Monday, April 9, 2018

The First Step

I often have people write me to ask, “How did you maintain your faith in God in spite of your ongoing suffering?” About six months into my illness, I began to see: my suffering could either feed my faith in Jesus, or it could devour it. And so I began a journey of learning to let my suffering grow my faith in Jesus. If you want to begin this journey, or if you have begun it but are feeling stuck in the quicksand of anger and despair, here is the best guidance I can give: start by being honest with God.

Tell him when you are angry with him, and tell him why. Share your grief, your confusion, and your questions. Don’t censor yourself as you pray; God can handle our most violent honesty — he even gives us permission to be ugly-honest through the gritty candor of the Psalms and Christ on the cross shouting to the heavens, “WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” Your honesty is a gift God delights in. When you are honest with Him, you are stepping toward him instead of away from him; and you are offering him the most raw and bloody parts of yourself — your truest self. Vulnerability is always the first step toward intimacy.

It is never enough to just be honest, though, because honesty alone does not facilitate the mutual self-giving of relationship. So, when you are ready — when you have emptied your heart into Jesus’s hands — extend an invitation to God. Mine often sound like this, “Jesus, teach me your love; assure me of your goodness. Heal my anger and insecurities; please help me grapple with my questions.”

Because here is the deal: We cannot completely heal our own anger. We cannot clarify every ounce of our confusion. We cannot conjure up a full sense of God’s goodness. We cannot teach ourselves just how much we are loved by God. But God can do all these things in and for us, and he wants to. But first, he is waiting to be invited into your most tender heart spaces. When that invitation is extended, he will begin the work of building your faith. Just keep showing up, every minute of every day, with your beautiful, wounded heart, and wait to see what he does. He will surprise you, I promise.




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