Doubting Trust

Today’s headlines read from some action movie or sci-fi novel don’t they? Pandemic. That word used to cause the blood running through my veins to turn to ice and just the thought rendered me anxious. Dread and fear paralyzed me. There wasn’t enough money to pay me to watch a movie about it. But today in 2020 when the WHO has announced one, I am not panicked; there is fear but it’s not overwhelming. I’m amazed by this!

Am I concerned and taking precautions? Yes. As a person with an underlying medical condition (diabetes) I need to be careful. A decade ago I would have spiralled down a tunnel of fear. What’s changed?

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I know the work I’ve done to become more emotionally healthy plays a part. Combine it with the challenges of the last five or six years and my anxious edges have been smoothed out. Not gone but not as rough as they once were. The past year and a half my husband has been unemployed. Only recently did he accept a part-time contract position until June and after that the future remains one big question mark. 

Many doubts and questions have rolled around in my head the last few years. Why? Where did we/I go wrong? There are no answers and that made me feel abandoned by the God that we have spent a lifetime serving. Perhaps you’re feeling that way in these challenging and frightening times. Where is God in times of trouble? 

Sometimes He reveals Himself and other times He chooses to remain unseen. It doesn’t mean He’s not here. Its taken me too long to figure this out. The lesson was emphasized again last night when we were reading about Job and my son asked some hard questions. 

I stepped back and let my husband take the wheel on that one, being the pastor and all.  Panic flared in my chest because I didn’t have any answers for my son. Instead I was asking the same questions. Mark reminded us about trust. It’s not that we can’t question God – He can handle our questions and anger – but at some point we have to trust Him. It reminded me of Barnabas Piper’s book, Help My Unbelief, that I read a few years ago. Piper writes about mysteries and how some of those are going to remain unsolved this side of heaven. As Jesus Followers we have to learn how to accept that. To trust that God is bigger and knows better than any of us. Isaiah 55:9 says “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” There are times when those verses are comforting and other times when I don’t want to hear that. 

Piper writes, “Scripture doesn’t offer the answers to most mysteries that we want. It offers the ones God wants us to have…This is not an easy truth because it does not feel satisfying.” p. 75-76

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It’s true right? We have no idea why this sickness is spreading like wildfire across the globe. There are no answers for why one person gets cancer and another does not. We don’t always understand why a loved one walks away or no matter how hard we try, debt hangs over our heads like an anvil about to fall. Why do natural disasters affect some cities and not others? Why does it seem that some people just continue to get kicked when they are already down and out? 

I don’t know. And God isn’t saying much either.

In these years of uncertainty, I’ve learned that God is in control. Even when I try to yank it away from Him, turn my back on Him and scream at Him. He is in control of every second, every minute, of every day. Even if I don’t like what He’s doing. Even when I doubt what He’s doing. Maybe it’s taken a pandemic for me to realize that amidst all the questions, I still trust Him. I trust Him to carry us through these challenging and extreme times. Sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it? 

Piper writes;

His steadfast love endures through all mystery; no matter how much the questions eat at us, His steadfast love endures forever. It endures through all pain…” p.77

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I don’t understand but I know that God’s love and care have been steadfast. I got part-time work just before Mark became unemployed after years of fruitless attempts. Did it solve all the problems? No but its evidence of God working in our lives and that He wasn’t surprised by a job loss. His kindness has been evident as I’ve struggled with my many questions, anger and doubt. He has patiently waited at the end of the driveway for me to return home. Our needs are met. He has not left the premises although many times I have accused him of doing so. His love has been enduring and everlasting. In the good and the bad. 

Why is God letting this happen? I don’t know. We may never know but the one thing I believe is He is with us and He is in control. He love is enduring and steadfast. That’s why I am not freaking out in 2020. I hope you find comfort in His Word and presence in these days ahead.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.     Psalm 20:7-8 (emphasis mine)

Author’s note: God also gave us sound minds; so use the one He gave you and make wise decisions. This is not a blog about being reckless or disobeying what those in authority are telling us is the best thing to do.

Back To Basics

Back to basics. It trips off our tongues when life gets crazy.  A little mantra we like to repeat.  But what does it really mean?  It’s a stripping down of sorts to the core of something. The definition of “basic” online came up: “the essential facts or principles of a subject or skill.”

Recently we got our first pet. We’d been talking about a pet for a while. My youngest son loves anything furry. A cat was out as I’m severely allergic. A dog was our first choice but was just not feasible right now.

We decided on a four month old dwarf rabbit. Over the last week, we’ve learned the basics in rabbit care. We don’t really care about all the extra information out there on dwarf rabbits, we just need basic instruction right now until we all feel more comfortable with each other. We want to give the best care possible to this little furry long eared creature.

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The basics have been food, shelter, water and lots of love. My son and husband have had no trouble loving this little fur-ball. I’m coming around. He is awfully cute. His cage is adequate for now but there may be home improvements in the future. The food has been a little bit of learning curve with some trial and error. For now, these are the basics.

Sometimes we have to get back to basics in our lives too. As the overwhelming September schedule hits us full force, we have to remember the basics and sometimes let the other stuff go. For others, we need to get back to basics in our parenting. Love, love and love some more that child that is driving you to the breaking point. Or our work. Or our homes. The clutter, the mess has to go.

