Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Pit

Not much new has happened that is worth posting. I've been trying to distract myself again as a way to get through the days. I spent several hours reading the blog of a woman who talked very openly about the realities of child bearing. I watched (and voted for) my favorite couple on Dancing with the Stars (go Kristi and Mark!). The London Calling Bachelor chose Shayne. Jon and Kate Plus 8 have gone through several outings, picture day, and Christmas. I've played countless moves in my online Scrabulous games. I looked through old pictures, ate chocolate, and tossed everything paper (and/or in an envelope) that requires my attention into a pile on the side of my bed. Unfortunately, in that pile is also my prayer journal and my Bible.

When I get away from God like this, it doesn't happen suddenly. I slide into the spiritual numbness gradually. My intensity and fervor for seeking God's face declines after a missed morning meeting with him. If I don't respond later in the day to make up the time, I've suddenly gone 24 hours without scripture or much prayer. In those 24 hours, I absorb so many messages from the world, from people, from the Internet, that are all contaminated by distortion, twisted truth, humanity, and blatant lies. David described it as a muddied spring or polluted well in Proverbs 25.

That image of a polluted well has powerful implications for my life. When I'm finished pursuing my distractions for a day, having pushed God out in frustration and hurt and anger, I've lost some of his perspective. My ear starts to listen to, and pause to consider, the other messages of the world which bombard me in this digital age of constant stimulation and information. The "well-cover" of my soul is left ajar, and all kinds of dirt, rain, and bugs can find their way in to my clean water supply. When I go to take a drink, I feel dingy, dirty, and heavy. There is a leanness to the soul that comes when we don't read God's word daily, and I can feel it right now as I type. I feel lonely. I feel discouraged beyond belief. I miss my abiding peace. I feel like I am deep in a pit with no arm long enough to reach in and pull me out.

But God's word tells me:
Isaiah 59:1
Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.

It's very easy for me to feel God's abandonment right now. My family's circumstances appear hopeless, and I have searched and prayed and pursued help without any apparent results. I have begged and pleaded and bargained with God. He allows pain and terror to continue for those I love, and for me to be powerless to stop their pain makes me angry at the One powerful enough to stop it. I ask sometimes, "God, how is this love?"

But when I see tragedies on the news like the earthquake in China or the cyclone in Myanmar, I'm reminded once again of Jesus's promise-- "In this world, you will have trouble..." He never promised us to be free from suffering while we're here on earth. It's just that when our suffering portion is a little bigger than we'd imagined it should be, it's easy to get offended at God.

Philip Yancey said in his book "Where is God When it Hurts?" that suffering doesn't happen in generalities, though we speak of it as if it does. Suffering is specific and personal, and though we can casually mention it in sweeping words like "death tolls," "wounded," or "casualties," the very nature of each single event was personal and deeply tragic to the family of the one affected.

So the question naturally follows: Why should I be spared? Why is my family above suffering? What right do any of us have to say we should always live in ease, safety, comfort and health? Jesus himself suffered more than any individual. He put his "money where his mouth is," and paid the highest price, showing that our suffering is not in vain when we hope in Him.

Yet I still cry out to God in this pit tonight-- Where is my help, Lord Jesus?! Forgive me for my distractions, for my desperate attempts to get relief anywhere I can find it, for my schemes to try to solve my problems on my own because you aren't moving quickly. I am weak and worn out from worry and fear. I've come to the end of my understanding. I beg for your mercy and compassion and grace. You promised me, "In this world you will have trouble..." and you finished, "But take heart! I have overcome the world."

It's in that last part of your promise, with such boldness, you have stated your authority, who you are, and how you will stand for me. I know you are the great I AM. You testified, and God the Father testified, and the Holy Spirit continues to testify that you are the Son of God. Your claims and miraculous works are not those of just a good man, or a profound teacher, or even a prophet. You made clear that you are one with God, and that you came here as Messiah. Your final proof was your resurrection, showing that you could conquer even death. "There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD." -Proverbs 21:30 I place my hope and trust in you. And I cry out with Jeremiah who found himself in a pit:

Lamentations 3:17-26
I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, "My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD." I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

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