Some say that it is best to focus on the ups and keep the downs to yourself. As a point of fact, I have had people tell me not to write the truth of life as I experience it, but apply a thick, sugary, candy-coating and be an illuminating ray of positivity and hope in the dark. I have had others say, and I quote, “I hope you can quit spending so much time in deep thought and soul searching…” Well, I disagree with that position and let me tell you why.
I will begin with a question for you, and it is this. Would you deny anyone the powerful and life-defining task of processing their emotions and beliefs, indeed the many difficulties of their lives because you only want them to think of rainbows, butterflies, and unicorns? I hope not, that’s silly, and downright unconscionable!
If in our desire to portray faith with only the joys and indulgences of Gods blessings we minimize the suffering and pain that all inevitably experience, we are withholding the full truth of life, the truth of the christians life.
How do we traverse the great divide between darkness and light-from ignorance, to depth of knowledge and understanding?
Is it a smooth and gentle crossing over a placid lake?
Yes, I am sure that for some that is true; but I would contend that many suffer cataclysmic personal upheaval, serious questions begging answers, and even great doubts over the course of this journey.
I would liken this more to a trip down a raging river, fraught with rocks, surging waves, and dangerous currents.
Lets refer to the Bible and see if the writings found within it’s pages are a compendium of positive happy thoughts, or at times a litany of grievances, denial, complaints, misunderstandings, anger, despair, and hopelessness.
Here are a few examples:
- The Psalms are rife with powerful emotions as David confronts his failings and grief.
- Within the pages of Ecclesiastes are the questions everyone needs to ask and find answers for as they search for the meaning of their lives.
- We have Jeremiah, the so-called “weeping prophet” who struggled mightily with the call God had placed on his life to foretell the doom of his people.
- In Lamentations, tremendous grief is expressed by the prophet because of the tragedies he has personally witnessed.
- And let us not forget the book of Job, which details the life of a man torn apart by disaster and personal loss; his piercing questions, complaints, and desire for understanding are well documented.
Lets spend a little time and consider the story of Job.
Job had his livelihood swiftly taken away, and in a God ordained disaster all of his sons and daughters were killed, he was left in utter poverty and inconsolable grief. On top of that, he was stricken with a terrible disease of his flesh that resulted in painful boils all over his body. The topper came when his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!”
What was Jobs initial response to all this? He actually didn’t blame God, but spoke of the reality that we all receive good from God, but in life also suffer adversity.
However, as he processed his pain he went down many different roads. He cursed the day he was born and longed for his own death. He accused God of setting to flight poison arrows of judgement that had lodged within him. In fact, chapter after chapter details the course of Jobs questioning and despair. Before it is all said and done, he is accused by his friends along the way of being wicked and unrighteous; in other words, it is his own fault all this has come upon him, so they tell him that he must repent.
The truth is that Job was a righteous man, a man that Satan felt only observed the life he did because of God’s hand of protection. So God let him be attacked by the Devil and stood by idly to watch his servant’s reaction to this great adversity. It isn’t until the 38th chapter that God speaks to Job. In fact the famous quote from this section is when God says to him,
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. Do you know how its dimensions were determined, and who did the surveying? What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? “Who decreed the boundaries of the seas when they gushed from the depths? Who clothed them with clouds and thick darkness and barred them by limiting their shores, and said, ‘Thus far and no farther shall you come, and here shall your proud waves stop’?(excerpt from Ch. 38 KJV)
This is but the opening salvo in a lengthy recitation in which God asserts his all-powerful standing, among many other declarations.
Job’s response, (from chapter 42) after God has asked him a series of queries that unquestioningly prove to Job the Almighty’s sovereignty is this:
“I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything.
Nothing and no one can upset your plans.
You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water,
ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’
I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me,
made small talk about wonders way over my head.
You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking.
Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.’
I admit I once lived by rumors of you;
now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears!
I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise!
I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.” (The Message Bible)
Did you get that last part highlighted and underlined in blue? It is very important. So many of us have not personally experienced God in all His glory-we don’t truly know Him-if not for the bedtime stories and the legends handed down by others we’d be clueless! Our faith lives have been constructed with the flimsy building materials of substandard quality, namely rumors and hearsay. They are destined to collapse under the weight of life and its many challenges.
What was the journey Job undertook to get to the place of repentance? Who are we to say that every accusation he leveled, each complaint and question he uttered, didn’t need to take place for him to achieve a level of understanding he hadn’t known before? When we refuse to face our darkest doubts and fears, but choose instead to blithely skip along in ignorant bliss unwilling to ask the deepest of questions, we are untrue to ourselves and the real potential that is found within our individual spirituality.
I choose not to ignore the hard questions, because that is how I will find the truth I seek. I believe that life is supposed to have some value and meaning, to ourselves and those around us. That doesn’t happen by patently accepting things for face value and ignoring the doubts and questions in our soul. We should know we are loved by God, know we are protected in His arms, and know that He truly cares for each of us regardless of anything that happens.
The christian will often say, “Focus on the blessings and don’t waste time on the why’s of your life. Don’t think so deeply that you come to the point of questioning; just do things to bless people, give, and forget your troubles.”
I have listened to others tell me what to do and how to live; and I’ve never, ever taken the time to process and understand the legacy of tragedy my life has become. Maybe you find yourself there too, carried along by the crowd, living off their crumbs and doing whatever you’ve been told to do. Well, I am going to figure this out for myself. No more going along with the status quo, working at trying to be accepted so I have a place to belong, hoping I find some small worth in the eyes of flawed men.
How will I emerge? That is indeed an unknown, but to carry on with this hollow, pointless life devoid of lasting peace is a mad-mans insanity. If you don’t mind, I will decide my own fate, you may do the same.
The time has come to stop the rollercoaster, get off the ride, and ask the questions.