Archive for the ‘ Mommy Questions ’ Category

For a few years now, I have spent time thinking about faith that persists, compared to strong faith for a “right now” move from God. Over and over again I see examples of the way God values faith that persists. Joshua and his army walked around Jericho for seven days, before the walls fell down. (I know seven days isn’t a terribly long time, but when God asks you to do something so preposterous I’m sure seven days feels like a pretty long battle of endurance.) Abraham believed God for 25 years before his son Isaac was born. Noah built the ark for decades before the flood came. I know that God values enduring faith.
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However, so often in the church we don’t value enduring faith the way God does. We value the kind of faith that can bring a miracle from God’s hands before our eyes some time between the alter call and the closing worship during a church service. I desire revival in my church and my community, but even while we were still believing Joel would be miraculously healed, even specifically believing that Joel’s healing might be one of the factors that set off revival, I would look around my church and see the face of the woman whose husband died from cancer, after a long battle of faith for both of them. I saw the man whose daughter and wife had both died, much too young, in the past decade. I looked at them; these people who had believed God and lost anyway, and I saw giants in the faith. I saw people who really knew what it meant to trust God, and then when they were disappointed, to trust Him anyway. I began to ponder, what does a revival look like that wouldn’t exclude the people who had cultivated enduring faith, a revival that honored and esteemed those who were still believing for a miracle after many years and who might leave each service believing still and not yet receiving. Could there be a revival that would draw upon the strength and faith of people who had lost their personal battles or were still in the middle of them, instead of pouring fresh hurt and disappointment on the heads of people who had pleased God with their enduring faith?
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I don’t know. I honestly don’t know what that kind of revival would look like, but I hope I see it one day. We’ve sat through many healing services, blessed and amazed by the miracles we witnessed, knowing that people’s lives were being changed, and that for some people their long prayed prayers were being answered. We left each of those services carrying a son with terminal cancer in our arms. It was hard not to wonder “Why not us, God?” That question still plagues me. Although we were tempted to plant bitterness in our hearts, it was easy enough to overcome that temptation, because I knew that I was persisting. I was waiting on God’s timing, and if Joel was not healed that specific day it did not mean he wouldn’t be healed. Still, even without being bitter, we definitely felt excluded. Our persevering faith excluded us from the amazing work of God that was happening in those services, and I knew we were not the only ones who left those meetings feeling unseen and dishonored.
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Still though, I loved healing. I loved listening to healing teachers. I had grown up on Kenneth Hagen and Kenneth Copeland and I believe with all my heart that we are called to live our lives with authority, receiving the promises of God for ourselves and helping others receive them as well. However, I suspect I would have felt out of place in one of their meetings. Kenneth Hagen said he had never even had a headache, and as much as I would love to experience that kind of abundant life, I can’t relate to it. It makes me suspect he could not have related to me. My husband and I have always really appreciated the teachings of Bill Johnson. His church Bethel in Redding, California sees incredible miracles. He travels most of the year because other churches want to have him at their healing services. He preaches about being able to hold and maintain revival. He also says that he leaves his healing services thinking about the people who didn’t get healed and begging God for more. His preaching does not exclude people who are persisting in faith through trials. I have always suspected that one of the reasons his preaching is so inclusive of those who have been disappointed or who are still enduring is because his son is deaf. I’ve never heard him preach about that (I’ve really listened to very few of his sermons so he probably does talk about it,) but I really respect that he is a man with a deaf son, a son whose deafness was never healed, and still he devotes his life to preaching about revival, healing and the presence of God, with great success.
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One night, talking to Ryan about my many questions, wondering why our son was not healed when we really believe he would be, I thought about Bill Johnson. I thought about the calling I felt and the new strength I have to encourage people to give up their personal passions and seek out the advancement of the kingdom of God. I asked Ryan, “What if God saw the revivalists of the past, and the hurt they had caused without meaning to, when they proclaimed victory and healing and miracles without empathy for people God loved who had endured and who had lost. What if God hated that pain so much, that He is doing a new thing? What if God is specifically giving power and authority to people who have experienced loss, people who have been disappointed, people who have suffered many headaches and so much worse than that? What if God values love more than power? What if Joel’s death means we can love people better? What if all of this was so we could preach the word of God with power, but also with love?” (I know these questions presume that God will use Ryan and I in a big way to reach people for the Kingdom of God, but truthfully I do presume that, I have my whole life.) The questions stopped there. God has given me very few answers, but He has spoken many, many questions to my spirit. Those questions have stirred up within me a willingness to trust Him more, because there are possibilities I hadn’t considered, there are answers that would be acceptable to me, even if they aren’t the specific answer for my situation.
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That was weeks ago, and I had been wanting to write this post about these questions ever since then, but not quite getting around to it. This morning I woke up with a stirring in my spirit, that grew into something almost like a shout in my spirit as I kept thinking about it, “The greatest is love!” It is so simple. A verse so many have memorized and known, 1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest is love.” Of course this is a scripture I knew, but now it means something new to me, something bigger. It was the answer to my question from earlier, “Would God deny me the fruit of my faith, deny the fruit of all my hope, in order to cultivate a deeper love in me for people?” Of course He would, because he values love more than faith. He values love more than hope. He tells us what is greatest, He says it is love. My heart doesn’t always agree. I value the wrong things when I esteem the rewarding of faith as the greatest possible outcome. God is changing something in me, and perhaps He really is doing a new work, a work that resets the way so many of us value preachers, teachers, even the way we value the Holy Spirit? Perhaps that sounds extreme, but I think many of us value the Holy Spirit as the source of power, much more than we value the Holy Spirit as the source of comfort. God says Love is greater than faith. I want my life to say that too.
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That scripture in full context, heals something broken in me. It explains to me that prophesies do fail. Knowledge fails. The spiritual gifts we esteem so highly fail. I feel like I have felt personally ripped off because the things I knew to be true were not, the prophesies I had believed had failed, and here God shows me: Yes, that happens. Those things fail. Love does not.
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1 Corinthians 13: 8-13: 8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. 13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I have wanted God to speak differently to me in my grief than He has the rest of my life, but God is consistent, He does not change. There is no shadow of turning with Him. I wanted God to shout to me. I wanted God to give me direct questions to direct answers. Instead, He whispers wisdom, He answers questions with more questions, none of them enough on their own, but each providing its own measure of salve on open wounds that still ache. He speaks to me the way I hear them, maybe just because I only know how to hear Him one way.
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Within a week of Joel’s death I told Ryan that if Joel was supposed to be raised from the dead, but he went to heaven and God gave him the choice, and he, in his own free-will chose to stay in heaven, I could be glad for him. I could live with Joel having changed the plan I thought was established. Of course, I don’t know. I feel like I can’t know if this is what happened, but I realized if there was even one answer I could live with, then the real answer, the one I probably won’t know this side of heaven, must also be an answer I can live with. It was a first step in trusting God that even if I don’t know “why” there is an answer that exists, and it is good.
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We have been re-reading C.S. Lewis’ “The Problem of Pain” and it has been good for us. No specific comfort, but lots of opportunities to remember again that God is God and I am not, and His perspective is infinitely beyond mine.
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I woke up two weeks after Joel died with the thought that “being uncomfortable with my only source of comfort is exhausting.” I didn’t know what to do with my grief because before Joel died, no matter how hard things got, I always eventually just rested in God’s love, knowing that He knew my heart, that I was seen and heard and fully understood. I didn’t know how to take my grief to the source of my grief. I know that God is not the author of pain, mine or anyone else’s, and yet, He was the only one who could have prevented my pain, and He did not. In my limited and selfish view there is not much difference. So, I did not pray. I did not worship. I did not rest. However, when I awoke with that thought I remembered that God really was my only comforter, and I could refuse to be comforted as long as I wanted, but I would be exhausted. I’ve never been very good at holding a grudge. The thought itself was enough for me to drop my defenses and try to learn to go to God with the hurts that I held Him responsible for, it was hard and it continues to be, but it is much easier than refusing to receive His love.
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Many people have shared things with me that have touched my heart in one way or another. I have begun to ask myself if faith produces a fruit beyond just the realization of the thing believed for. I know God lead me to have faith for Joel’s healing or resurrection. I assumed He would only ask me to have faith because He intended to honor my faith with the realization of my belief in Joel’s life. I have begun to wonder if God asked me to believe for other reasons, for the joy that hope brought in the years that we had to share with Joel, for the strength that we gained in learning that we could persist in faith, perhaps even for the deepening of relationship that will come as I renew trust in God despite the fact that He did not spare me the pain of great loss, that my faith did not result in the honoring of the promises in scripture for Joel’s healing. I don’t know if faith is designed to produce this kind of fruit, or if a righteous God can ask us to stand in faith just for these smaller purposes and not for the purpose of victory. I’m still thinking this through, but even having some thoughts to wrestle with is comforting in its own way, reminding me that there is a lot I don’t know.
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At church last week, our pastor began the sermon with this verse:
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Luke 19:41 and 42 “Now as He (Jesus) drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. ”
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It struck my heart in an odd way that was very comforting, I could just see Jesus looking at the state of my heart and weeping over me and saying “If you only knew the things that make for your peace!” I felt like God was speaking directly to me, saying, “You really are confused. You really don’t understand. It’s ok. You can’t understand this.” I don’t know why that was comforting to me but it really was, perhaps because it is deeply sad, and full of great compassion for my frustration.
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I’m not as angry as I was. Every day I am more willing to let go of my need to understand what happened. We miss Joel in a deep and beautiful way that washes over the most joyful days like the tide coming in. Today was especially hard. Ryan and I cried throughout the Easter service and barely managed to take our annual family Easter photo, but I wanted to do it anyway even though it made us sad. We took lilies to Joel’s grave. It was our first visit there with the children since Joel was buried, (Ryan and I went last week just the two of us.) Ryan is sleeping now, and I am writing this post, because I have waited to write until I knew what I wanted to say, and I realized that I don’t really know what to say, except that God continues to speak to me in his subtle, quiet way, making me think through deeper things than I would naturally, and finding that even though I don’t have the answers, I can conceive of answers that would be acceptable to even my hurting heart.
