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Do people of faith struggle with pain?

Does faith in God’s sovereignty produce perpetual happiness?

That seems to be the sometimes spoken and often implied belief of Christianity.

“Rejoice in the Lord always!”
“In all things, God works for good!”
“God has a plan!”

We push away struggles with platitudes, portraying and either/or kind of faith. You either struggle with pain OR are content in the midst of all circumstances. You either question the direction of your life OR have faith God is at work.

These are implied to be mutually exclusive categories in a life of faith.

The Psalms tell a different story. The Psalms are the prayers of people with a both/and kind of faith. They both tell the struggles of their life AND maintain faith in a God who acts on their behalf. They display both honesty about the depth of their pain AND praise for a God who is present with them.

It is a complicated faith that can sometimes make the Psalms difficult to read. But isn’t it more true to life?

For my days vanish like smoke;
my bones burn like glowing embers.
My heart is blighted and withered like grass;
I forget to eat my food.

In my distress I groan aloud
and am reduced to skin and bones. – Psalm 102:3-5

AND

Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the Lord:
“The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,
to hear the groans of the prisoners
and release those condemned to death.” –Psalm 102:18-20

I am prone to pushing away my struggles because I know I shouldn’t feel this way or that. There are others who have much bigger difficulties; I “shouldn’t” be struggling with something like this. I know that God is bigger than all this; I “shouldn’t” be so consumed with something like this.

It is never God who asks me to downplay my pain.

Psalm 102

God wants us. He desires us to come to Him with our true selves. Which means our Father welcomes the prayers of our honest, complicated, and sometimes contradictory hearts. 

God invites the both/and sentiments of a people who both praise Him and don’t understand Him, who both love Him and are angry with Him, who both ache with pain and find contentment in His love.

I believe God is always good. And I believe life can be really hard.

It’s not either/or. It’s both/and.


That was my reflection on Psalm 102. Link up with your own thoughts below. Stop back next week when Psalms Journey moves on to Psalm 103.

Opening my heart to hear what I know

you are loved

Photo Credit: Weird Beard on Flickr Creative Commons

 

Stop fighting with yourself, child.

There is grace for you when your head knows what your heart does not.

You are loved.

I know that you know that. But I also know you need to hear it.

You are loved.

Let me repeat it to you as often as I chose. It sometimes can take a few slices of those words to get through the thick skin of your heart.

You are loved. You are loved. You are loved.

Not only that, you are enough.

Right now, in your struggles, you are enough.

You are loved. You are enough.

Is there anything else your heart needs to hear today?

Instead of using your strength to beat it up with attacks about how you should know better, how about simply opening it up to Me?

Receive My grace for you in this moment. I AM here. Holding your hand.

Can you feel it?

Let go of your desire to solve and fix and do something to change. Sometimes you need to simply be. And receive.

Receive My love.

It is unconditional. And it is yours for the taking.

This is not a lesson you have to be done learning. I don’t mind repeating Myself. I will tell you as many times as you need it.

You are loved.

 

 

I Still Believe in the Bible

With all the failures of the Church, with all the mistakes of leaders, with all the confusion across years and cultures, I still believe in the Bible.

I believe the heart of the Bible beats wild and free inside its binding, no matter how many times it is held down or torn apart or thrown across a room. It is a living Word whose breath bursts through any attempts to suffocate it.

I believe when the living Word joins forces with the living Spirit and flows into living hearts, something is unleashed unlike any other power in this world.

I have been afraid to admit this. Fearful of this belief being my voice. Unsure what box would be placed around me after this sort of declaration. Nervous about saying things in such a way that I might drive the nails into that box myself.

But my fear is no longer strong enough to hold back this fire within my bones.

I still believe in the Bible. I still believe this ancient Book can speak new things to humanity, even on the thousandth reading of a text. I still believe the Scriptures have power to change lives, transform hearts, and speak into the deepest crevices of our souls.

I still believe in the Bible

That doesn’t mean I believe the Bible is easy. Or clear. I believe the Bible is often frustrating, and usually confusing, but absolutely worth wrestling through. We cannot give up.

Which is why I believe we need each other. We need a community that reads and shares about the Scriptures with one another. We need academics to show us context, artists to show us beauty, doubters to show us questions, servants to show us surrender, and visionaries to show us inspiration.

I believe the life surging from God’s Word is meant to make its way into the world through every wrinkle, mole, joint, muscle, and bone of the Body of Christ. I believe the Bible is meant to be the lifeblood for each of us: anchoring us, encouraging us, and spurring us forth to the beautiful lives God desires for His beloveds.

I still believe in the Bible. I intend to spend my life cracking it open, breathing it in, and letting its life flow from me.

How do you feel about the Bible these days? Have you seen it change lives?

Commitment: Thoughts on Psalm 101

psalm 101.jpgWhat does it really mean to have a relationship with God?

A “relationship” can be such undefined terminology. I have a relationship with chocolate. We see each other often. Daily, usually.

What puts my interactions with God on a different plane than that?

Obviously it makes a difference that God loves me back. But just try to tell my taste buds that chocolate isn’t filled with affection for me. The feeling sure seems mutual.

One distinction that comes to mind about what a relationship with God can and should mean is something we don’t often talk about.

Commitment.

God is committed to us. His love never lets go.

What does it look like for us to be committed to Him?

I wonder if it looks something like Psalm 101.

Because when I read the “I will…” followed by “I will…” followed by “I will…,” I can’t help but think of wedding vows.

And though I might have chosen different vows than the ones made by David, that doesn’t throw me off too much. After all, we live in different countries and cultures thousands of years apart from one another. And, have very different roles. He was a king after all, and I am not a queen of anything but clumsiness.

But, I hear his commitment and I respect it. He is making promises to God about how He will live.

If this is a contract kind of situation, which is how I have sometimes read it, this doesn’t feel very loving. If David is committing to do these things because of what he will get in return, or out of fear of what will happen if he doesn’t do them, then this Psalm feels like shallow religion.

But what if it is more like wedding vows? What if they are a voicing of David’s desire to please the One he loves? What if David is fully aware that he will fail at some of these things, but wants to try anyway? What if David knows these promises might not be the 100% correct theology, but is more worried about the heart than the accuracy?

I will sing of your love and justice;
to you, LORD, I will sing praise.
I will be careful to lead a blameless life—
when will you come to me?
I will conduct the affairs of my house
with a blameless heart.
I will not look with approval
on anything that is vile.
– Psalm 101:1-3

If I read this Psalm as wedding vows, I can see something in it for me. I can find inspiration to speak my commitment to God, and hear His commitment to me.

We are in this together, God and I. I am committed to Him, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish as long as I shall live.


This will be my last post for a few weeks.I am taking a blogging break. After making it to 100 Psalms (yeah!) I realized that I have been burning myself out on content-creation, and need some space to work on some brewing projects in other areas of my life. Please join back with me for Psalms series and other posts in early June.


Link up with your own reflection on Psalm 101 below.

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