'Insight for Living' founder, Charles R. Swindoll, famously said this: "We must cease striving and trust God to provide what He thinks is best and in whatever time He chooses to make it available. But this kind of trusting doesn't come naturally. It's a spiritual crisis of the will in which we must choose to exercise faith."
A spiritual crisis is what I would say best described the state of my friend's marriage. She had waited, prayed and followed God's instructions but here she was a few months into marriage and her husband had left the church. "It wasn't part of the script," she said.
She was understandably at a loss with the way things turned out after she followed the "prescribed way" of meeting a mate. She had prayed, sought godly counsel, kept herself until marriage- the prescribed way. And here she was looking into the face of man she fell in love with but couldn't stomach. And what of the young woman serving on the mission field, expectant of what God was going to do, and how he was going to use her? Her story takes a horrific turn when she is raped and expecting a child. Where is God?
"Blessed is the one who is not offended by me." Luke chapter 7 verse 23
Sometimes in surrendering our lives to Jesus we have this idea in our minds of how things should be. We believe that if we pray, read the Bible, tithe, share the gospel and check off the proverbial good Christian do's and don'ts, our lives will have problems but "within reason". We don't say this out loud.
No, it's more in how we respond when a crisis of great proportion comes into our lives or when God doesn't provide what we think is best, or that what He has allowed us to face we feel it is too painful to bear. Now the lyric "take me deeper than my feet will ever wonder" is replaced with "bring me back to the shore, I quit, I don't even like swimming anymore! "Now, all of what we sang in praise and worship sessions, posted on our pages and wrote as our status becomes a distant thought. We are upset that God allowed this thing to happen, and we wonder about His goodness.
Imagine John the Baptist from his cold dank cellar thinking about how he had served God wholeheartedly all his life; of the sacrifices he had made as he prepared the way for the Messiah. Sitting in a jail cell awaiting imminent death was not part of the retirement plan. "Where was Jesus?" " Why wasn't he coming to save him?" Then the onset of doubt which leads to bitterness and offense. Maybe Jesus wasn't the Messiah, because if He was, He would set me free.
Maybe God is not the just, fair God I have always sang about because if He was, my husband would not have left me, my child whom I taught God's way would not be so wayward and selfish, my loved one would not be in critical care, that child wouldn't have gotten raped. Maybe Jesus is not who He has proclaimed himself to be because if He was I would not be this sick, or be in this financial crisis, or be saddled with this rebellious child, or.........insert painful reality.
I would not be in this situation.
When devastation occurs faith many times fails, and doubt creeps into our hearts. For John the Baptist, his expectation of Christ caused him to doubt the divinity of Jesus. It wasn't lack of prior conviction. He saw when the dove descended, landed and the voice of God affirmed his Son, Jesus Christ. He knew who this man was and had dedicated His life to it. But like his fellow Jews, Jesus became a stumbling block because he was discouraged. Maybe John was fine with going to jail, as long as Jesus provided a way out, or as long as he didn't have to stay in there longer than an expected time.
It was no coincidence that when Jesus received the enquiry from John's disciples that his response was to simply perform miracles. He didn't directly answer the enquiry of John's disciples. He simply told them to go and tell John all the miracles they had witnessed. He left no grounds for doubt by all the miracles he performed in the space of the hour the disciples waited on His response.
Isn't that the key? When doubt creeps in and discouragement in unmet expectations creeps into our minds causing offense in our hearts it's in reminding ourselves of the power of the God we serve, and the character of the God we serve that our faith is able to be renewed and extinguish the fiery darts of disappointment and feelings of disillusion. Share your feelings of pain, He can handle it. Cry even, the scriptures speaks of Jesus being moved with compassion but in addition to that let His word remind you of who God is.
Stumbling Block or Strong Tower
I imagine Mary and Martha's high levels of offense when Jesus walks on the scene after Lazurus died. I imagine them wondering, "where were you Jesus?" "I thought you loved Lazarus, Jesus." I can imagine Mary who had to be called for by our Saviour, inside processing can she still trust Jesus, and if she should even believe in Him. Yet she chooses to go to Him with her pain, fall to her knees (worship) and present her concerns to Him trusting His character. When Jesus acted it was beyond her expectation. Time was of no essence and the plan He had in place they couldn't have scripted that, but as my friend says, "He's the author anyway."
I can relate to the feelings of disappointment and our pain moves our Saviour to compassion. I want to encourage us to choose to trust in His character. I love that Paul prays that the church in Ephesus understand the hope to which they are called, the magnitude of God's love and the power at work on their behalf. The power at work on our behalf raises dead people.
Only by revelation can you understand this and choose to let it affect your heart. Dead people raising power is at work on my behalf and its being directed by a God that loves me so deeply that he "searches me and knows me.. understands my thoughts... placed his hand on me and[wrote in His ]book all my days." Like David I can't help but say "this extraordinary knowledge is beyond me." (Psalm 139 verses 1-3,16) I choose to stop striving and just trust God, and I encourage you to do the same.
Stacy-Ann Smith - is a child therapist. She is involved with youth and children's ministry and has a heart to work with young women teaching them the ways of the Lord. She serves as a board member of the Kingston and St. Andrew Foster Parent's Association.
Stacy-Ann Smith's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/stacy-ann-smith.html