A friend once asked me where God was during his turmoil. He was going through a large upheaval in his life; he couldn’t see anything beyond the obstacles he faced. He felt physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. “Is God even near me in all of this?” he grieved. “No.” I responded.
The legalism, judgementalism, patriarchal systems, and poor Scriptural interpretations all need to be tossed out. As we do so, we also need to guard against tossing out the proverbial baby with them. I would never presume to tell anyone how to go about this process of deconstruction, but I also don’t want us to forget all that is good and worthy of holding onto.
We sometimes forget the extremity of Jesus’ language. For Jesus, the cross is hard and cruel. It was not an easy thing to carry. For Jesus, the cross was the place of his rejection and death. It is to this place that Jesus bids us to follow. Is it any wonder, then, that the cross is hard reality in our lives? We feel it viscerally pressing against us. The cross upsets our lives. What is more, taking up our cross means we may need to walk with it for a while. This can be involve walking a difficult and sometimes lonely path. Yet despite all of this, taking up our cross is an act of radical hope.
What are some of the good things of God that you would like to experience? What do you hope for? Do you seek those loving gifts from our heavenly Father? Or do you assume that such blessings will be withheld? Despite God making God’s way to you in the person of Jesus, and offering you the purest expression of love and grace imaginable, do you still assume that you must earn your keep?
Tucked in the pages of the Old Testament is a beautiful picture of King David sitting before God. Immediately following his rebuke by the Prophet Nathaniel scripture records that “King David went in and sat before the Lord” (2nd Samuel 7:18). The verse is simple and uncomplicated. It’s easy to miss. Yet the common-place nature of the verse suggests it to be an action that David preformed countless times before. David knew exactly where to go to connect with the Lord. When David felt an inward desire to be in God’s presence, he journeyed to a sacred spot and sat down.
Do you find that fear limits you from stepping boldly into the new life that Jesus calls you into? When we focus too much on that fear, or the lies it tries to tell us, we can easily get stuck in our faith. We may look at opportunities before us and believe that we are not ready or able to do what God asks. The truth is God’s grace often shines most brightly through the imperfect cracks of our lives.
Faith isn’t lived from the miraculous to the miraculous. Sure, Moses’ had an experience of the Burning Bush, but his faith in God only grew in the 40-year slog of an everyday journey. More often than not, our faith is couched in the ordinary. Our faith grows amid a life where nothing miraculous seemingly take place. Why, then, do we make such miraculous experiences the definitive mark of faith?
As a priest, I have witnessed myriads of strangers randomly stop by and ask to sit in the church. It happens more than one would think. They sit in silence, and leave in silence, often with some tears in their eyes. And because I give them space, never hovering over them or forcing a conversation, I have always wondered about their story. What drove them to sanctuary? I now have a better understanding. I get it. Like a child who desperately needs the presence of a parent, sometimes we just need to sit in God’s house.
God’s promises are spoken precisely for those moments when we need them. They hold us up when our faith feels shaky and unsupported. They provide strength and hope for our Christian walk. The times of discouragement, therefore, are not a denial of our faith; they are but the moments wherein we learn the strength of God’s eternal word, and the constancy of God’s presence.
God used the roundabouts, the twists and the turns, as avenues for growth. It was in their perceived lostness that Israel experienced the blessings of God in profound ways. And, in each step of way God proved faithful. Eventually, Israel got to where they were going; as did we.