Asking God Tough Questions
When my life came to a major turning point in June, I was devastated, but also unexpectedly confident and excited. I was sure God had something amazing for me. Missions work overseas, visiting friends across the US, or touring the national parks in a camper while writing stories. I was asking God tough questions and joyfully expecting good answers.
However, as the months have flown by, no big announcements have been issued from God (that I’ve heard anyway). No new orders other than to stay at my church and be faithful in my writing.
Honestly, I’m afraid to write again. Afraid to pick up the stories where I left off. If writing doesn’t pan out, it will feel like this whole leaving-my-job-thing was for nothing. Going back to libraries or teaching would feel like being led by my shackled wrists down an old west desert road into a ghost town to await trial from a jury of crusty outlaws. Not fun.
To be here alone, unproven as a writer, and unsure of my future leaves me feeling meaningless at times. No family, no ministry, no career… No point.
Run, Hide, Fight, or Ask?
“What am I doing here in the wilderness?” I ask God.
“What are You doing in my wilderness?” I also ask.
All I want to do is run away and find some grand adventure or some beautiful story of calling and fulfillment to get wrapped up in. Can I create my own happy ending that way? Just pick a place and restart?
I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t spend one whole evening last week trying to figure out if Australia would give me a work visa. A friend of a friend owns a cafe and coffee roaster North of Sydney. Surely they need a slightly anxious, Jesus loving, no-idea-where-her-life-is-going barista, right? Right Mel Forsythe-Lee? …No seriously, is Glee hiring Yanks these days?
Joking aside, when things get really tough, I know my tendency is to run or numb my fears with escape.
Staying Put in the Fire
What if the scariest and bravest thing I can do is to stay? Stay and face disappointment and ask the hard questions of God. To face the fact that I thought God was leading me to my destiny and instead I was led straight into a pit from hell. I’m not joking. This last year was that bad. To think God led me there is even worse.
Lots of people tell me that it wasn’t God’s doing and that bad people do sinful things to us but that God can redeem it. I believe that…mostly.
I mean, I believe he has been and will continue to work this situation for my good. Scripture says so and I believe that (Romans 8:28, Genesis 50:20). I have many wonderful examples of his provision and faithfulness.
It’s just that I thought I had been following his lead and direction when everything went so terribly wrong. Here’s my fear…What if this “detour” truly is from the Lord and it’s “for my own good” so that I can grow, mature, and build character? Or maybe it’s so that I have a story that I can share to help others heal from similar trials in the future.
That all might be true, too. In fact these are all probably happening simultaneously even now.
Trusting the Father’s Character
Here’s the rub. I’m having trouble trusting a father who would walk me into the lion’s den and then leave me there for 9 months to endure spiritual abuse and emotional trauma. Why didn’t he get me out sooner? Why’d he send me in the first place?
“That’s not God’s character,” I can hear you say to me. If you were asking the same questions to me, I’m sure that would be my answer to you, too.
But are you sure that’s not his character? After all, his ways are so much higher than my ways (Isaiah 55:8-9) and his understanding no man can fathom (Isaiah 40:28). I don’t want to forget my place in the grand story. I am but a blade of grass, albeit a loved blade of grass, but a single blade, here today and tomorrow gone. (Isaiah 40:6-8) While God–He is the Creator of everything!
Tell me if Job 38:1-4 doesn’t leave you quaking in your boots?
“Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: ‘Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.’”Job 38:1-4
When we look at scripture, it’s full of examples of God allowing and even positioning people to endure suffering and trials in order to test and shape his people for the better. Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac. Joseph was sold into slavery then imprisoned. Job lost almost everything. God brought his son to earth as a sacrifice.
Only God knows what he is truly doing in the midst of our trials, whether he fashioned them, or just allowed them.
Is it a Tomb or a Womb?
I just finished reading It’s Not a Tomb, It’s a Womb, from author Bob Sorge, whom I respect and admire. This book had me scratching my head and asking God tough questions. Sorge tells the stories of people whom God placed in fiery trials in order to deliver his people, reveal his glory, and bring about redemption. In a nutshell, Sorge proposes that we see our trials as a tomb, God sees them as a womb to birth his plans on the earth.
Like a bur under a horse’s saddle, Sorge said an interesting thing that has been jabbing at my heart for weeks. He said God never apologized to any of those people for leading them into the wilderness. Sending his servants into trials and suffering is part of his ultimate plan to bring himself glory, create character, deepen his relationship with man, and develop maturity lasting through eternity.
When we surrender our entire lives, does that include allowing him to lead us, like the holy spirit led Jesus, into the wilderness to be tested? And if it does, then how can I resent that my last year and a half didn’t look at all like I expected or hoped?
Excavating Our Lives
When I think about this in my own life, I have told the Lord on many occasions to do anything he needed to do in order to make me a vessel of his glory. He took me at my word. In essence, I got what I asked for.
In a post on instagram, I heard Lisa Bevere say she asked God to excavate her life and after just a few weeks of him doing so, she basically said just kidding. What she really meant to say was for him to landscape her life…make it pretty! Lisa, I can relate!
As one of those people in the excavation process, I’m feeling conflicted about whether I can trust him for good things. Or whether the things he brings into my life are just “for my own good.” Kind of like how you’d give a sick kid a shot of penicillin so they’d get better faster.
Here kid, let me stick you in the butt with this big ole needle, but don’t worry, you’ll feel better some day…soonish.
Given the option how many of us would rather take the slower acting pills?
Room for Blessing
If you can identify with anything I’ve said, then you might also be wondering, how do we trust God again for blessings in the future?
How do we step out again and not expect the sky to fall, for our own benefit, of course. How do we try to dream again when we thought we stepped out in faith and ended up damaged and broken?
God Isn’t Afraid of Our Questions
Asking God tough questions may not be culturally acceptable in some Christian circles, but over the years, God has shown me that it is ok, in fact, it’s necessary to ask God questions.
God isn’t afraid of our honest questions. Mining for gold in our relationship with Jesus means speaking truthfully, asking our toughest questions, and letting him address our greatest fears.
Like King David in the Psalms, we can both ask questions and praise him. Just because I have questions doesn’t mean that I don’t trust him, that I’m not saved, or that I’m in trouble with God.
Nope, it just means that I’m human.
I expect, dear friend, that you are too. I think you have asked some questions a time or two in your journey with God, right? Or if you haven’t, you’re itching to ask.
Honesty, Vulnerability, and Courage
My prayer is that as believers we would share openly and honestly, not only with God, but also with one another so that we can encourage and hold up the arms of the ones who are getting weary. (Exodus 17:12) Yes, vulnerability can be scary. True vulnerability in a safe environment, though, can lead to a place of deeper trust and fellowship.
God already knows what we are thinking. The only way to move forward is to face the fear and the questions and allow God’s loving perspective to invade our hearts and minds.
I’m praying that you have the courage this week to ask God the tough question that’s been a bur under your saddle. And I pray that no matter the answer you receive, you will experience his comfort and love as you confide in him.