I’ve been avoiding this post. I wasn’t sure what to write.
When I created the first post, I thought I knew how I wanted to write the follow-up. The more I thought about it, though, the more I didn’t know what I wanted to say.
I toyed with the idea of talking about trust. Laying your life in His safe hands when you get the crap beat out of you. You know, the “when you can’t trace His hands, trust His heart” sort of stuff you hear in songs and sermons.
But I just couldn’t stomach the saccharine. There’s a problem with that approach. It assumes you trust God in the first place.
I can trust God with some things. My savings account. My freelance work. My future. Well, most of the time. But ask me to lay my daughter on the altar of trust, and I’ll be the first to admit my inadequate faith. God is not the problem. I am. And I don’t think I’m alone.
Tell a parent whose child has just died to “trust God’s sovereignty” and you’re likely to be met with biting tears at best, howls of grief and anguish and betrayal at worst. Does this indicate a lack of trust on that parent’s part? Or does their response merely acknowledge that a walk of faith and trust is a gritty, grungy, get-scraped-up in the process sort of journey?
If trust is too much to ask—and sometimes I think we demand more than God asks of us—then what do you do when you get hosed?
Show up. Walk it out. Put one bloodied foot in front of the other and keep going.
That’s all you can do. And dare I say, that’s all God asks of you.
Lest I’m branded a heretic for not encouraging you to trust God more or to take a larger leap of faith….hang with me.
Job. The poster child of suffering. I love Job’s story, not because it ends neatly tied up in a bow. Yes, God blessed and restored him and his family, but he still bore the scars. Those remained. I revel in the story because in the midst of Job’s questions and shaking his fist at God, God didn’t chastise Job for his lack of faith. God didn’t tell Job to put on his big boy robes and get up and out of the ashes. Instead He challenged Job to embrace the mystery of His nature and His workings.
May that’s what God asks of you and me when we get hosed.
The second story is found in the New Testament. One of my favorite people reminded me of it recently (thanks, Erin!). It’s in Mark 9— the man with a son who had been possessed by an unclean spirit. Talk about suffering. Watching your child endure the agony of demon possession. Doesn’t get any worse than that. The man tells Jesus:
“If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”
And Jesus said to him, “If You can? All things are possible to him who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” —Mark 9: 22b-24
I believe. Help my unbelief. The battle cry of the wounded, worn out, suffering, beat up, and bedraggled.
Notice that Jesus didn’t rebuke the man. He answered the man’s prayer. But He doesn’t always choose to answer every prayer the way we’d like. So we keep walking it out. We keep praying and seeking and knocking and asking. We bare our souls to the Soul-Maker and keep going. One painful, faith(ful? less?) step after another. We go to work. We take the medicine. We go to therapy. We take the next step. That’s what the nameless man in Mark did. That’s what Job did. Walk. it. out. Show up. One more moment. One more hour. One more day.
When I was younger and heard sermons on finishing the Christian race strong, I pictured Hebrews 12 and the great cloud of witnesses cheering me on in some grand stadium as I completed one last victory lap. Having weathered a few more storms and the consequences of my own sin, I look at the end of my race differently. I think I shall arrive at the end limping. No victory lap. Just walking, sometimes stumbling, always scraping my hands and knees and faith. I think that’s how most of us will arrive.
When we get to heaven He will finally and completely wipe away the tears and anguish and pain.
Until then, we take one more step. One. more. step.
Doubting, questioning, and yet believing still.