Tag Archives: faith

The Blame Game – My Special Education, Lesson #12

Jon Me IHOP 11-2015It’s no one’s fault,” the doctor in my hospital room said, the morning after our son was born. “These things just happen sometimes.”

Our newborn baby had Down syndrome and as the doctor began to explain the possible long term outcomes for him and our family, my heart raced in panic. My mind filled with a cloud of fear.

“NO! This can’t be happening! Not to my baby! Not to me! Not to us!”

Isn’t that how it goes when we’re faced with circumstances beyond our control? When our carefully thought out plans are suddenly ambushed?

We’re cruising through life, a few bumps and glitches here and there, but nothing we can’t handle. Then suddenly..Wham!!

We find, not just the proverbial rug pulled out from under us, but the floor too. The ground has just opened up and swallowed us whole!

And when we’re done free-falling, we have to find a reason. The ‘Why’ must be answered. It has to be SomeOne’s or SomeThing’s fault.

A friend sent me a card once that read, “Life is all about how you handle Plan B.”

Plan A is what you want. Plan B is what you get and I wasn’t dealing well at all, with what I got.

I fell into absolute despair trying to figure out what I did to cause my child’s disability. For months it filled every waking moment and many sleepless nights. Those pesky, “I should have” and “I shouldn’t have” scenarios, plagued my thoughts constantly.

There was plenty of help in the guilt department from well meaning folks. Everything from, “You should of eaten more potatoes while you were pregnant,” (no kidding) to “You must have bad sin hiding someplace in your life for God to punish you like this.”

Apparently there was a rash of babies born with Down syndrome at the time. In an attempt to find a common denominator (or something to blame) the Department of Health and Human Services for the State of New York called when Jon was about a month old to ask if they could survey me.

“Do you live near power lines? How long have you lived there?”
“Have you ever taken drugs? Did you take drugs while pregnant?”
“How often do you drink alcohol? Never? Occasionally? Once a week? Everyday?”
“What kind of make up do you wear? What brand of laundry detergent do you use?”

After an hour long barrage of questions, I hung up the phone more convinced than ever I was the cause of my son’s diagnosis.

When I finally gave up blaming myself I turned my angst on God. He could have prevented this but didn’t. It was His fault and I was mad. What kind of God did I believe in anyway? An overwhelmingly devastating question for me, since we were fresh out of Bible college and my husband was just beginning a lifetime of pastoral ministry.

Though it seemed artificial to be so angry at God when my husband was a pastor, and I, the pastor’s wife, anger was all that made sense at the time. It was the easiest life raft to cling to.

We see it in the daily news continuously. A crisis occurs, a shooting, tornado, flood, fire, mudslide, plane crash, death, violence or destruction. The talking heads start in, opinion-ating, analyzing, philosophizing and finally conclude with, “Something must be done to make sure this never happens again.”

Either people want to believe they have this much power, this much control, or placing blame is just a coping mechanism for the unanswerable and unexplained.

Sometimes there is someone to blame but more often not. Sometimes stuff just happens because we live on a fallen, broken and sin cursed planet.

Finding possible solutions is useful but the blame game often goes around in a monotonous circle until we are divided and estranged, from each other and from our only source of hope. God.

It seems God is blamed for most everything that goes wrong, by people who barely acknowledge His existence the rest of the time or bother to thank Him for any of the good and right in life.

In his book, Reframe. From the God We’ve Made to the God With Us, Brian Hardin said it this way: “We don’t usually start with God, but if we can’t find an answer we often end up there. God has become the cosmic trash heap for all humankind’s unexplainable suffering. He’s apparently got His hands in everything from tornadoes to human trafficking. From cancer to the reason the car wouldn’t start this morning. And this is the God we’re supposed to be in a relationship with?”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: I can’t control everything that happens to me, to those I care about or to the world at large. And I don’t have to figure everything out, don’t have to know all the answers.

I only have to admit and own what I’m responsible for and trust my Heavenly Daddy has a greater plan and purpose than I can see.

He will bring justice in His time. He will make everything right in His way and acceptance of this truth, deep in my heart and soul, not just my head, brings peace in a frenzied world.

And for all my initial distress, despair, crying, sighing, shouting and blaming, my son turned out to be a blessing, a unique treasure God values and loves. Someone who is always teaching me the art of selflessness, drawing me closer to the heart of my Father.

I eventually laid it down, the miserable scrutinizing, finger pointing and fretting over who or what was at fault. It was exhausting and served no purpose. Blaming drained life from me and returned nothing.

The blame game was over and I lost.

But I’m no longer a sore looser, just a grateful one.

 
Job 40:1-5 The Lord said to Job: “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” Then Job answered the Lord: “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more.”

Romans 9:20 “Who do you think you are to talk back to God like that? Can an object that was made say to its maker, “Why did you make me like this?”

John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Why My Spiritual Mathematical Formulas Are Faulty

In Luke chapter seven, we read about a widow woman whose adult son has died. In this culture this son mathwould have been the only means of support she had. This poor woman had just lost everything.

As Jesus came near the town gate the funeral procession passed by carrying the dead man out and Jesus observed the mother weeping and mourning.

There is no record of this widow having great faith or asking Jesus to help her. In fact there is no indication that she even noticed Jesus or knew who He was. She was so overcome with grief,  I seriously doubt she noticed anything going on around her. She was too busy drowning in her sorrow to care.

Verse thirteen says Jesus looked upon this scene and felt compassion for the woman. He went to her, told her to stop crying, then told her dead son to get up. The guy sat up immediately on his death stretcher and began talking.  In an incredible instant, sorrow was turned into unspeakable joy!

