December 29, 2012

When fear is all you have...

A few nights ago I fell asleep with a sob in my throat, tasting the salty tears that would not stop coming. I had just screamed “I don’t trust you with my children!” and collapsed onto the pillow in despair. No, I was not talking to my husband. I was talking to God Almighty himself. I half expected to be struck by lightning right then and there for my blasphemy but instead I found myself lulled by a gentle sleep, almost as if an invisible hand was stroking my hair and whispering “there, there, go to sleep now” ever so soothingly.

I have been struggling with some theological truths that don’t seem to match the reality of this world. On one hand I know from scripture that God is good, that He loves us, and that He works in all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. You know these concepts, too, I’m sure. On the other hand I see the news, the kidnappings of children, the abuse, the evil that befalls innocent ones all over the world. How to reconcile the two? Isn’t this the age old question that keeps so many people from trusting fully in a God they know to be all-powerful, but who often seems to simply not interfere in the most atrocious situations? If God is good, then...

The truth is that this has been an ongoing battle for me since my best friend Sara was murdered by a stranger a decade ago. On and off since then God and I have fought this fight. On and off He has had to teach and re-teach these lessons to my stubborn, wounded heart. Over and over I have had to rely on his promise that there is enough grace in Him to continue, patiently and lovingly, to remind me as many times as needed of what I need to get through these crises of faith.

This time the crisis came as a result of a trip we are going to take, just Matt and I. I do most of my stinking-thinking at night and I had begun to think about what would happen to my children if Matt and I were not on this earth to take care of them. Images of all kinds of tragedies and painful trials came to my mind and built and built until I lost all means of rational thought. If God allows all the horrendous things I see happening every day around the world, who is to say He would not allow my children to suffer? Worse yet, who is to say He would not allow them to walk away from him destroying in the process all hope I have of ever spending eternity with them? If I was not here to protect them from harm, who would? Clearly not a God who allowed my sweet friend to be murdered in the sanctity of her own home. Hence the outburst of my lack of trust and the sobbing that ensued.

I wish I could tell you that when these dark moments of doubt come, God answers all my questions in neat, packaged replies that I can take to my friends and solve their own issues with trust and good vs. evil. He does not. What He does do each. and. every. time. is remind me of a few promises and truths I allow the routine of my life and the state of our world to bury so deep I almost forget them.

God loves my children more than I do. In my most wonderful day as a parent I cannot begin to scratch the surface of the love their Creator has for them. He loves them so much He sent his son. He loves them so much He knows each and every hair of their head. And if I, who don’t have that kind of love, work tirelessly for their good, how much more is the One who is love itself working every day for them, for their good, for their sake.

God placed my children into our family. In other words, He trusted me, flawed, sinful, and a little on the crazy side me with them. I didn’t even have a part in their creation yet He trusted me with them. Yet I have difficulty trusting the Perfect Parent back? This one humbled me.

God placed my children into a loving extended family so that Matt and I are not their end-all, be-all. No one can replace your parents, true. But if something were to happen to the both of us, my children have loving grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. who will take care of them and raise them in the faith we are trying to instill in them. In that way God has already provided protection for them.

I am not God. Bad things happen to children even when their parents are around, carefully watching. People walk away from God in their own accord, even when their parents are around to pray for them and model godliness for them. In other words, my presence in their life is not what will save them. Only God can do that. And I’m not him.

God is always working to redeem them, to draw them to him, and to point his will to them. I may not understand this. I may not see his handiwork in their lives all the time but He is working in their lives constantly. Always. I asked in despair: “What about all the children who have or are suffering? What about them?” and He gently reminded me that I don’t know what He is doing in their lives. I don’t know it all and I don’t know how God works around the world every day.

I know I am only aware of a fraction of the evil that happens daily in the world. A tiny fraction. While God, omnipresent, omniscient God is aware of ALL the hurt and violence that happens every minute of every day. “How?” I asked him, “How do you stand to see it all?!” and I was confronted with the understanding that, while God does see all the evil in the world, He is also witness to all the goodness, all the love, all the compassion, mercy and grace of which we are capable as a people. There is hope in this world as long as there are people who love God and love their neighbors as themselves.

 It is my worst enemy this fear. It brings with it worry, doubt, and mistrust. I know I will forget and I know I will cry out in despair again and again when fear grips me. That is my nature. And He will still be there, again and again, to answer me when I call in frustration and hopelessness. That is His nature. I don't know why bad things happen in this world. We could talk about free will, about sin, about choices people make, but those are empty words to hurting people. I may never know in this life the answer to that question no matter how eagerly I ask. I won't pretend to. I also don't know what the future will bring for my children. But I know who holds their future and I believe they are in pretty good hands.