Saturday, March 2, 2013

Hold on.

I've had some dear Christian friends over the years who have gone through crucial periods of time in their faith, when they have doubted and questioned the love, care, goodness, and even the existence of God.

In some cases, I've been excited about this struggle that finally surfaces, after a person has spent years in apathy and the shallow kiddie-pool of religion - it is a chance for them to dig deep and find a solid foundation to stand on and build a strong faith. In other cases, it's been painful to watch the struggle, because I've seen God do amazing things through these people in the past, and they get tired of digging deep and swimming in the ocean, and forget the beauty and blessings of it.

I praise the Lord for the friends who have bravely wrestled with tough questions and sought wisdom and truth in the purest form, and have come out on the other side with powerful faith and solid assurance and remarkable trust and inexpressible peace. It reminds me that God is not afraid of or intimidated by our questions and doubts - like in Job, he can face them head-on, speak for himself, and prove himself time and time again.

I am heartbroken over the friends who have gone through this season and chosen to walk away from the Lord. I've gone through anger at them for giving up, but also anger at God for not showing up in their lives the way they needed him to. He knew their hearts and what they needed to hear, so why did he stay silent? Like Martha and Mary mourning Lazarus' death, I cry because I know God did have the power to restore and redeem, and I wonder why he didn't.

So when a friend tells me that she is questioning if God is really there, something in my heart tightens up with anxiety because I know how high the risk is in this process. How do I pray for her?  How do I walk through this with her?

I know there is no formula for these situations, but I have noticed a pattern which has actually helped to strengthen my own faith in some ways. I find that sometimes, we tell God to do something to help us believe that he is there - a Gideon's fleece sort of thing. Only, Gideon was trying to make decisions about leadership, not trying to prove God existed. Elijah asked God to bring fire from heaven to prove his glory, but it wasn't for Elijah's sake - it was for people who had never encountered God before, who didn't know him yet. Sometimes in the Bible, people asked God for a sign to validate his promises, and sometimes God volunteered proof that he was faithful and his covenant was true.

But I think it is very dangerous for us to demand a sign from God to prove his existence, goodness, or love. It's not that He isn't able to do anything we ask, but if He did, He wouldn't be God - He'd be a genie. We are meant to serve and obey Him, not the other way around. If we need evidence, then by all means, let us ask questions and research and look back through the history of the world and our lives to see the patterns and know his faithfulness, his goodness, and his personal concern for us. But we are not meant to fully understand His ways, simplify his character, or fit him into the box of our limited perspective and expectations. And if we think we can and he should, then we are very far indeed from really knowing our Father's heart. He is, after all, not a tame Lion.

God isn't so concerned about our belief in his existence, so much as he yearns for us to exist with him - forgiven, redeemed, and in rich communion with him. So chase after that... spend your time, energy, and passions on that... wrestle with him for his blessings like Jacob, allow yourself to be broken and changed by him, and receive a lasting inheritance. That way, when you go through times when he is silent and invisible and makes no sense, you can cling to his promises and trust his heart and know without doubt that he is there and his love endures forever.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Rich community

I live in a very rich community.

I mean, we all rent duplexes in an inner city neighborhood where we have no yards and share a gravel, pot-hole riddled alley that frequently is cruised by some shady characters and garbage-divers. We live simply, shop at yard sales and Goodwill and Aldi, share the stuff we have with each other, including food, technology, and office supplies. So we don't really have much in the way of material things, but the closer we get to each other and to the Lord, the less we feel the need for stuff. We brew tea, bake cookies, fix broken things, watch movies, play games, pray, take communion, read books, sing songs, have themed parties, study Scripture, and go on adventures. 

These friends of mine are creative, hilarious, intentional, authentic, passionate, and... beautiful, absolutely beautiful. Their minds, their hearts, their spirits, the way they allow Christ to shine through their eyes and smiles and laughs, is so beautiful. They live so fully and largely and deeply and intensely, that sometimes I am breathless and speechless - they challenge me and encourage me and compel me to live - really live - in unlimited hope, reckless joy, radical love, and mind-boggling peace. Jesus-Life.

My community is rich. But richness has nothing to do with money or wealth or financial stability... and everything to do with the moments we Live and pour Life into each other.

2 Corinthians 6:9-10: "We are unknown to others, but well known to you. We seem to be dying, and yet we are still alive... we are always happy, even in times of suffering. Although we are poor, we have made many people rich. And though we own nothing, everything is ours."