Faith That Endures When Faith has Failed*

P1000358-001God, I have not given up on you yet. I know you are still my provider. I know you will meet my needs; sometimes naturally, at other times, supernaturally. But while I wait, I also lament. Have you heard my cry?

  • I have God; in spite of my faithlessness
  • I was thanking God within my spirit and praying for others who are also facing challenges
  • He was almost in tears. He doesn’t see how he can “live out” his passion. God, I leave that to you.
  • God help me to stay hopeful.
  • Why are some prayers answered and not others; why God, why?
  • God surprise me today

God I do not hear from you. Is this what faith is all about; to believe still, in the face silence? Did the saints of old encounter this stone silence? I pray that I will not fail this test for I want to be counted as one your saints.

Give me wisdom, give me discernment; give me patience, but above all God give me Faith; “faith that endures when faith has failed” (McLaren, p.176).

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*McLaren, B. (2011). Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words. New York. HarperCollins Publisher.

What is Your Image of God?

Earlier this week one of my students shared with me that she learned that a friend committed suicide. She was really hurt and at the same time very angry. She said that her friend had so much potential and now he is gone. She also felt that he didn’t work hard enough to survive and wondered why he did not reach out to her for help. In her heart, she felt God will truly punish the friend because, in her words, ‘he was young, he had a lot of potential and he didn’t fight hard enough to survive.’ I shared with her that God may be disappointed in her friend, but God would not punish the friend. That God, better than us, understood his pain. She seemed relieved and said “I just wished my friend was still with us.”

After that conversation, I began to reflect how each of us has a different perspective on God. What is your image of God? Or very simply, how do you see God?

As a child my God could do everything. He was omnipresent, omnipotent, all knowing, caring and intervened in people’s lives when they called upon him. Nevertheless, he was a God to be feared. He was the hell and damnation God. Although I knew I needed and wanted God, I was afraid of this God and feared too that I would be damned to hell.

Later in life, God became an all loving God; still Omni-everything and still the God who intervenes in the lives of those who seek him out. I don’t know about you, but my image of God is still evolving.

He’s definitely not the God of my youth or the God of my young adulthood; he sometimes seems to be the God of indifference, a God of distance, a God who rarely intervenes in the affairs of humankind. This is a God I cannot accept and I doubt is real. But like you, I’m still wrestling with who God is.

Mark Batterson in his book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day (2006) said that “how you think about God will determine who you become. You aren’t just the byproduct of “nature and nurture.” You are a byproduct of your God-picture. And that internal picture of God determines how you see everything else” (p.28).

Batterson goes on to say that “our biggest problems can be traced back to an inadequate understanding of who God is. Our problems seem really big because our God seems really small. In fact, we reduce God to the size of our biggest problem” (p.28). I don’t know about you, but I need a God that’s bigger than any problems. I need a God who not only can tackle my problems, but the world’s problems. Batterson continues and believes that God has no dimensional units and that our belief or thoughts of God will determine who we will become. Wow!

Wow is right. I need a God who is greater than all this world’s imagination; especially as it relates to who God is and what God can and will do. I need a God that is as big as this world; still has concerns and abiding love for me and not only showed loved for me on a CROSS centuries ago, but a God who daily reminds me of his love and protection.

I need that infinite God; the God of love and mystery and yes, a God that I or no one else can define or put in a box. I need a God that loves “even me.” I need a big God; the same God that told Isaiah, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways,’’….”As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). To learn more about God’s awesomeness read Job, chapters 38 through 41. That’s a big God and no, he is not in a box.

How do you see God? How big is your God? My image of God is evolving, but each day I love this God who refuses to be defined. I hope you too will envision a God that is unlimited and therefore undefinable and that my friend will make all the difference in your world.

The Beatitudes (You Are Blessed, vs 6)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6, NIV).

You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat (Matthew 5:6, The Message).

As a child, I was coaxed to eat my spinach and other green vegetables to grow and be strong like Popeye the Sailor Man. As an adult, I know it is critical to eat my green vegetables to be strong and to stay healthy. In fact, today I have an appetite for green vegetables and it’s the same appetite that I now have for God. We need to eat our vegetables and God is like that vegetable. He is our nourishment; nourishing our soul, our spirit, in such a way, that we hunger for more.

I think we hunger more for God when things don’t go as planned. We hunger for God, when one day of missed blessings, turns into weeks and then to months. I hunger for His love, His comfort, for His wisdom and just to know who this God is. I am so hungry for God that I am salivating.

It is ironic but, for me, this Beatitude verse closely aligns with Psalm 111:10a, which reads “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (NIV). The Message Bible says that the “the good life begins in the fear of God”.  Fear in this case, means our reverence to our God. It means that we accept His awesomeness. When I think of God’s awesomeness, I think of an all powerful being that cannot be manipulated or controlled; a being that I desire to know in a more intimate way.

To get there I must have wisdom and that wisdom attainment begins when I seek, when I hunger for that relationship with God. A relationship that may require us to “wrestle with God, play with God, weep with God, argue with God, laugh with God, love God—and (yes) fear God…(Richard Schmidt, 2005, p. 273)*.

When we get to a place and realize that God is greater than our image of Him. That heaven is more than that pie in the sky; we then hunger to know more of God; sometime weeping, sometime in anger, but always in reverence and awe and always with an appetite for more.

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*Schmidt, Richard H. (2005). Praises, Prayers, & Curses: Conversations with the Psalms. Cincinnati,Ohio: Forward Movement.

The Beatitudes (You Are Blessed, vs 4)

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matthew, 5:4 NIV)

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you” (The Message).

What a paradoxical statement!  How can that be? Let’s think this through? What’s dear to us can vary over time and/or we can have many things that are dear to us:

            A pet

            Our jobs (careers)

            Parents

            Our spouse

            Our church

            Our brothers, our sisters, our homes, you name it.

For me it was the loss of a job and to certain extent a career that I spent 30 years building.

But you know I am surviving. I am embracing the process and learning to live by faith one day at a time.

I trust God to take care of me; yes, for the essentials (shelter, food, clothing, etc) and for the existential (the meaning of life, why me God, etc).

Yes it is scary, but I embrace this uncertainty, this mystery because the Lord has taught me that He is my shepherd and I shall not want (Psalm 23:1) and that He will carry my burdens daily (Psalm 68:19). 

So in this time of loss, uncertainty and yes, questioning, my faith in my God is unwavering.

I know that God hears my sighs, sees my tears and even when I cannot pray intercedes for me with groans that words cannot express (Roman 8:26); and because of this, I know without doubt that I am in God’s care and in His will. Amen.

 

 

 

The Beatitudes (You Are Blessed)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3 NIV).

“You are blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule” (The Message, Matthew 5:3).

God, I am at the end of my rope right now. In fact, I am losing my grip. I wouldn’t want to wish this _____________ (you name it) on anyone. But you said that I am blessed.

How can that be? Explain that to me? It is like I am in an endless pit. Teach me the secret of more of you. I want that reality for my life.

But then it hits me. If I put my focus on you instead of my problems I will feel blessed; blessed in such a way that I want to help others. One writer said that when we allow God to translate our problems into a ministry that our pain becomes someone else’s gain.*

We learned that when we are poor in spirit, we have more of God; and, isn’t that what we pray for anyway.

 So as I pray daily, I remain hopeful, even as the grip gets tighter, in the words found in Ecclesiastes 7:8:

The end of a matter is better than its beginning,

 and patience is better than pride.

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*Batterson, M. (2006). In a pit with a lion on a snowy day.Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books