For years I walked around cocky and prideful thinking that I had life figured out. Well I can honestly say that on December 23rd, 2020 when my 21 year old son passed away in a vehicle accident, life was turned upside down for me. I have heard from many people in grief circles when they lost a child that they struggled with "losing their religion." Let me say that this is also something that I have struggled with as well. I use the word "have" loosely, as to be honest with you, I still am struggling with the concept of where God is in the midst of my storm.
Our pastor preached an incredible message this past week on emotional blind spots. One of the things that he drilled down on is the concept of comfort versus counsel. He said that sometimes his wife is looking for comfort from him by just listening to his concerns, but he wants to turn around and give counsel. The reverse is also true, however I would argue that more offense is often bestowed upon others when they give unwanted counsel rather than just listening. Nobody is going to be offended if they are looking for counsel, and you just listen. Let's face it, we don't always have wise counsel to give, nor should we at times. With all that being said, I am not looking for counsel on where to find God. I am very mature in my Christianity with God, and the countless hours in discipleship I have spent at the feet of the Master. This is something I just have to walk through and figure out on my own. That not withstanding, I need fellow pilgrims to come alongside me on this narrow road I have chosen to embark upon.
I am not here today to parse out the significant differences in Protestantism regarding the chasm between doctrinal theology of Calvinism vs. Wesleyan Armenianism. Trust me I am very familiar with both theologies, and whether one can or can't backslide and lose their salvation. The topic I am addressing today has nothing to do with my view of God and His sovereignty, but more in my view of where God is. I don't feel Him, I don't see Him at work around me, I feel dead inside; and I have stood out at the gravesite and cursed at God demanding to know how He could allow this to happen to me, when I have faithfully served Him in lay ministry for so many years. Ooops...did I just express my vulnerability in a way that was unbecoming of a church-goer and follower of God? I know right now some of you are judging me and glad you were not standing next to me when I cursed at God, as you might have gotten struck by lightning. Well I am here to say that I didn't get struck, nor will I. The God I serve is a wee bit bigger than that, and understands my hurts and weaknesses.
Why does it matter where God is in my or your life? Well if we are a follower of God, then we want to know that He is in our life and watching out for us. We turn to Him for comfort, direction, and answers. When you are used to feeling and seeing God in everything around you, then the dark abyss seems to envelope every area of your life with the feel of His absence. It is a drastic difference that can feel smothering most of the time. My days are spent in a very functional capacity. You might run into me at the grocery store, gym, or even church, and think that everything is okay with me. It is not that I am intentionally putting on a fake façade (is there any other kind), but rather I have a career and occupation to conduct. I have grass that needs cut, and dishes that need washed. I have groceries that get consumed and need replenished way too often (don't let me start talking about the inflationary environment), and life that just needs to be lived. However, as stated before, I feel dead inside. My friends that are dealing with this same type of grief have told me they totally understand and feel the same way. Many just aren't public with their feelings, and in some ways I have turned into a voice piece for showing the outside world what this struggle looks like. Trust me, I don't thrive on bearing my soul and sharing my deepest darkest secrets. It is just something I feel I am supposed to do in order to leave a mark on this earth and help somebody else out that is struggling on their journey.
Feelings. What does that word even mean? Well, in life we go off of feelings for most things that we do. Whether it be our physical senses of taste, smell, touch, sight, hearing, etc. or the emotions of optimism or depression; we exercise and express feelings all throughout the day. I was recently talking with another dad who had lost a son, and we were both expressing that most days we just want Jesus to take us home with our sons, and that the trials of this earth just weigh us down. First, let me assure you that I am not suicidal with that comment, I just long for heaven! Second, I have not lost site of my wife and children on this earth and living a full life for them until God calls me home. I just know that I am a pilgrim passing through an unholy land and long for heaven. So as stated, most of life is based on feelings, however this is where I get to the meat and potatoes of this blog. Faith my friends is not based on feelings. I was raised in a Pentecostal household and I was taught that they were synonymous. They are not! My faith is not based on whether or not I can see, touch, or feel God. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen. Job said that "though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." In other words, I am the creation, and He is the creator, and no matter what happens in my life, God remains faithful and in control. Nothing shocks Him or takes Him by surprise. There is no panic in the throne room.
Oswald Chambers writes in My Utmost For His Highest, "The height of the mountaintop is judged by the drab drudgery of the valley, for it is in the valley that we live for the glory of God. " Basically, it is the mundane day in and day out that we go through slogging and trudging through the muck and mire everyday that is where we are living for the glory of God. It is ever so nice when we have those mountain top experiences, but they are few and far between. We do not live on top of the mountain, but amongst all the crap down in the valley. I love what Deuteronomy 31:6 says: "Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you." I hold to that promise, because no matter what I feel in this world, He promises to be right next to me walking this journey with me. I love what Matthew 11:29-30 has to say: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." If you think of a yoke on oxen, it is tying two oxen together. That to me speaks that God's yoke is easy and the burden is light when I am yoked to God. When I am yoked to this world, the inverse is true. My problem is remembering this, and applying it. There seems to be a disconnect between my brain and heart quite often in this matter. It is like two electrical prods where the electricity is just not arcing between the two.
I am getting there, but it is a slow journey. If you see me on a Sunday morning raising my hands in church, it is not because I have it all figured out, but because tears are coursing down my face as a broken man, and I am humbly raising my hands towards heaven asking God to shine down once again on this hurting man. If you ever see me praying with you, it is not because I have words of wisdom to impart, but because more than likely I am praying for myself who needs it just as much as you. If you see me smiling at the grocery store, I am not trying to be disingenuous, but I really am on a rapid journey to find my joy again. More importantly if you see me at the cemetery laying on the plush green grass next to my sons grave staring up at the beautiful sky, just smile and know that I am at my happy place. Friends, life is too short to be caught up in shallowness and appearing to have it all together. Life is about coming alongside others and loving on them and helping them on the journey, because whether or not you want to admit it or not, we are all weak.
God, where are you? I might not see it, feel it, or hear it on a daily basis, but you are here. Even now I cry at the absence of feeling your presence, but I will stand strong in my long ago established faith in trusting you, in that you have got this. You know what is best for me, and I will continue to yield and submit to you. God, forgive me for being a Pharisee in the past, and thank you for allowing me to be broken so that I can finally be used by you in the capacity in which you want to use me.
End note...I promise I am not self-seeking for comments, but they help me to see that these blogs are being read and maybe I am having an impact on someone who feels vulnerable like me. So feel free to send me a personal message or comment if you so desire.