My Pastor, Mike Stahl, said recently, “Don’t look at God through your circumstances; look at your circumstances through God.”
When I look at my prayer notebook, I find there fear, nervousness, uncertainty, questions, even outright doubt. I find there a David who wonders about the future, the past, the present.. I find myself to be altogether dependent and helpless were there no God present to answer my anxious thoughts. I present my pain to my Father. My pain, my insecurities, and all my questions find their way into those handwritten pages. I find my doubts in that blue notebook.
Here, though, on myspace, I find myself to be a man full of faith. I find myself writing on how well God has done things in my life, how He has orchestrated my life so well, and gone so far as to use awful things in my life for good – how He has used sins, even! Here, I focus on Christ and how God the Father has overwhelmingly used what appears to be the worst experiences my life to become show His great power to cause things to be the reverse of what they appear.
What is the difference? Am I contradiction? No. I suspect that the difference is my focus. In the notebook, I focus on my questions, my problems, and my uncertainty – but in so doing, I present them to God and look to Him to be my help and my hope. Here, the perspective is different. I look down the past and see what God has done to bring me to this place. And I find that both of these are things that should be done.
the bummer psalms
I used to call the psalms where David or the sons of Korah talk about their misery “the bummer psalms.” Now I see that it was right that they should do this. Now that I have gone through some really tough times, I can see the exquisiteness of those psalms. They are ungaurded honesty, asking God the very questions that I myself have asked. They demonstrate that even the people who praise God the most strongly have also, at times, doubted Him more than most. They, like us, have wondered if God was there, what the point of righteous living is, and where He was in their suffering.
But this is the mystery of presenting questions to God: He won’t always answer your questions with answers – in fact, in my experience, He seldom has. He simply answers them with himself, and, “trust Me.” The “Bummer Psalms,” for the most part, begin in despair and end in hope.
Some would say that we should follow their pattern. I don’t like that word “should.” It is compelling, true, but guilt rides in its sidecar. “Should” says that what you are doing now is not enough. “Should” means aren’t, and feel guilty because you’re not. Feeling guilty, I have found, is in many cases as paralyzing as fear. Perhaps they belong together.
I want to use the word “should” here in a totally different sense. I want to use it in a sense like “we *should* go out for ice cream.” A word said with a mischievous wink and a broad smile: “We should crank up the music and dance all over the house!”
We *should* follow their pattern. Present our complaints; say why our souls ache. As one pastor put it, it is a waste of time to try to fake out God by pretending we’re totally happy with Him and that we’re counting it all joy. He knows the very depths of our souls anyway. Take your struggles to Him. Ask Him your difficult questions. This is, after all, a relationship with God, is it not? How can one have a relationship with someone and live a lie before them? God knows it all anyway.
That, then, is the point. Looking at our circumstances through God. I have more to say, but that’s another entry… coming up in about an hour or so. I don’t want to mix these.
I heard Chuck Swindoll quote something this morning. It illustrates a location of focus, and it gives me great hope, because I, like at least one of my readers, was wounded deeply. It illustrates, for those of us who have gone through the Refiner’s fire (and likely will again) that He uses no hurt for without cause, and His work is always done well. He is altogether to be trusted, and His ways are for our good in ways that we could not begin to imagine in the beginnings of our trials, and could not explain to ourselves if we could write ourselves a message back when we were in the pain.
“It is doubtful whether God can bless anyone greatly
until He has hurt him
It reminded me of another quotation repeated by Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias:
When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And which every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out-
God knows what He’s about.
These words take out all focus on our selves, and place it on Christ. I repeat these words with a twinkle in my eye, not because I feel as though I am something great, but because I can see how the Father has done all things well.
Were God to come to me in a dream and present me with February 6, 2008, and offer to let me change it all and do it my way, and have every begging, pleading prayer of mine answered with “Yes” and “Done,” if I could cause Steve Eichelberger to have changed his mind entirely around and decided that I was the man for his daughter… if I knew that it could all be re-arranged in a heartbeat, I wouldn’t do it. It wouldn’t even be tempting. As the author stated, “God knows what He’s about.”
All of this is not to say that I don’t love Kara deeply; I do… but now I see a purpose for my suffering. And for hers. If I could rewind and live life as it would be had I skipped the crucible, I wouldn’t. It would have been disaster.
I know more trouble’s coming, but I am confident in this; like the apostle Paul, I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor principalities, nor any thing is capable of separating us from the love of God which is ours in Christ Jesus!