldn’t talk things out, and wouldn’t compromise. A resident assistant got involved, and things got worse. We tried to make a roommate agreement, and she didn’t participate in crafting it, and didn’t care to follow it.

A month into the program, I found out that she was posting about me on her Twitter account. She posted comments about me and included pictures of Luanne Platter, a character from King of the Hill who was as vapid as she was intellectually slow. In the show, she spoke with a drawl and was the butt of most jokes. I remember finding out what she’s posted, and crying. She didn’t know I could see her Tweets, but that made it all the more painful. I couldn’t believe that someone, a young adult, could be so ugly.

Eventually, things got better. She was moved out of my apartment, and I didn’t have to see her anymore. There was no real resolution, and she didn’t get punished for her behavior. It didn’t seem fair to twenty-one year old me.

I’ve tried for a long time to not think about crying in the bathroom with the fan on to keep anyone from hearing me cry. I’ve forgiven her, but I still don’t know all of the reasons she tortured me. It wasn’t until recently that I identified her as a bully.

I know there was a reason that she was mean to me. The primary reason was internal. I couldn’t stop it, and I learned that there was truth in what most people say causes bullying. The bully usually isn’t happy with themselves.

I also know that she took issue with my faith. You see, when she would go out partying on Thursday nights, I would go to a book club at my church to talk about C.S. Lewis books. When she would sleep late on Sundays, I would get up and go to church. I never spoke with her directly about my faith, because she didn’t talk to me. But I spoke with my actions, and I’m sure I made her very uncomfortable. I received some of the nastiest looks on those morning when she got out of bed early and saw my studying my Bible.

Now, I don’t think that all of this was perpetrated by me exercising my faith. I know that she must have been having some issues that I won’t find out about, and I’m thankful that I didn’t act ugly towards her. But, in my Bible reading plan, I came across a passage that hadn’t resonated with me before now. In Acts 5, there is an account of the early church, and how they began to be persecuted. Because of the jealousy of the high priests, they are arrested and thrown into jail and are then beaten and freed, being warned to not speak of the Way again. And they respond with joy.

40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.

They rejoiced that they got to suffer for their faith. That is counter to the common belief today that being a Christian is a cushy set up where you pray the right way and God gives you material things. They were blessed by being allowed to suffer for the cause.

As I said before, I don’t know how much of my suffering was because of my faith. I never thought that my suffering should be a cause for joy, until now.

Is there suffering in your life for  the cause of Christ that you should rejoice over? Is there suffering for the cause of Christ in your life that you’re avoiding?