I’ve been told most of my life that God only answers in response to being asked and since this is scripturally supported, I agree, as stated in 1 John 5:14-15 and many other verses.

I’ve also been told I need faith for God to respond to my requests and I agree with this as well. Hebrews 11:6 tells us we can’t even please God without faith.

But I’m discovering at any point I think I might have my doctrinal boxes built and the lids sealed tight, Jesus comes along and messes me up. He throws in just enough deviation from the theological equations we believers like to construct, to keep me from thinking I know it all, that I’ve finally figured out the sum total of every spiritual equation.

One plus one is not always two in God’s kingdom.

He can mix up our constructs and confuse our theology anyway and anytime He wants. He is God and will have mercy and compassion on whomever He chooses (Romans 9:5) whether they have great faith, little faith or no faith and even if they haven’t asked of Him yet.

I never want to stop asking of Him or stop growing in my faith. But I also never want to think I’m so spiritually awesome that God can’t respond, love, heal, deliver, rescue and redeem in any way He sees fit, outside of my preconceived theological formulas.

I’m OK with God staying a bit mysterious and a lot sovereign. I’m alright with not knowing everything as long as I know The Great I Am. In realizing how small and limited I am without Him, its comforting to understand just how much higher, wiser and greater His ways and thoughts are than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9).

God loves me. I trust Him.

That’s good enough for now.

Luke 7:11 “Soon afterward he [Jesus] went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 12 As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” 17 And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.”

 1 John 5:14 “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”

 Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

 

 

 

Drive-through Faith

In a hungry hurry? Just drive up, place your order, exchange your payment at the window for a bagful of dinner and run.

Need money in a rush? Drive in, slide your card into the slot, press a few buttons and out pops cash. Snatch it and go. 

Thirsty? Insert some loose change into the machine, select a number and a cold drink tumbles into your inpatient hands. 

Drive-through establishments are icons of our smart, fast moving, multi-tasking, self serving culture. Fast foods, banks, dry cleaners, even a few churches provide busy people with instant, have-it-your-way convenience. As agreeable as this may be to our busy lifestyles, it has also contributed to a society that has come to expect immediate solutions and results in every area of life, even in areas of faith. We are not very good at waiting anymore.

I’ve been praying for several years about a few things and have yet to see results I want; in fact God appears to be silent to some of my requests. On a recent day, while whining to God about how long the answers were taking, this phrase dropped into my mind; ‘drive-through faith.’  I knew God was asking me to think about the level of faith I possess. If my faith expects quick and easy access to whatever I desire at the moment or asks for His stamp of approval on all my plans instead of His, then it isn’t faith at all. 

So how are we Christ’s followers, to react when instant healing, provision, solutions aren’t forthcoming? What do we do when Heaven’s drive up window appears to be closed and the divine vending machine in the sky seems to be empty?  

Hebrews chapter eleven gives us a clue. It lists the Sunday school lesson, heroes of faith that we love to remember; Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Joseph, Rahab, Gideon, Samson, Samuel and others. As if these didn’t have enough anxiety waiting for resolution of their troubles, this chapter also reminds us of many unnamed believers who faced unimaginable circumstances. Those who were poor, mistreated, oppressed, wandering, hiding, tortured, mocked, whipped, imprisoned, chained, and murdered for their faith. Verse 38 informs us “they were too good for this world,” but regardless, they were here, facing huge obstacles and faith challenges. But honestly, verse 39 is the one I’d really like to cross out of my Bible, All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised.”  Yes, they went to their graves without the magic fairy wand of blab-it and grab-it, name-it-and-claim-it faith wrapping up all their troubles in the one easy step. I have to admit, reading that doesn’t excite me.

Sometimes God gives us those wonderful instant resolutions to problems and sometimes He waits, for a long time. And then, there’s those hard to swallow moments when His answer is,”No, not this time.” Because God is sovereign, His eternal time table rarely corresponds with our earthly clock. Because God is a loving Father, He doesn’t give us everything we think we need. Trusting, believing and enduring when we don’t see the end in sight, the light at the end of a dark tunnel, is the greatest faith of all. Jesus said to His disciple, Thomas, “You believe because you have seen, but blessed are those who have not seen and still believe.” (John 20:29)

God is most interested in maturing and establishing in us, faith for the long haul. The goal is a faith that endures, solid and steady regardless of outcomes and circumstances. Faith is not one dimensional and drive-through faith is never enough to grow the endurance and discipline needed to outlast or overcome the hardships we encounter here. Quick-fix faith is exciting when it happens, but learning to balance contentment and patience with faith is essential for all the times God’s plan or timing doesn’t match our own. 

Romans 4:18 says Abraham “hoped against hope”. When all hope was gone, when the impossible loomed like a mountain before him, he believed God’s promise anyway and he waited. In whatever I am hoping and longing for, God desires to grow me into a level of faith that is so natural it’s like breathing; one that relies on Him without struggle or doubt. He is calling me to a place of abiding confidence, rest, peace and absolute trust. I have the option to remain as a selfish, pouty child who doesn’t want to play anymore when things don’t go my way or submit to God’s maturing process.

Will I trust Him at all times, in all things, especially when I’m not getting the results I want right now? God is asking me to trust Him with my unresolved problems and His timing and wisdom in solving them. It’s not always easy but I’m learning that the best answer is,”Yes Lord. Teach me, help me to place my hope, faith and confidence at all times, ONLY in You!”

And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” Luke 17:5