I’ve discovered that there are times we have to go back to basics in our faith as well. We find ourselves in a season that has left us with a lot of questions, some doubts and not a whole lot of answers. Sometimes we don’t even have the energy to search for those answers. It’s too overwhelming. There are so many books out there. So many opinions. So many lies.  At this point, we may need to strip down our faith to the essential facts only. This advice has wisely been given to me a couple of times by people I trust. What does it mean to get back to basics in our faith?

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For me, it’s a point where I’ve had to look carefully at all the things I’ve learned my entire life about God and Jesus and take them apart. There’s a lot of stuff out there posing as Christian theology that just isn’t truth. You already know this, don’t you? I’m sure more than a few of you have hit this wall. Who really is Jesus? Who is this Creator of the Universe? Because suddenly there are some holes in what you believed. The foundation is a little shaky.

We get so secure and comfortable in our platitudes and our rules for Christian living. God and Jesus are smugly contained in a box. A very small box. They stay there because that’s where we want them. It’s free will remember.

This containment field is what is the death of faith I think. God doesn’t do because we decide He’s not really gonna be for us. We can do the job so much better. No wonder we start to doubt, to feel disillusioned and disappointed. We’ve switched out God for ourselves or some other person or thing that we’ve put our trust in. People will let you down. We translate that disappointment to God. We’ve believed the lie that God really isn’t going to come through for us. That He’s not really engaged in our lives. He doesn’t care.

We fall prey to these lies so easily because we don’t really know Him. We consumed what’s been preached from the pulpit or from our parents or peers in one bite and didn’t test it for ourselves. We believed it as truth. It may not have been. Unless it comes straight out of the bible, it’s suspect and in need of testing.  If we don’t do it, it’s a recipe for crisis in our faith. After so many years, of chasing, of doing or of striving, we find we are at a point where we are disappointed, angry or ready to quit.

Maybe this is the most honest we’ve been with ourselves in a long time. We are back to basics because everything else has turned out to be…what? You fill in the blank.

We come to the point where the desire to truly know the wildness of God is no longer as scary as it once was. The desire to know all aspects of Him is getting to be a desperation. The love and gentleness are as important as His justice and Holiness and Majesty. We need to know He loves us enough to fight for us and is more than capable of rendering our enemies useless.

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Finally to sit at his throne, ourselves stripped down to basics, raw, before Him is such a relief. No more faking. No more doing, chasing or trying to earn our way before Him. Back to basics. I think this is where the real relationship begins.

Mary’s Faith

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.    Luke 1:45

Reading my Advent Devotional by Margaret Feinberg this morning, I came across this verse.  It burned into my mind.

Mary, Jesus’ mother, was exceptional.  Told she would have a child, although she was a virgin and he would be the Son of God, she did not freak out.  She was troubled and she asked for clarification.  Which is different from doubting.

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Zechariah, who was married to Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, was much older than Mary and a priest no less, doubted the angel’s words that his wife, who was beyond childbearing years, would have a son.  He did not believe what the Lord told him would be accomplished.  He saw only impossibility.

I wish I could say I’m like Mary but it’s Zechariah that I mirror.  It’s that last part of the verse that’s the kicker for me.  I can believe in God but honestly I don’t always have faith that what He has said will be accomplished.  Instead I feel confident that some parts of what he said will happen.  I readily accept that it won’t come about like I thought or hoped.  Which is a cop out for me because then I don’t have to be disappointed when it doesn’t happen.

Oh I believe in the big stuff.  Salvation.  Forgiveness.  It’s the little mundane stuff that I have trouble with. The individual visions, he’s given us.  Callings that he’s asked us to pursue.  My faith is weak on this point.

Sometimes God works in the ways I’ve described.  We get to see pieces of the pie but not the whole thing.  He doesn’t give us an answer to our “why”.  Other times he does.  He works in mysterious ways.  Ways that we don’t understand and things come about very different from we imagined they would.  Better than we could have dreamed. Other times we need to change our perception and accept a new way that we certainly didn’t think or want to occur.

None of this is bad.  We can never perceive how God works.  He is the creator of the universe.  He sees things that we don’t and never will.  He is God.  The issue is my attitude.  Is it yours?  We doubt so we won’t be disappointed.  We’re skeptical because we’re too afraid of what will happen if it is accomplished.  We sabotage our faith.  What would our lives look like if we truly believed that what God said to us would be accomplished?

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Mary had faith in God.  She believed he would be as good as his word.  It carried her through some extremely tough times.  To the birth of Christ and then onto the cross.  I think in some ways Mary knew that what God said would be accomplished, went way beyond nine months.  Maybe that’s where the fear comes instead of faith.  We know that what God has told us is more than an event, it’s going to go on for years.  It may be painful.  We don’t want that to be accomplished.

But the alternative?  Zechariah doubted and was mute until John was born.  Why mute?  Maybe Zechariah needed to be silent so he could observe God at work.  Become more in tune with him so that he would believe God. Period.  Not being able to talk would give one a very different perspective on life!

Is our skepticism causing some kind of muteness in our lives?  Maybe it’s missing out on a deeper relationship with God.  Maybe doubt is causing other things to become silent because there’s no faith there to keep them alive.  Or it could be they are muted because we need to hear God before and more than anything else.

Maybe what God told us He was going to do has become an idol.  It’s about the endgame not about the God who will do it.  We have focused on the result instead of letting the journey there bring us closer to the Father.

The Father, who sent His Son, the salvation of the world, so that we could have relationship with Him.  This is what it’s all about.  He set out to have relationship with us.  Doubt holds us back.  Belief draws us close.

Be not afraid, only believe.  Mark 5:36