Saturday, December 02, 2006

When Life is Hard...

I won't go into all the datails, but life has been incredibly difficult the past couple of months. Problems pile on top of problems, crisis after crisis. No sooner do I crawl back onto my feet from one blow than the rug is pulled out from under me again.

This is a real crisis of faith. Well, I'm not sure that's the right way to state that. I believe that God is in control, that he loves me and that he has my best interests at heart. I also believe that he lets incredibly terrible things happen to me. Not just to me, but to a lot of us. I don't understand it. I truly don't.

I don't know how to reconcile the God who lets terrible things happen to his people and the God who gave all for me. How does the same God give his own son, his own son who is fully God and fully man and who gave his own life, how is it that he tells Satan that he can do what he wants with Job except killing him. So Job has any number of calamities that befall him. His children all die, his wealth is gone and then his health is destroyed. His "friends" berate him, telling him that it is because of something he has done, basically that he deserves what is happening.

God's response is a long talk with the basic message that we cannot know the mind of God and that we should not so presume that we should.

I do not know the mind of God. I was not there when he formed the universe. I was not there when he hung the stars. I was not there when he taught the morning star to sing. I admit this. I do not in any way suggest that I should know how things should go. I do say that these things suck and I cannot fathom how they can be from the hand of a loving God. He is not cruel, though these things seem cruel. He is not capricious, though his ways sometimes seem so. These things seem diabolical. I say these things from my mind. My heart is completely different. My heart is crying out "why?" or rather "why me?" I wonder if I have done something to deserve this, and I wonder if there is something about me that should expect life to suck so that I am not completely blindsided by suffering, by pain.

This latest trial , or series of trials has me questioning not my faith, but who God is. I mean who is he really? Can we ever understand even a portion of who he is?

I keep hearing snippets of Scripture in my mind. "Shall we accept good from his hand and not evil?" "My ways are not your ways, neither are my thoughts your thoughts." (paraphrased of course). Parts of God's discourse to Job keep coming back. The "where were you" or "were you there when" portions are filling my mind.

I've been reading Jeremiah, and thinking about what God has allowed in his peoples lives, and what he has asked them to do, knowing the enormous pain and suffering that would be to come. It is unfathomable to me. I try to tell myself that it is because I cannot see beyond this world, cannot see outside of time, but the truth is that I am really upset.

I go back and forth between pain and anger and trust. I am beginning to understand the words of Peter in a new way. When Jesus asks him if he is going to leave with the others who have taken off due to a very uncomfortable teaching and strange words he has said, Peter replies "Where else can I go? Yours are the words of eternal life." In the past I thought these were brave and noble words and imagined them spoken with trust and faith and resolve. Now I hear them said with resignation, wearily, perhaps in frustration and anger. Where else can I go? There is nowhere else for me. If God isn't who he says he is then all is lost anyway.

The question remains how do I reconcile these disparate images of God, these two truths about God? How do I reconcile his goodness and lovingkindness, his mercy and his grace with the horror that he allows his people to go through? How do I deal with Job? How do I deal with Stephen being stoned? How do I handle all of the imprisonments of his people? I know we do not live for today, but we have to live in today. We feel all of our sufferings. We are not immune from the pains even if we know the reason for it, which I don't.

I feel I have lost my reputation, my good name. We have worked hard to restore or credit after previous difficulties, but it seems that the moment we come close to pulling out of the mess, we have another series of troubles that keep us from ever really pulling out altogether.

This latest series of downturns is more disappointing and upsetting than any that have gone before. Perhaps because it seems so capricious and unbelievable. The constancy of the pressure is wearing me down.

Satan is really giving me a hard time, whispering things at me that would deflate me. I don't know how much of the distress I am feeling is the result of Satan's work; of him telling me things to cause doubt, distrust, defeat and discouragement.

I'm fairly certain that some of what I am feeling is the result of his work--the persistent feeling that I have been singled out for God's punishment, his discipline, his displeasure. So I'm spending a lot of time trying to think through things. How can I be singled out for his punishment, discipline and displeasure when I was also singled out for his unbelievable gift of salvation. Compared to that why should I fight against whatever God sends me?