Here are some reflections from Jed. Warning: extreme passion ahead. I hope you can read this with an an open heart to what the Father wants to say to you.
Church songs are great, right?
The lyrics pick us up in hard times, they carry us through the week and we are so glad to have the simple melody and words to express an emotion to God.
Or, they comfort our broken heart: songs of His goodness, faithfulness, love and on and on.
We’re walking through Gap whistling the tune, “You make all things work together for my good,” as you find your favorite pair of jeans on sale. The person in front of you buys your drink at Starbucks, “Hallelu,Hallelu, Hallelu.u.Yah.” Ok, that might be a bit off topic. 🙂
Have you ever had a moment when a dear friend shares the depths of pain as a relationship crumbles, or the newsfeed reads of another child dying while escaping a war torn country, and all of the sudden those worship lyrics start to fall flat?
For us there is the oh-so-often overwhelming sense that there is not enough time or hands to give each of our boys the time they need. And even when we do get time and have plenty of hands, we still have to return them to their extremely traumatic lives.
The religious prose no longer feel robust enough to contain the suffering caused by human injustice.
You might find yourself saying, as we find ourselves saying “These lyrics don’t ring true. God, you certainly don’t seem like a good, good father. Where are you????”
Or, maybe you’ve been on a missions trip and when you came home you could barely stand under the weight of western excess in light of the severe poverty witnessed afar. Perhaps you found yourself slamming your fist down, “God, how can you allow this injustice?! This inequality! Why have you forgotten those lovely people?”
“I can’t sing these songs to you God.” You may have even felt some bitterness swelling up in your chest. Dare I say, Doubt…?
Well, if you are brave enough to sit with these feelings for a spell and not ‘numb out’, not head back to the mall or app store to ‘buy out’, you may hear God speak his answer to these questions that haunt our faith.
Think of the story of worship leader Kevin Prosch, who met God in the closet his dad locked him in and learned to play the guitar and worship in the midst of the abuse.
Or, think of the miracle tree growing in the midst of a shanty in the garbage dumps of Nicaragua that provides medicine for the family living there.
Or think of our boys and their amazing capacity to love, despite their circumstances.
God speaks. Are we brave enough to listen?
But, maybe you need more than testimony. Perhaps you still can’t reconcile the goodness of God.
This is me, by the way.
But are you still brave enough to sit with these questions, these accusations…?
Many have quietly walked away from God, shaking their heads.
“I’ve just got too many unanswered questions,” is the statement as they make their curtain call from church community. In that case, there is a world waiting with open arms to receive your weary soul, clinking glasses, “Three cheers for one less fool, duped by faith.”
My dear cousin Brett sat outside of the garbage dump in Nicaragua, having seen the immensity of inequality and suffering caused by poverty. But then he noticed the healing tree I mentioned earlier, and he saw the comfort siblings were able to provide their dying baby brother.
As he held these accusations out to God, “How are you working all things together for their good…? How are you perfect in all of your ways?” God met him and said, “You equate my goodness with material wealth and well-being. But goodness looks far greater than what you deem as good. You don’t get to define me and my goodness. You won’t see all that I do for my people and don’t assume that my “lack of material provision” means that I am unmoved by their suffering.”
As Kim and I sit in the midst of suffering with our boys, we hear God say, “I am so near to these precious ones. Their capacity to love comes from my nearness to them, despite all that this world has done to their bodies. I am holding them close.”
Yesterday, I was reflecting on this while watching Cousin Brett sing songs with my boys, who were rocking, singing, clapping, crying, screaming, self-harming or off in their own world.
A thought came to me, maybe a revelation. When time wraps up and we stand before God we will see the truth. We will see how He has been with each of us in our highest joys and our deepest suffering. We will see His goodness, the way He defines it, for everyone, and we will say “God, you are righteous and just in all of Your ways.”
And at that point some real worship is gonna go down.
Until that day comes, we have some great words in the book of Psalms to help us process, petition and bring our accusations to God. Psalms is a book in the Bible where the writer rages at the sight of injustice, pours his heart out in the places of pain and loss, and at the end of the day he still has a price on his head and a heart full of love.
Maybe Psalms and all its honesty and sometimes offensive accusations might be a little more helpful than quoting pop church songs, when we’re struggling through life’s deep questions. God is not surprised by our questions, nor is He offended by them.
Maybe that big book in the corner needs a little dusting off.
*Steve Bittner/DirectorNorthwest Student Services, LLCP.O. Box 667Corvallis, Oregon 97339 USAMobile: 541-760-2027www.nwstudentservices.com firstname.lastname@example.org SKYPE: steviethevagabond*
You should write more often Jed
Thank you for your realness.
Thanks for your honesty and sharing your heart. I have believed that God is not in complete control. Many Christians think God is in complete control, but I disagree. We live in a fallen and sinful world, one that God calls us out of. Our sufferings at this present time are not even worthy to be compared to the riches and joy in our future in heaven. (Bible quote somewhere) In this world you will have tribulation, but Jesus said take courage for I have overcome the world. The fallen nature of man is to blame God for injustice, when He is sinless. The fallen nature of man blames God for all calamities, (I have heard people blame God for even the sins of the people) when He is Sovereign and Holy. I know that God is right there with us in the deepest darkest pit. He loves us and one day, we will have great joy. Until that day though, there will be lots of suffering. But like Jesus said, take courage for I have overcome the world.