Walking in the Valley of the Shadow, Part 3


Another thing I have been learning in my ministry to people who are going through extreme difficulty is that the struggle with “why” and “where was God” is normal.

There are some things that happen to us that literally rock our world right to the core. Some of life’s storms can cut so deep and rage and ravage for so long, we wonder if the pain will ever stop. When those times come, they can challenge everything we know to be true. Faith, in these times, can be a real struggle to say the least.

I have heard people say things like:

  • “Where was God when I needed Him most?”
  • “I feel like God just up and left me.”
  • “How could God have let that happen?”
  • “I’m really angry at God right now!”
  • “I can’t pray anymore; I don’t even want to!”

When we hear questions and statements like these, oftentimes we are (understandably) taken aback, and tend to push back against those thoughts. They often grate against our own faith in God (which is motivated by our own fear), or they may even make us doubt the faith of the person asking these questions (which is motivated by our pride).

What I have been learning is that we need to be humble enough to relate to how hard living by faith can be sometimes, and confident enough in the grace and love that God has given us, that we can stand with and hold on to people who have been brought to the end of themselves.

The fact is, Scripture is replete with instances of saints who have said things like this. Here are just a few:

How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalms 13:1-2, NIV).

Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long? (Lamentations 5:20, NIV)

Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure, who are filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the grave? Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in? For sighing has become my daily food; my groans pour out like water. What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil (Job 3:20-26, NIV).

Even Jesus, when He was on the cross cried out, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46, NIV)!

Now, I know what some of you may be thinking. “Dan, you are taking these verses out of context! Verses 5-6 of Psalm 13 say David placed his trust in God’s unfailing love and salvation. Jeremiah acknowledges God’s lordship and control over the nations in the previous verse. Job said in Job 13:15 that he would trust in God even if He killed him. Jesus was referencing all of Psalm 22 when he quoted the first verse.”

That objection does not negate the fact that these thoughts and questions are recognized in Scripture as part of the human experience in our relationship with God. David was not kidding when he penned those words; neither was Jeremiah or Job. They were being honest about how they felt. And, I submit, so was Jesus. He was so distraught at the thought of drinking the cup God was going to make Him drink that His body pushed blood through the pores of his skin (Luke 22:44)! I submit that on the cross, Jesus in His human nature, felt the reality of being truly forsaken by God, and that drove Him to cry out My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (I will put another post up tomorrow explaining that more).

If David who is described to us as a man after God’s own heart, Jeremiah who was a faithful prophet God had chosen and set aside from birth to be His mouthpiece to Judah, Job of whom God Himself says there was no one else like him, and Jesus Himself could verbalize those thoughts, should we automatically move to shut down such thoughts in others? They are in great company. We need to hold back the criticism and put out a double portion of grace in the face of such questions. Let them ask. Let them work out their feelings. Let God worry about everything else.

4 Comments

  1. Actually these scripts when presented right might be very helpful when the victim is ready to hear.

    When they start asking why these might be good. Once they get to understanding god didn’t do this to you. This is normal to ask and feel. When they reach a point of really searching for the answer not just asking the question knowing even these great men questioned why. In the end knowing you’re not alone in the question nor in receiving no direct answer could be helpful.

    I personally didn’t put two and two together to conclude even Jesus’s human half questioned when under extreme duress. And he knew what was coming and spiritually was fully prepared for it. And even then his human suffering was too much for even a perfect being to not question.

    I love this post it totally validated the feeling I had and even the ones I struggle with a little today. It’s normal when broken so to struggle and in the end I still have no answer why but I’ve come to know is he never abandoned me. While I was lost crying god where are you he was searching calling Michelle where are you. I was calling why have you left me and he was calling why aren’t you home child please come home.

    How to move the victim from Why to accepting god didn’t leave I have no real answer. I imagine like the diversity of humans each is different. I can’t even say for sure this would have helped me at the time. I can’t go back and see. I honestly don’t want to go back. I’m again home bathed by his light and I don’t wish to be lost again.

    Just knowing when I questioned why have you left me my god was questioning why aren’t you home. For every question we ask god is asking as well. When we are lost he doesn’t quit searching. He put up lost child posters for me and Angel, Dan and others found me and said hey god she’s over here. They checked the tag and it said “Hi I’m Michelle and if you find me I’m lost. Please call my owner god.”

    Like

    1. Thanks Michelle! Much of what you bring up in your comment here, is going to be addressed in part 4, so instead of replying here, I will reference your comment in the post.

      Like

  2. “When we hear questions and statements like these, oftentimes we are (understandably) taken aback, and tend to push back against those thoughts. They often grate against our own faith in God (which is motivated by our own fear), or they may even make us doubt the faith of the person asking these questions (which is motivated by our pride).”

    At these times stepping back and realizing this is normal under extreme pain is important. When something happens that is so traumatic that we can’t reconcile the loving and good god we know with the events we suffered. When this happens the faith of the victim is challenged. With that in mind that the victim is speaking from a point of faith that has been challenged by life actions. Then and only then can we come to a place of comfort to answer. Why? Because they aren’t challenging our faith, they are questioning their own.

    Step back, breath and think, how do I answer this to rebuild THEIR faith right now. What band-aid can I apply that will stop the bleeding?

    It’s vital to stop the bleeding before the foundation falls apart. They aren’t questioning your god, your faith. No they are questioning their god and their faith. They can’t reconcile why a good, loving and merciful god would allow (in my case) his child to be gangraped and beaten. The two are not compatible especially while asking why.

    Do something in love to reinforce their faith, right here, right now. Before they bleed out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Real God-powered love can take the anger, pain, frustration, confusion, and fear that people can’t help but express when they are overwhelmed with pain. In the face of such suffering love responds not with theology but compassion, not with words but with warmth and compassion. Here it is much more important to incarnate love than to explain it.

      Liked by 1 person

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