Sometimes I’m not all good with God. Sometimes I’m so damn mad, frustrated, and even disappointed in Him. I know as a good Christian girl, I am expected to keep feelings like this to myself and surrender them to Christ, let His Word calm the raging seas that threaten to devour me, and trust that in His time all things will work together for His glory.
Can I admit that writing that last sentence caused even my eyes to roll?
As Christians, we tell ourselves these clichés, stemmed from Biblical truths, believe them even, but then struggle with being honest about how it feels to wait for God to move; how sometimes our faith wavers a little; how we question if the same God that spoke to Moses in the burning bush, gave sight to the blind man, walking legs to the paralyzed man, and raised from the dead is still in the business of miracles—and if He is, why He doesn’t seem to be in our lives. Simply, we struggle when God describes Himself in one way, but everything around us reveals something entirely different.
I know the scriptures. I know what I am supposed to think, what I’m supposed to say. Many of these “supposed-tos” originate from unspoken expectations of church, family, or societal pressures. And honestly, after all these years, the language rolls off my tongue with ease and authenticity. We strive for the “supposed-tos” because that’s the standard. The alternative means we end up on the prayer chain or find ourselves swimming in discontent, guilt, unworthiness, or on the receiving end of rebuke/correction.
At the risk of rocking the SS Supposed-To boat, I’ll admit that I don’t meet the standard. I struggle with it. I struggle with what I’m supposed to do and say when my heart feels contradictory. No one talks about this and although it makes me feel a little like the church black sheep, I have a feeling there are more of us sitting in those padded pews wishing to Dear God that we could have an honest conversation—that sometimes we could actually say, “I’m really mad at God right now” or “I thought God was a God of love, but what I am going through right now is anything but love.”
I’m not in a crisis of faith, but one of reality.
And although I’ve been completely missional in practicing being authentically real with you, I’ll admit that a part of me is not entirely real with God.
I can tell Him my hurts and fears. I can lay all my what-ifs and even-so’s at His feet. I can ask for His guidance and an extra measure of whatever I think I need to navigate this season of life. I can sob at His feet, lament about the struggles and sufferings that seem to be closing in on me and/or the people I love. I can sing worship songs, lift my hands heavenward, and rejoice in Him. And I do. Authentically.
But sometimes I hold back what I really want to say.
I hold back my opinion and my questions. I harness my desire to yell at God, stomp my feet, pound my fists– curse at Him even. There have been times when I’ve wanted to turn my back on Him because it’s too hard to follow Him; times when I’ve wanted to blame Him for the bad things that He’s allowed; tell Him where to go because no friend would lead me like this—not through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, not into the dessert without living water (more on this later).
But I don’t.
I don’t because I read words like, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say rejoice” Phil 4:4 (Seriously, I have to say it twice?!!!). Or “Consider it pure joy, my brothers when you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2) among countless others including the Golden Rule, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Somehow, somewhere I’ve taken messages like these to mean that when my usual glass-half-full mentality turbulently spills, emptying me of all that I am, that I am to paste on a smile and just “keep swimming”—just keep praising God. God is good all the time. All the time, God is good.
And although God is good, He should not be immune from our feelings of disappointment, anguish, frustration, anger—even if they are directed at Him. But maybe like me, you don’t know if it’s really OK to talk to God like this. Maybe, like me, you’re afraid of offending Him, of disrespecting Him. But maybe, also like me, you know that without being authentically yourself—complete with pain and sorrows, questions and confusion—the relationship lacks; it remains shallow. Personally, I hate those relationships. They suck the life out of me. If I can’t know your heart and I can’t be free to share mine, it takes everything I am to continue to show up.
“It is an illusion to suppose or postulate that there could be a relationship with God in which there was only praise.” Theologian, Claus Westermann
In the church I grew up in, a fire and brimstone kind of church, where messages of heaven and hell—but mostly hell–were pounded in perfect cadence fist by fist on the wooden pulpit, the message I received over and over again was to fear the Lord—and not the reverent kind of fear, but the kind of fear that caused me to want to hide under the covers. God was scary and prone to anger and if I tipped that seemingly delicate scale, the scale of love and anger (because as a child I did not realize that you can have both emotions purely and in unison), I would infuriate God and be punished. I was taught to tiptoe around Him and live a life pleasing Him at all costs.
So I tiptoed. And I got good at it.
But as my heart caught up with my actions, I realized that tiptoeing is not a real relationship. It is anything but intimate. Tiptoeing means that we’re holding parts of ourselves back and not giving all that we are to the person we’re in a relationship with. When we find ourselves in this place, we need to stop and evaluate why. We might be working too hard to get or avoid something– and not necessarily for the right or best reasons.
When I think of my marriage, it is intimate. Dennis has all of me; my good, my bad, my ugly, my broken and I have all of him. It is not always pretty, but it is always truthful. In this safe place, I am free to bring all the parts of me to him and know that he will hear me, continue to love me, and walk beside me as I attempt to trust what I do not yet understand. I have a voice. He has a voice. One is not the dictator, while the other remains passive or uninvolved. I show up. He shows up. And together, we bring all ourselves to our relationship.
Our relationship with Christ is meant to be just that—intimate—a safe place to be real. He actually invites us to express all our emotions from praise to lament, from love to suffering… He can handle it. In fact, He is honored when we fearlessly and authentically come to Him— even in our anger and hurt. He is not only worthy of our praise, worship, and thanksgiving but He also worthy of our wounds, our sharp edges, and bitterness. He gave Himself for us—all of us—not just our good and pleasing pieces.
We won’t necessarily find answers to our questions. Our pain and sorrow will not magically disappear. But when we surrender these feelings to Christ, rest under the shade of His tree before wandering amidst the scorching sun, we learn (meaning, it is a process) to let go, to find peace in the unanswered.
My love for Christ is not conditional. Meaning, it is not based on what He does or does not do for me. My love for Him is based on Who He is to me.
I don’t know why Christ allows what He allows. My life has been forever altered by horrific events and tragedies that could have been avoided if Christ had stepped in. I have had seasons of incredible hurt, sorrow, grief, and even anger. I’ve had seasons where Christ has seemed completely absent, where I’ve wondered if He can even hear me. It’s easy—so easy—to stay in this place of turmoil, allowing it to eat us alive, but why would we choose to stay here?
C.H. Spurgeon reminds us that “God is too good to be unkind and too wise to be mistaken. When we cannot trace His hand, we must trace His heart.”
A surrendered life does not mean a life spent tiptoeing around God. A surrendered life is one where we are free to express all of who we are to all of who He is and know that He still loves us—maybe even more so.