This is a rough one for me to blog about, for a multitude of reasons. Mostly because it stirs up a lot of emotions to think and write about and it makes me feel extremely vulnerable to share in such a public way. But I believe understanding this topic has been essential to my growth in my relationship with Christ and I believe sharing it will help both me, and maybe you, understand how to cling to Jesus amidst trial.
This has been such a wonderful year. So many amazing things have happened to me and for me… But this has also been a year that has been marked with loss. This year, I have seen more death than I ever have in any other season of my life. Up until last November, the only real “losses” I had witnessed and really understood were that of my great grandparents and my grandma (all many many years ago) & my boyfriend’s father, who passed away our senior year of high school. I have since considered myself extremely fortunate in that death had never struck anywhere close to me in quite some time. However, that all changed late last year. It all began when a boy I went to high school with tragically passed away. He was not someone I was close to by any means, however, his death was the first I had experienced of someone who was close in age to me and somewhat close in to me in our communities and circles. A couple months after this, my grandpa passed away somewhat unexpectedly. His health was slowly declining over time, however in the span of a few weeks, it took a sudden and fast downhill slide and he passed away faster than anyone was prepared for. This was a huge blow to my family. Not a full two months after that, two more people close to my circle of community passed away also unexpectedly and it shook all who knew them to their cores. And then, finally, in June, a death occurred that just did me over. One of my closest friends works as a nanny to three precious children; three children that she often shared with us in stories and memories and pictures. On Fathers Day morning, one of the children was discovered non-responsive in her bed. She had passed away in her sleep from inexplicable causes that are still unclear.
Tragedy, tragedy, tragedy everywhere I turned.
It seemed as though none of this tragedy was really occurring TO me, but rather to the PEOPLE all around me. People who I dearly, dearly care for. I could not understand how a loving God could possibly allow these things to happen to HIS people.And with that single thought right there, I allowed satan to creep in the smallest crack of doubt in my heart.
My time with God was now obscured by these thoughts and these doubts. I would go to church and not even be able to listen to the messages because every single point that was brought up by the speaker or by scripture would instantaneously draw me back to my questions of,
“but how could a loving God allow this circumstance & that circumstance to happen?”
“If God really knows what He is doing, why does He allow these awful things to happen?”
“I understand death is inevitable. But why must these all happen in such awful ways?”
“Is GOD doing this? Or satan?””Does God oversee these things and not interfere?”
Everywhere I looked for solutions just brought me more frustration. Everyone I tried talking to would offer me wonderful scriptures and prayer, but I never got answers. So for months, I sat in what felt like darkness. And somewhat willingly, too. I knew I was there. I knew I was there by my own will. I knew that I was choosing to live in my grief instead of my hope. I was sitting in my doubt instead of my confidence in Christ. My time with God grew to less than daily, then a few times a week, and then none at all. My prayers grew short and rehearsed. My hands were closed and my fists were clenched. My prayer journal entries were short and redundant of my feelings of resentment towards God — and my stubbornness to stay in this place of doubt and discontentment and confusion until HE provided ME with the answers I wanted. One entry in July of this year reads,”All around me there is senseless, terrible death and with what appears to be no good reason for it,. I am angry with God because I cannot see why he would do or allow these things. Is it You, God? Do You allow death or do you deliver it? Is this what You intended? I am vulnerable and I need answers from you. Satan is using my confusion to turn it into doubt… I am so confused and mad and sad and doubtful …. it is hard to for me to be close to you when I don’t understand You.”So angry, so confused, and so incredibly outside of what God has for me.
My mindset very slowly began to change when I considered the word “worship”. Worship may begin in the church, but is most active and lived-out outside of the church in living, thinking, and operating in ways that bring honor to God. I have gotten so wrapped up in the chaos and tragic circumstances surrounding me during this season of life that I have completely stepped out of a lifestyle of worship.
I recently heard a message at church that described loving God in 3 ways:
1. Having an attitude, disposition, a posture of leaning in saying “I’m IN this.”
2. Wanting to bring good to God’s name in all I do.
3. Believing God knows what is best for me and does not allow me to endure anything without using it as a tool to shape me. — Giving Him the benefit of my doubt in trying circumstances.I am called to worship God with my heart — even if it’s not in one piece, I am called to worship and to LOVE God with my whole heart.I am called to LOVE God with all of my mind – even if it too is broken and saturated in doubt.I am called to LOVE God with all of my strength – even when it is scanty. (Luke 10:27, Mark 12:33)
I firmly believe seasons such as these are such great opportunities for God to work in. I did not find peace to the questions that plagued my heart and mind for the past several months, but I believe its because this is a part of my life in which I am called to have faith instead of all the answers. I have instead found peace in thanksgiving. I am called to give thanks in all things and THAT is the number one way to walk in a lifestyle of worship. Living life in a thankful mindset positions me to relax my grip, release my clenched fists and open my hands so that I can receive what God has for me. This is something I am still very fresh in doing — but I don’t want to waste another moment of this season of difficulty. I may not be able to offer up thanksgiving for this season of difficulty just yet, but I can absolutely find thanksgiving while I’m still in the midst of it.
I believe as Christians, its absolutely normal and understandable for us to go through seasons where we may question God’s plan and even sometimes Him all together — however, it is absolutely detrimental not to stay in this place. God is good – regardless of the circumstances that surround you. He is good because He is God; His goodness is not dependent upon our lives being good. I have found my way out of this desert through beginning to live a life of worship on a foundation of thankfulness. Recently, I heard a song by Tim Hughes and it has become my anthem. This is my prayer for me, and for you, if you find yourself in this same season: