Thursday, August 5, 2010

reflections of a journey of questions

This past week has found me a little bit reflective. I've been reflecting on the journey that began for me a couple of years ago now. The events that over the course of the next year or so shook my world - my nice, safe world where not too much that was of a world-shaking nature had happened.

My world was shaken when . . .
. . . On September 8, 2008 when I received a phone call saying that my mom and sister had been in a car accident that could have (should have) been really bad. They walked away, but it made me think about losing people close to me.
. . . On September 17, 2008 when I received a phone call saying that a friend of mine had lost her husband a couple of days before in a car accident . . . leaving her behind with a young child and pregnant with their second. It didn't seem fair then . . . why had my mom and sister walked away and he was killed?
. . . On August 2, 2009 when friends of mine lost their 2-1/2 year old little boy. This seemed like just the final straw. I really didn't understand how a loving God could allow all of this to happen.
. . . Somewhere in here, a girl whose family I know was diagnosed with cancer . . . again! Seriously, isn't once enough?

That series of events brought me to a place I wasn't really prepared to find myself. I was questioning God. I wasn't sure if I believed He was good. I wasn't sure if I believed He answered prayers for miracles. I wasn't sure if He actually had the power to perform miracles. I grew up in the church, I could give you all the "church answers" to those doubts without thinking twice. But, I wasn't sure that I really believed them. I mean, just because I had heard them all my life, didn't mean they were correct, right?

I don't really know much besides following God, so I kept crying out to God for answers, going to church, reading my Bible . . . basically doing all those things the "good Christians" do, all the while, keeping much of my struggle to myself. Except for to a few people, I really was too proud of who people thought I was to actually admit my struggles.

Since I was keeping it mostly to myself, imagine my dismay when an opportunity came up to be a part of a Bible study in September 2009 that was all about believing God - especially because I felt like God was telling me that this was what He wanted for me. I spent a couple of weeks arguing with God about this one. First off, I wasn't sure if I believed God at that point. Secondly, I hadn't really told many people about my struggle and I was pretty sure that if I did a Bible study like this one more people would find out. But, despite my objections, God won that argument (doesn't He always?), and on September 14, 2009 I found myself walking in to that Bible study (but not before trying to convince God that I wasn't going to go in the parking lot just a few minutes before).

That Bible study was probably the hardest one I have done. The entire Bible study from then until the end of November was about believing God is who He says He is, that He can do what He says He can do, that I am who He says I am, that I can do all things through Him, and that His Word is alive and active in me. Right from the first video session I knew that this wasn't going to be easy, but also that this was exactly where I needed to be at that point. There were many times when I was doing the homework during the week where my pen or the workbook was thrown across the room, or I just got up and walked away because I couldn't do anymore. It was getting at every question, every doubt I had at that point.

But, looking back, I'm glad that I pushed through it all and that I listened to God in the first place in signing up for that study. I was forced to face and really acknowledge my doubts, and to take them to God - kind of ironic that I ended up going to the very God that I was doubting with my doubts. My Bible study table was also full of ladies who, whether they knew it or not, were catalysts that God used to keep me going in this study and to come out the other side having grown closer to God and come to better understand the value of community and being honest about the struggles in life with one another. It was a journey that helped me begin to move beyond those doubts and back to really believing and trusting God. When the Bible study ended, I thought that part of my journey was over.

As I discovered in the beginning of January, it wasn't yet. I was sitting in the fourth night of five evening series on prayer at church. The speaker was talking about hindrances to prayer and mentioned doubt. Now, I had come to the point where I did believe (again) God was good and I did believe (again) that God heard and answered prayer. But, that night I realized I had still limited God to some degree in prayer. I would pray to Him for things (again), but I stopped short of the big things. I wouldn't pray for the things that seemed like really big miracles. I still didn't believe that He would/could do those things. That night was another challenge in this journey to learn how to trust God enough again to pray for what seemed like the really big things in life (ie. people would be healed, etc.).

Looking back now, a year since my friends' little boy died, I'm amazed at the journey this time has been. It's been hard. There have definitely been times when it seemed like it would be easier to just give up. But, in retrospect, I'm so glad that even in the midst of those doubts and struggles I was obedient to God's promptings in my life. I can't (and don't want to) imagine where I would be if I hadn't.

Honestly, this a journey I never expected to be sharing this way on my blog. There have been snippets of it in other blogs, but this is far more detail than I ever planned on putting out there. But, lately, I've been realizing that many times in my life the thing that has challenged and encouraged me the most has been the times when others have shared their stories with me. It seems like life as a follower of Christ is so much more real then and not such an impossibility. I share this, not to make myself sound great, but to hopefully encourage others.

I'm not sure this journey is completely over yet. I'm not sure it ever will be. Life on earth is filled with things that don't make sense, that don't seem fair, that cuse us to question. But, I know for next time, that when my world is shaken, there is only one safe place to turn . . . the arms of Jesus Christ. I may have questions. I may have doubts. But I can know that He will always be there. He may not give me the answers I want to all my questions, but He won't leave me to walk through it alone.

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