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*This post was originally written on Sunday March 30th around 5am. I delayed publishing it until I had come to a conclusion about its usefulness. To read the conclusion I came to that lead me to post it here and to start a new “Mommy Questions” category of posts you can scroll down to the post before this one.*
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Early this morning I thought about Joel in heaven and realized the profound impact the glory of God must have already had on Joel. My broken Joel is whole, and I’m sure that wholeness has already changed him so much. I suspect there is a chance that I already wouldn’t recognize my son and if I believe that he will spend his time in heaven learning, maturing, becoming more like the God who created him as he is transformed by His love, and I do believe that, it means that right this moment, I am missing it. I am missing Joel growing up. I wanted so desperately to know Joel and to see who he would become, and now there is a pain much worse than Joel’s death as I realize Joel is knowable now, but not to me. Joel is becoming who he was made to be and I don’t get to witness it. Joel can communicate all of his thoughts and questions and I can’t hear them. This is, and may continue to be, the great abiding sorrow of my heart.
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I have so many questions for God and I am so resigned to never have the answers. I don’t even ask. I don’t even ask God my questions outright because I’m so sure He won’t answer me. I realize how sad that is, but it was always part of our relationship that I knew there were certain questions God just didn’t answer for me, and even though I would see Him giving answers to other people, answers He never gave to me, it was ok, because I was sure that I didn’t need the answers. He spoke to me in the way He spoke to me and it was enough. I didn’t need to have the specifics on every subject to trust Him. Now, I’m not sure I could trust Him even with every question answered, and that is my greatest personal loss in everything that has transpired. In the last year I found the sweetest, most secure trust in God I had ever known and now that priceless gift is shattered around me so spectacularly that I suspect no one will ever believe me that it was genuine and whole once. The trust I had was real. I’m convinced it was not misguided, not self-created, not inadequate, but then how do I respond to the accusation I cast myself that it was somehow not enough, even though I knew it was more-than-enough. How do I keep walking in my reality which still feels less real than the promises I held on to? As I prayed for Joel I saw that he would have an anointing of compassion, that as he taught and spoke, he could speak truths too hard for other people to speak, because his words, without having to be toned-down, would be tempered by a compassion he never even had to speak because people would just feel it, because it was an anointing he would carry. I didn’t set out to have a vision of who Joel would be, I was just praying for seizures to stop, not asking God the big questions about who Joel was and what he would be, because I never expected to have those answers, and yet, in my prayers, God urged me to pray for Joel’s life, his future, his calling. He gave me answers to questions I hadn’t asked, and now those answers plague me.
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What do I do when the future I contended for did not come about? The simplest solution would be to say that I was wrong, that God never meant for Joel to live, that He never intended to rescue him for a life here on earth, that every dream, vision, scripture, song, and word that was shared with me or that confirmed something in my spirit was misunderstood, misconstrued, falsified. The easiest solution is to say that even though I have learned to hear God the way I hear Him, to trust his voice to me, I never heard. I never understood. I was confused the whole time. But I know that is not the truth. I am confused now, I was not confused then. I am lost and unhearing now, but I was held then, I could hear Him then. I can’t describe it the way I want to, but I had a faith that was not built on myself, that wasn’t contingent on my righteousness or my miserable attempts at perfecting myself. I had a faith that was built on an unspoken promise God built slowly in my spirit over three years. Unspoken because it was the confirmation and culmination of so many intimate moments with Him, learning and changing and being sculpted into a person who could really hold the weight of what He was promising. Unspoken because it was not one word, but so many little words, little answers, whispers heavy with meaning and purpose, woven together in a way that I could not understand, but didn’t need to.
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So, now I have questions I don’t want to be asking, but the biggest is this. If God did not fail me, if He was not too weak, if He was not defeated by the devil, If His word and all its promises were not untrue, and if He was not cruel and misleading to me, then how did this happen? Something is not adding up and I need it to. I need to know that God does not fail me. I need to know that He is never too weak. I have to know that He has defeated the devil and is never subject to satan. I need to know that God’s word and all His promises are true. I have to know that He is not cruel and He did not mislead me as he lead me to believe for Joel’s healing. Those truths are central to me loving God and knowing Him, to me ever trusting Him and leading others to commit themselves to His care. If those truths are compromised than I am utterly lost. If those truths were not compromised, then Joel’s death seems impossible. The obvious answer is that God was perfect and I failed somewhere, but I can not describe enough for anyone to understand just how much the weight of my faith was never placed on me. It was never about my success. It was a confidence in who God was and what He was doing, independent of my own contributions. God was sculpting me to believe Him but never asking me to carry more than the assurance He had crafted in me Himself. There was nothing for me to fail in, nothing He was asking me to do on my own, so even if this could somehow be my failure, then my failure would still be entirely His failure, with no warning that I was somehow not fulfilling an unspoken expectation. My spirit often shouted at me not to take up burdens God had not given me, not to try to carry something God was carrying. The beauty of the trust God had given me was that it never depended on me at all. So even though the simplest and easiest answer was that I failed, it is an answer I can’t accept, because it wasn’t my test to fail.