God Cares About our Hard Questions

I grew up living in fear of God. No, not the fear that means revering Him, but the quaking fear of being pursued by an unapproachable, vindictive God who sought to harm me. I pictured Him as standing above me with a sword ready to strike me down and cast me into hellfire if I stepped even one toenail out of the way of what the church dictated.

I learned not to question God and not to question the ministers who were set in authority over us, because they were God’s messengers speaking for God. Spiritual, mental, emotional, and sexual abuse from a minister locked me in a prison with no way out.

BUT GOD…

Thanks be to God who broke the chains and did provide a way out. It’s an ongoing healing journey, but God has graciously led me to a way of love through Jesus, a love we didn’t hear much of. God is love. He delights to save us, not to harm us. He doesn’t want anyone to perish, and He doesn’t condemn us.

God doesn’t stop loving us when questions plague our hearts. It doesn’t mean we have a lack of faith or are being irreverent if we approach Him with them. He invites us to pour out all our confusion to Him, even though He already knows what is bothering us. He may not always give us answers here in this broken world, but He cares about our questions and uses them to help us in mourning our losses.

We can’t always trace God’s hand in events in this world and in our lives, but we can trust His heart. His arms are always open for us to run into and to be embraced to His heart of everlasting, unfailing love. He won’t always answer our questions, but it is His pleasure to give us grace to hold His hand and trust His heart and His infinitely higher thoughts and plan. He won’t always stop the pain, but He will bring beauty out of it in His way and timing. He won’t always fix what’s broken while we’re on this earth, but He gives us the courage to let go of our plans as we surrender to His control and remember His love never fails, no matter what.

We are not alone when we ask God “Why?”

  • When the Israelites wailed and complained and blamed Moses about their plight, Moses was frustrated and asked God, Why have You been so hard on Your servant?” (Numbers 11:11) It’s like he asked, “Here I am serving You, God, so why is all this happening? Why are You laying such a heavy burden on me?” God answered by qualifying others to help Moses carry the burden. The people were still discontent, but God strengthened him to carry on.

  • David asked, “Oh Lord, why do You stand far off? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1) He was in deep lament over all the sin and injustice against the innocent, the poor, and the helpless. It seemed God was unconcerned and hiding Himself. Though God didn’t directly mete out the justice right then, He did help David to focus on God’s faithful character as the Helper of the helpless. Someday there will be an end to all the oppression.

  • The prophet Habbakuk’s name means “he who embraces.” It was through grappling with tough questions that he came to a firm faith. In the first chapter, he asked God, “Why do You make me look at injustice? Why do You tolerate wrongdoing?” (Habbakuk 1:3) His heart was pained that God wasn’t immediately exacting justice against wrongdoings. He learned that things don’t happen according to our schedule or our plan but only in the way and timing of God.

  • In the anguish of his spirit, Job asked, “Why have You made me Your target?” (Job 7:20) He lost all his children and his possessions. He acknowledges he is not sinless, even though he had a close relationship with God, but he can’t understand why it seems God is destroying him. Though Job didn’t get his children back and He would continue to feel the loss, God eventually gave him more children and more possessions than before. God restored his spirit and gave him grace to go on, and his faith became even deeper through this devastating trial.

  • The most remarkable question of all was by Jesus who took our place and suffered for our sins. In the deepest soul anguish ever, He cried out to His Father, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) He didn’t just “feel” like God forsook Him like we sometimes do. He really was forsaken. For us. Now even when it “feels” like God has abandoned us, we have the steadfast promise that He never will.

God gives us these stories and so many more to shine like beacons of hope that we are not alone. He will always be with us, even when it seems like He’s not.

Why God?

Before Austin sings this song, he shares how God showed him that it’s okay to ask Him the hard questions.

“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to Me,
all of you who are weary
and carry heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest.‘”
Matthew 11:28

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Psalm 34:18

Stepping Into the Unknown With Fear and Trusting Jesus Will Never Abandon Us

One of my favorite places to visit as a child was Island Park in a small town in NW Iowa. I remember the challenge of crossing the river on stepping-stones at the bottom of a waterfall.

A couple of steps were missing and left wide gaps of uncertainty. As I sat on a step and reached my bare toes underneath the water, I could still feel the missing step’s slimy, slippery foundation. Dare I step forward?

Sometimes I didn’t dare. Other times I risked it, but I soon changed my mind when I nearly slipped into the rushing water. However, there were also times I did brave it and got to the other side of the river with a shout of victory.

