Thursday, February 23, 2012

It's Hard.....

It’s hard to believe that God is just when I hold parentless children everyday.
It’s hard to believe that God is good when I am surrounded by suffering.
It’s hard to believe that God still heals when I see the ravages of disease.
It’s hard to believe that God is sovereign when children go hungry.

And then sometimes it’s really personal……

It’s hard to believe that God is trustworthy when people I should be able to trust let me down.
It’s hard to believe that God answers prayer when I don’t receive the answer I want.
It’s hard to believe that God wants the best for me when He says no.
It’s hard to believe that God is faithful when he could step in a fix my situation and he chooses not to.

I could go on. You could too. How many times in my life – in your life - have you hinged God’s character on what you can see? I’ve done it. I’m doing it right now.

When I came to the mission field, I expected hard. What I did not expect was the kind of hard I’m dealing with right now. The details don’t matter, really. There may be a time when the details matter and I can share them with you. But for now, it’s enough for you to know that just about everything I expected has been turned on its head. I have more questions than I have answers. And,  I’m finding that what I thought God called me here to do and what He actually called me here to do may be two very different things. I’m learning the common, but painful lesson that He allows our hurt so that His glory may be revealed.

And I don’t like it. At all.

I want a neat and clean mission field experience, thank you very much. Feed some hungry people. Teach some Bible stories. Hold some children. Love the hurting. Come home and share amazing stories. That’s what I want. But, this Jesus – who loves me far beyond what I can comprehend - won’t give me what I want. He is good enough to give me what I need instead. He is loving enough to ignore my childish temper tantrums, selfish demands, and small dreams. He loves me too much to leave me like this. He has a greater plan that will end up making me look a lot more like him.

C.S.  Lewis once said, “We don’t necessarily doubt that God wants the best for us. We just wonder how painful the best will turn out to be.”

That rings of truth, huh?

This week as I was talking to another staff member about all the stuff going on, I made the statement, “ I just feel like I’m drowning and I can’t see my way clear of this situation.”

Enter Mark 4 – my portion of Scripture for the next day.

It’s that familiar passage you learned about as a child in Sunday school. Jesus had been teaching all day and told the disciples to get in the boat and go with him to the other side of the lake. Once settled in the boat, Jesus promptly goes to sleep. And, that of course, is when the trouble started. Waves pounded the boat, water poured into the boat, the thunder was scary, the lightening was fierce, and the wind threatened to dump them all into the angry sea.

Mark 4: 37-38-  A fierce windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But He was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. So they woke Him up and said to Him, “Teacher! Don’t you care that we’re all going to drown?”

Those sound like familiar words. And, I feel that very common indignation that you’ve felt too. How was Jesus sleeping? Was the fierceness of the storm not thrashing him around? Was the fear his friends felt of so little importance that he didn’t wake up when things got really bad? But we are getting ahead of ourselves – which always happens to me at this point in the story. Let’s finish the passage.

v. 39-40 – He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Be still!” The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Then He said to them, “Why are you fearful? Do you still have no faith?”

Ouch. And when I read that verse that’s what I felt - the tiniest little pin prick in the center of my heart. That I could, after all this time, still have no faith. That after seeing Him walk me through so many things, I could even entertain the thought that I might drown.

Four little verses that speak to my situation.

His rebukes always bring repentance. I immediately felt sadness that I could even question Him. I don’t like my situation anymore that I did before I read that passage. I still want it to be fixed and I still don’t want to experience it. I don’t find myself to be a very willing participant in this “conforming my image to His” business most days. It’s not clean, or neat, or even desirable.

But, here’s what I’m learning:

His character is not and never has been tied to what I can see. If God doesn’t look just, or good, or kind, or loving – it’s because I’m looking at something other than His glorious face. If the fire seems a little hot, it’s because there’s a lot of me that needs to be burned away so that He can be seen. If being conformed to His image seems too hard, I need to remember that the pain He inflicts is better than never feeling His gentle, but pruning touch. If the storms of life make me feel beaten up, I must choose to see that He is beautiful and He has placed His image in me. I am understanding that my questions may go unanswered for a long time, but never forever. I am learning that this gentle, humble-in-heart Jesus loves making all things new and its okay for Him to do it in the deep places of my oh-so-human-heart.