We can feel free to bring our troubles, anger, frustration, and sadness to God, and we can be assured that He will listen to our every thought and word. His heart is moved by the things that carve valleys of pain through our souls. He is there when we weep. He is there when we ask why. His understanding and mercy toward us are considerable, and what makes Him great is that they are also considerable toward those we call our enemies. Can we be okay with that? Maybe we can. Maybe we can let it bring us a sense of comfort, knowing that God offers the same grace to all.
“Scripture does more than give us permission to express our sadness; it considers grieving
losses as central to our spiritual growth… To deny sadness is like trying to deny an arm or a leg;
it is to amputate a vital and necessary part of ourselves.” – Geri Scazzero
“I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.
I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.
You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?
Then I thought, ‘To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.’
Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
The waters saw you, God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
The clouds poured down water,
the heavens resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.”
Something I have been thinking about a lot lately is how God in the Old Testament (OT) sometimes seems different from the God Jesus came to make known. I know that He is not different because God does not change…“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). The Bible also reveals that Jesus is God…“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation” (Colossians 1:15), and that He is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). So why does it seem like God was more stern in the OT, whereas Jesus makes familiar a God of love, patience, mercy, and forgiveness? First, I need to say that the OT is not without examples of the love and forgiveness of God…I just get more insight into the gentleness of God, in Jesus. So this is a question I will continue to ask God about. But one thing I do know. I know that God is love…“God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:16). And I have experienced His love first hand, when at times I have acted less than loving toward Him and He has made it known to me, whether it was through something I read, something someone said, or just a reassuring thought, that He was still there and was present with me. Through Jesus, God forgives us our shortcomings and not only that, but like the prodigal son, He sees us from a “long way off” and is “filled with compassion” (Luke 15:20).
I met *Sarah in a retail store. She helped me shop for a ring. She informed me that people are calling costume jewelry by another name now, “progressive jewelry.” We both laughed a little. Sarah was in her 60’s and had retired several years earlier so that she could travel. She was back at work, but in a job that she liked, and she spoke of no regrets having used some of her savings to explore the world. Sarah told me that her family was made up of diverse backgrounds. She and her siblings were raised Muslim (although she did not identify herself as Muslim any longer), and she had relatives by marriage who were Jewish, as well as Catholic. She said that family ties meant a lot to her. She said that she celebrates Christmas. Sarah’s life and family background were atypical, and she seemed to appreciate that. I liked thinking of her family sitting together at holiday gatherings, differing beliefs and all. I do believe that there is one true way for people to find close relationship and eternal life with God, through Jesus’ sacrifice, but it’s because of this that I can appreciate when people show love toward one another even and especially when their views differ. It’s one way of truly loving our neighbors, which Jesus equated with loving God with our whole heart. Before leaving, Sarah and I shared a hug. I said goodbye and she responded by saying that she wasn’t going to say goodbye…that she had a feeling we would see each other again. Not hearing goodbye from my new friend touched my heart.
” ‘Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?’ Jesus replied, ” ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” – Matthew 22:36-39
(*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.)
Jesus stressed the importance of humility. When He and His disciples feasted with Matthew and Matthew’s friends, the Pharisees and teachers of religious law questioned the disciples, asking why they would eat with “scum.” Jesus responded, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent” (Luke 5:29-32). Jesus made it clear that God was searching for those who were willing to admit that they had problems, their fundamental problem being that their sin separated them from God. It can be tough to view ourselves as sinners who need to be reconciled with God, but the way I see it, none of us can really say that we’ve never fallen short of even our own standards of what “good” is, and because God is perfect and Holy, it would be tough to claim that our “goodness” lines up with His righteousness. Also, when we give it thought we realize that sometimes the things we think, say, and do, surprise even us, which can serve as more confirmation that we are in need of new hearts that are God-facing. Like the Pharisees, we can view Jesus as a radical troublemaker, or like Matthew and his friends, realize that we are in need of a savior, find a spot at the banquet table, and feast.
Some of you know that I enjoy singing and songwriting and from time to time I share my songs via my blog posts, along with brief explanations as to what they are about. Today I am sharing my thoughts on a song I wrote called, “Don’t Expect Much.” It’s about that drive we all have as human beings to collect earthly goods, and how, at the end of our lives, all of the things we have collected will not matter. When we realize this, we start thinking about what lies beyond this life. Not sure about you, but I spent many years going my own way, and although I always believed that God existed, I did not spend time seeking Him out. Then I met someone who began to share her faith with me, and by the way she treated me, made me want to know Him better. She even gave me a Bible to boot. It was the best gift she could have given me because it inspired me to learn more about Him. (*If you are interested in receiving a free copy of the Bible let me know by filling out the contact form at the bottom of this post. I will send them out while my supplies last.) For an audio clip of and lyrics to “Don’t Expect Much,” see below.
Don’t Expect Much, Audio (click play):
hey God, i’m sittin’ here lookin’ at all my stuff
and i’m thinkin’ i won’t need it where i’m goin’
but another thing that occurs to me
i got no good place for my soul to be
and i remember someone tellin’ me
bout livin’ with You in eternity
well, i don’t know You
so, i don’t expect much
cause i have gone my own, my own way
but i’m beggin’ You today, save me
didn’t think i’d be needin’ You
or this hole inside would come bleedin’ through
but every step i took, know now You knew
the good of a God who won’t leave when we do
can i be with You in paradise
you will be with Me in paradise
hey God, i’m sittin’ here lookin’ at all my stuff
and i’m thinkin’ i won’t need it where i’m goin’
EVERY SINGLE TEAR
She says God wasn’t there during the difficult times,
and I didn’t live hers, so it throws me
I look beyond, around, behind
to lock hearts with the One who grows me
I know other souls in tragic times
saw Jesus standing there
When in dark places, where no light shined,
they felt Him ever near
It was the sparkle on the water,
the eyes where scales fell
the near death and, “I saw Him!”
a lit up prison cell
So why did she not see You
It troubles me to hear
I know that with her, You were
cupped every single tear
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” – Psalm 34:18
I can begin my morning by reading the Bible, and I feel very close to God. An hour later, I step out the front door, start thinking about the day ahead, and the nearness I felt to God disappears. I am often surprised at how easily my attention is diverted away from Him. Then the thought occurred to me that there will be both. There will be both moments of feeling near to Him, and times when I will be distracted and preoccupied. There will be both.
“I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!” – Psalm 139:7
When I read the Bible and questions come up for me, I sometimes take them to God, or I seek a friend’s counsel. But what I’ve realized is that there are some questions that may not be answered in this lifetime; perhaps they will never be answered. And maybe that’s okay. Because maybe once I move beyond this life, knowing the answers to those questions will no longer be important to me. But in reading the Bible verse below I am reminded of a question that has come up for me often. I have wondered how we can apply verses like this to our lives…because we all experience difficulties. I’m sure there are a variety of different opinions on the matter, but something someone said to me once rings true. He said that ultimately, if we have given our lives to God, then in the end, we will be with Him, and nothing can prevent that. So, in the end, He will have kept us from evil, He will have kept our going out and our coming in, and He will have kept our life, just as the verse says.
“The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” – Psalm 121:7-8
“We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.” – Romans 3:22
I can very much identify with the man who said to Jesus, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) One thing I desire is to believe God; to believe all He tells me in the Bible. I am not advocating trying to hide our questions from Him, or pretending that we don’t have doubts at times, but in my experience there comes a point where a decision needs to be made — to either believe that what we are reading is God’s message to us, or it isn’t. I would hope that all would be on the side of believing, but with that said, even those who say they believe sometimes struggle with allowing God’s words to penetrate their heart. I did (do). But I also know what it’s like to believe Him, and the latter is much better. When I believe Him, there’s a feeling of freedom that goes along with it.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” – 2 Corinthians 3:17