Sometimes a flood drowns out Island Park. The river rages and obliterates all traces of any steps at all. When devastating storms in our lives churn up chaos in our hearts, the way forward can get blinded by fear. What if we take the wrong step? What if we fail? What if we get hurt again?

When Peter walked on the water towards Jesus, he stepped out in blind faith. His eyes were fixed on Jesus, and he gave no thought to missing stepping-stones. But then his heart looked away from Jesus, and all he saw were the winds whipping up the waves to a frenzy. His courage crashed. And he sank in fear… Save me, Lord! (Matthew 14:22-34)

Jesus stretched out His hand and rescued him. Even though he doubted. And He will do the same for us, even when we become faint of heart. Jesus never holds our lack of trust against us. He rescues us anyway.

Our lives are like taking small steps of faith, aren’t they? Small steps, not without fear, but in spite of fear. Sometimes one step forward and two steps back, but still forward.

We don’t know what lies ahead of us in this world. As we reach our toes ahead into uncertainty, our hearts may tremble with fear. Sometimes we slip and slide and fall wounded. Sometimes fear sinks us when we lose our focus on our only hope in Jesus. In panic, we cry out to God.

Again and again, Jesus will grasp our hand with His hand of powerful, unfailing love, pull us up again, and give us the strength to go on. He’s got us in His firm grip, and He’s not going to let us go.

“If God hadn’t been there for me,
I never would have made it.
The minute I said, ‘I’m slipping, I’m falling,’
Your love, GOD, took hold and held me fast.
When I was upset and beside myself,
You calmed me down and cheered me up.”
Psalm 94:17-19 MSG
“That’s right. Because I, your GOD,
have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go.
I’m telling you, ‘Don’t panic.
I’m right here to help you.'”
Isaiah 41:13 MSG
“When struck by fear,
I let go, depending securely upon You alone.”
Psalm 56:3 VOICE

“I Am Not Alone”
by Kari Jobe

 

God Remembers and Cares About Our Tears

“You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in Your bottle.
You have recorded each one in Your book.
Then my enemies will retreat on the day when I call.
This I know: God is for me.”
Psalm 56:8-9

Sad and alone. Sitting on a step with my arms crossed and leaning on my knees and my head hanging, I felt a lick of sympathy on my face. Someone had noticed my pain. Our dog had wriggled his way underneath my arms.

He comforted me like no one else did or could do at the time. As a kid growing up on a farm, dogs often were my best friends. They sat with me. They didn’t have to say a word. They just soaked in my sorrows as if they were crying with me.

Yes, dogs have the amazing God-given ability to sense when something is wrong and to comfort us. To be our faithful and devoted companions. It can never compare with the comfort God is ready to give us, but in hindsight I now believe that it was His way of caring for me even when I didn’t know He cared.

Every single tear we shed has meaning to Him. Whether they run from our eyes or make pools in our hearts. From birth to the present and on into the future. Every. Single. Tear.

God remembers our every sorrow as if He kept each tear in a bottle. He records each and every one in His book of remembrance. And I believe God adds His own tears right alongside ours. He cares that deeply.

God may not have a literal bottle or book, but He remembers every single thing that happens in our lives, including our suffering. He is a tender-hearted Father to us, a God who feels with us and weeps with us (Exodus 3:7John 11:33–35).

We are not alone, even when it feels like it. Many times in my life, I wondered where God was when I needed Him. But looking back, I now realize He was with me all along. Crying with me. Yes, He could have stopped bad things from happening to me. But He knew I would learn a deeper compassion and empathy if I personally experienced suffering myself.

God is for us. Always. He knows each of us better than we know ourselves. He knows what we need to experience in order to better empathize with others who suffer.

I wasn’t always aware of this. There have been more fist-raised or curl-up-in-a-ball moments than I can count. I could see no purpose whatsoever in people violating me. But God is helping me to realize that if I hadn’t experienced the pain, I could not cry with others like He cries with me.

Do you feel sad and alone? Like no one cares? It may feel like it, and surely, the devil wants us to believe that. But it’s not true. I know it’s a rough road to recovery. When our trust is so shattered, it’s not easy to believe anyone cares, even that God does. We may become terrified to open our hearts to anyone, out of fear of being hurt again. But there are those who do care. If you are hurting, please know I care.

Above all, there is One who has unconditional love and endless compassion towards us. He yearns for us to run to Him and freely confide in Him. He will never, ever hurt us, condemn us, or reject us. He will lovingly apply His healing balm to all the hurts in our hearts. He never misses a tear we shed but cares and collects every single one in His bottle of remembrance, adding His own with them.

“He Knows My Name”
by Maranatha Singers

“He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
and He hears me when I call.”