Tag: faith (page 1 of 13)

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.

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?

Giving Up… My Worry

Lent Series Button

I was in a conversation with my small group when I first realized it.

We were taking turns sharing our stories with one another, using an entire night for each person to talk and be asked questions. It was my turn.

My tears were flowing at a similar pace to my words, when I admitted, “I just worry that everything is two steps away from the bottom dropping out.”

It wasn’t until I said it out loud that I realized how pervasive this worry really was. I spoke about it that night and have continued to ponder it since then.

———-

Our lives are full of unpredictable events. I have talked to person after person after person who have had wonderful jobs, amazing families, marvelous friendships, and rock-solid faith, until suddenly, they didn’t.

Why would I assume that wouldn’t be me? Why shouldn’t I hedge my bets?

I have made choice after choice to do what I can to control the future. I try hard and work even harder to be the best at everything I can. If there is anything I can do to prevent failure, I will do it. At the same time, I assume that none of it is going to work. That inevitably I will fail or someone will let me down. That way, when it does happen, at least I’m not surprised.

I assume the sting won’t hurt as much if I expect it.

Because I don’t live with the physical sensation of anxiety, I spent years oblivious to the fact that worry was controlling me.

I’ve heard faith defined as placing our confidence in something. Sometimes it feels like the only thing we can be confident about is that at some point, all of our lives will hit bottom.

And so I place my faith in that worry. I am confident that something dreadful will come to pass in the near future. And the more I am confident in that, the less it feels like anxiety and the more it feels like truth. The worry fools me into a false sense of security.

But security is not the same thing as peace. Peace is what Christ came to offer me.

———-

I’ve been encouraged to lean into two spiritual practices lately: the welcoming prayer and the breath prayer.

The welcoming prayer consciously invites all the things we want to hide, the feelings we are embarrassed about, into the center of our prayer life. Not to confess them, or feel shame about them, but to lift them up as a reality God already sees.

God searches us and knows us. It is often we who do not know ourselves.

For me, this has meant welcoming my fears and worries and stress into the center of my prayer life. And knowing that nothing about them changes God’s affection for me. God knows I have struggled with this worry. This revelation is not a surprise to Him. And He values me and loves me and accepts me right now, just as I am.

I end the welcoming prayer with the simple request of “Christ, shine Your light.”

The breath prayer acknowledges God’s presence with us in every moment of every day. It is a simple phrase memorized and repeated, so that it enters our thoughts rhythmically and repeatedly throughout the day, just as we breath. The original breath prayer is “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.” But I prayed about what I needed, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, wrote my own breath prayer for this season.

“Abba, hold my hand.”

It is so simple, yet so important to acknowledge. In every step and misstep, my Daddy is with me. He never stops loving me. He never stops holding me.

———-

I was talking to a mentor who asked me to lean into the worry. Who wondered out loud what would happen if the bottom actually did fall out from any or all of the pieces of my life that I worry so much about.

I pictured myself walking hand-in-hand with my God, when suddenly, the bottom disappeared from below me. But I didn’t fall. His hand was holding me up, gripping even tighter around my wrist than it had before.

My circumstances may fall apart. In fact, if life is true to form, parts of them will. And so I may always carry a bit of that fear with me. But the worry? The confidence in a future reality that makes me hedge my bets? I am giving that part up.

My confidence does not belong in my worry. My faith belongs in my Abba, who I am feeling in a new way, is right there beside me.


Giving Up… is a Lenten Series asking a question: What if we gave up more than external things for Lent? It’s not a belief that we can get rid of our baggage as easily as we can write a blog post. But, it is a belief that admitting those things that keep us from deeper intimacy with Christ is a good start. {Please note, this isn’t in any way meant to be a critique of those giving up something external. Often that is connected to the internal in a powerful way. In my case, though, I realized that the external sacrifice was hindering me from dealing with what was going on below the surface.}

A Surprise Ending with An Important Lesson

Psalm 89

Sometimes in our cynicism, we make assumptions about people’s faith.

If we hear people say something like this

I will sing of the LORD’s unfailing love forever!
Young and old will hear of your faithfulness.
Your unfailing love will last forever.
Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens. – Psalm 89:1-2

We think they are probably the kind of people who are filled with platitudes and pat answers.

Or if we hear people say something like this

All heaven will praise your great wonders, LORD;
myriads of angels will praise you for your faithfulness.
For who in all of heaven can compare with the LORD?
What mightiest angel is anything like the LORD?
The highest angelic powers stand in awe of God.
He is far more awesome than all who surround his throne.
O LORD God of Heaven’s Armies!
Where is there anyone as mighty as you, O LORD?
You are entirely faithful. – Psalm 89:5-8

Or this

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne.
Unfailing love and truth walk before you as attendants.
Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship,
for they will walk in the light of your presence, LORD.
They rejoice all day long in your wonderful reputation.
They exult in your righteousness. –Psalm 89:14-16

We think they are probably people who walk around with rose-colored glasses with blinders on the sides, always seeing God’s faithfulness and never noticing pain.

The second half of Psalm 89 blows those types of assumptions out of the water.

The Psalmist transitions from words like this

No, I will not break my covenant;
I will not take back a single word I said.
I have sworn an oath to David,
and in my holiness I cannot lie – Psalm 89:34-35

To words like this

But now you have rejected him and cast him off.
You are angry with your anointed king.
You have renounced your covenant with him;
you have thrown his crown in the dust. –Psalm 89:38-39

And we see that his faith is not easy after all.

The Psalmist moves from praising God to questioning Him, all in the same Psalm.

O LORD, how long will this go on?
Will you hide yourself forever?
How long will your anger burn like fire? – Psalm 89:46

So, what are we to do with a Psalm that seems to contradict itself, from one half to the next?

Stick with it. Read the whole thing. Don’t make assumptions about the person writing the words of either half without connecting them to one each other.

If we stay with this Psalm from beginning to end, if we read through both the overflowing praise that might makes us assume his life is easy, and the frustrated cries that might make us assume he has lost his faith, these seemingly contrasting postures come into focus.

The Psalmist knows God is faithful. He demonstrates with verse after verse how much this is his wholehearted belief. And so, when he experiences pain, he does not walk away from it. He moves right towards it. He picks up his frustration, confidently takes it to God. He knows there must be some way to reconcile it.

The Psalmist’s unwavering belief in God’s faithfulness is precisely what causes him to wrestle with the Lord.

Wrestling is not a sign of weak faith. It is a sign of a strong one.


That was my reflection on Psalm 89. Link up with your own below. Or come back next week with your thoughts on Psalm 90.

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