From the get-go, I have to tell you that I am self-plagerizing most of this post. (To be honest with you, the idea of “self-plagerizing” seems completely dumb, but it’s a real thing, and according to ethics, I have to tell you that this is not the first time many of these words have been typed out and I’m supposed to cite the original source…totally dumb.) So, just so you know, this post is a reprocessed version of a VERY low-key talk I gave to a group of women last week. Some, though a minimal amount, of the words are literally copy and pasted from my notes, but most, though not all, of the thoughts are completely recycled.
All right, now that the annoying part is over…
Over the past few years, I’ve been traveling though a tremendously weird season in my life – a season of asking myself and God a lot of hard questions. Questions concerning who I am in this somewhat new season of motherhood, questions concerning my purpose right now, questions concerning why I struggle with the things I’ve been struggling with, and, mostly, questions about God’s character – mainly surrounding the area, of “If God is good, then why does he allow really bad things to happen to the most vulnerable of people?” It’s a question, that I felt as though I had always had to the answer to – really, I think it was something that had never really bogged me down, so I just didn’t stop to think about it – but then, for whatever reason, the perfect stream of events seemed to happen, and I found myself really struggling with the question.
If God is good, then why?
I mean, it’s been one heck of a season…and it hasn’t been fun.
A few months ago, my husband and I were driving home (or to, I can’t remember) New Mexico, and my husband started talking to me about this “wearisome season.” He challenged me in my approach to wrestling through things (basically, he pointed out that I wasn’t wrestling at all – I had given up on seeking God and wise counsel concerning the question) and that he was concerned about how my questions were manifesting themselves in my life – in my actions, thoughts and words.
So, encouraged my him, I opened up to my community group about it. I asked that they pray for me as I prayed for my own heart, and then, later that week, I did it. I prayed.
Being a Christian for a while now, I knew that prayer was going to play an instrumental part in “getting through” this wearisome season, but I think that, deep-down, I still had my questions about God’s character and, therefore, wondered if praying to Him was the right thing to do. I think I felt bad about my questions and, therefore, felt conflicted about talking with Him about them. Could I really pray to someone who I questioned? Could I be completely honest with Him about one of my messiest places? What would happen?
The truth is, I’m not the only one who has ever gone through a difficult season. And I’m definitely not the only one who has ever asked God questions.
In the book of Psalms, we see a group of poems, songs or prayers called the “Laments,” and these psalms are…well…kind of depressing. But it is here, more than in any other place in scripture, where I personally have found some of the greatest examples of what it means to be truly honest with God. I mean, in these laments, I see bluntness and full-throttled transparency, which ultimately has taught me that I don’t have to place boundaries on my honesty with God.
I mean, let’s look at Psalm 13:1-4.
“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed over him,’ lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.”
Most scholars believe that David wrote this Psalm. Although scholars don’t know the exact context of this Psalm, just from reading it, we can sense what David is going through. He’s sorrowful – maybe even completely depressed – feeling somewhat abandoned by God (see note below), and we even get a sense of confusion.
But the point is, David is honest with God about these things – he is honest with God about his despair and his questions in the midst of trials.
In Psalm 55:1-15, we read another Psalm thought to be written by David. In this Psalm, David expresses a lot of intense things to God. You should definitely read it yourself, but just in an overview we see that in verse 2, he says, “Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan because of the noise of my enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked.” In verses 4 & 5, we read, “My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me […] horror overwhelms me.” And in verses 12 & 13, we find out the source of all of David’s discomfort when he writes, “For it is not an enemy who taunts me – then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me – […] But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.”
Here, we see David being honest with God about hurt, rejection, oppression, and fear. We also see him being honest with God about the betrayal of a friend. Whether that betrayal was caused by King Saul’s desperate pursuit for David’s life in 1 Samuel or his son Absalom’s conspiracy to steal the kingship from David in 2 Samuel, we can’t be sure, but because of these things, we know that David is not a stranger to being betrayed by someone close to him. AND he’s honest with God about it.
And laments like this just keep happening…here’s one more.
In Psalm 51, believed to be written by David after he was confronted about committing adultery with Bathsheba and then murdering her husband to cover it up, we see David being honest with God about his sin, the impact his sin has had on his life, he desire for forgiveness and cleanliness, and his request for restoration.
I mean, it’s heavy stuff.
The great thing, though, is that these somewhat pessimistic laments don’t end here (though I believe that honesty is a beautiful thing). Actually, these laments tend to end on a positive note – in declarations of who God really is.
In Psalm 13:5&6, we read this…
“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”
In Psalm 55:22 we read this…
“Cast your burdens on the Lord, and will will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”
And in Psalm 34, which is well believed (though not for certain) to be written after David confessed his sin with Bathsheba and his sin of murder to God, we read this…
“I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all of my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. […] The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (v. 4, 5, and 16).
In all of the above verses, we see that David is honest with God about things that are really bogging him down. He is confessing sin, describing hurt, asking questions, and wrestling with God about why things are the way they are, and ultimately, in this, he finds the rest, peace and relief only the Lord can provide. Now, the Lord doesn’t always change his circumstances – David still had to run from Saul and his son Absalom is killed in battle, and God allows one of his other sons to die as an infant because of his sin with Bathsheba – but God communes with David’s soul, reminds him of who He is, and He gives David the strength to carry on.
Turning to God in prayer or song, takes David out of his own head – out of his own self-dependency – and reminds him of who God is and that He can be trusted.
This was my experience, too.
When I prayed to God – when I stopped trying to cope by myself and was actually honest with him about my concerns, my doubts, my questions, my sin, my lack of understanding, my frustration, and my pain – it felt as though a heavy weight had been lifted. Just to be clear, my circumstances didn’t completely change. I still see tremendous hardship and loss the lives of those I love. I still mourn at the death of innocent life, and the injustices that kill and keep people enslaved. Those things – the things that still cause me to question sometimes – are still happening, but in prayer – in being honest with God – I was reminded that He is God and I am not and my heart began to reflect upon and understand the idea of his goodness once again.
And more than anything, being honest with God in prayer allowed me to stop depending upon myself – my own coping mechanisms, rationalizations, compartmentalization, distractions, etc. – and forced me to instead lean into God. I mean, He is the one who knows and understands everything.
So, what are you struggling with that you need to talk to God about? How are you trying to depend upon yourself instead of depending upon God?
God is big enough to handle our hardships – we don’t have to run from Him or hide our questions, concerns, emotions, sins or struggles. I mean, in reality, He already knows they are there.
God is big enough to handle our hardships – so be honest.
* The laments contain a lot of emotion – a lot of feeling words – and we know that just because someone feels something, doesn’t make it true. So, just because David felt as though God had abandoned him doesn’t mean God really did. However, God created us with emotions and God himself has emotions, so being honest with God about them – regardless of whether or not your very real feelings are rooted in the truth of the situation – seems to be a part of the process of being transparent with God.