This may come as a surprise, or this might be the most obvious thing in the world, but Rachel and I have both struggled with anger at God, and are in the midst of struggling with anger at God. Except, (and I’m speaking for myself here) I’m not even sure anger is the right word, something more like disappointment and frustration may fit better. Anger, I think, requires too much energy for someone as tired as I am.
For me, one of the biggest consequences of this is that it is very difficult to pray. Prayer requires submission to God, it requires some level of seeking and accepting (and trusting) His will. I do want to point out that I haven’t completely given up on prayer, just as I haven’t completely given up on God, but it has been very difficult. Praying with sincerity was difficult after Clive died, but it has become nearly impossible since Winnie has died. I pray, but I can barely bring myself to ask anything of God, or when I do, I struggle to believe it can happen.
I have a few different thoughts about this and maybe they will take up multiple blog entries, but I am going to try and put them coherently into this one, because my lack of energy usually means months go by between posts.
My first thought is this, the three questions that every person has to answer in their own hearts are:
- Is God real?
- Is God good?
- Can I trust Him?
When a crisis strikes we are brought back to these 3 questions. For many people, their answer to the first question is “no” and they move on with their lives. For a lot of other people, they begin by accepting God as real, but as life progresses they have a hard time imagining Him as good, so they decide that He is neither good, nor real. Because, honestly, if you decide that God is not good, you pretty much also have to also decide that He is not real. It is my belief that our inner selves cannot accept a reality where God is real and not good. There are people who probably claim to believe that God is real and that He just started creation down its path and is indifferent, or not powerful enough, to intervene. But I think that once someone has gone down this road of logic, practically speaking, they don’t really believe in a God, because that sort of god means nothing to everyday life. In actuality, that sort of god is an insult to existence, it would be better if everything were meaningless.
Surprisingly (given the circumstances) I still believe God is real and God is good. I struggle sometimes to believe that I can truly trust Him to work good in my own life, but that is something I am grappling with. However, it would be impossible and meaningless for me to grapple with it if I didn’t first believe that God was real or that he was good.
I think this is a very important starting place for those who are struggling through difficult circumstances, or struggling through their faith. I can’t guarantee that this line of thinking will be helpful for everyone, but I have been helped a lot by Christian apologetics (“apologetics” means giving a rational defense of the faith). A couple of books that have been hugely influential to me are “The Everlasting Man” by G.K. Chesterton and “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering” by Timothy Keller. In addition to almost everything written by C.S. Lewis, though perhaps especially, “The Weight of Glory”.
My heart is a pit of despair. To approach it, and to wrestle with what is inside of it, is oftentimes beyond what I am prepared to handle. I think it is even dangerous for my mind to try and deal with my heart until my mind has solid foundation to stand on. Otherwise, my mind is not prepared to deal with the sorts of questions my heart is going to inevitably ask. So, before I can help my heart, I have to first address my mind, and for me that has meant comforting my mind with the assurance that 1) God is real, and 2) God is good. The 3rd question is really a heart issue, but like I said I can’t wrestle with that until I’ve wrestled with the others. If I attempt to, I am likely going to suppress my nagging doubts until they fester and pop up again at the next crisis, which I think is what a lot of people do.
The books I mentioned above have comforted my mind with what I believe to be Truth. How they have done that is to assure me that the existence of God, and specifically the story of Jesus, make sense and explain the world we live in better than the alternatives. Chesterton (as well as Lewis) tackles this issue by appealing to the arts and literature and our own imaginations. If we can create such beauty in our arts, and if the stories we love to tell speak again and again of heroes saving the day, then it is very likely that those longings are trying to approach that which is ultimately true. Otherwise, what are they trying to approach? It would be a sad world if our imagination was better than reality, and if it were, what is it were are imagining anyway? But what if our imagination is trying to tell a story of how things should be? Our longings for peace and justice are not mere chance, but have truth inside of them. Which is why these same longing have appeared throughout human history, going back to the earliest writings. The hero we have been longing for is the One that actually came, Jesus. This line of thinking rings true to me, although I cannot guarantee the same will happen for you. This isn’t a step-by-step guidebook that works for everyone, life is far too complex for that.
So, I have gotten this far, but I still struggle with the 3rd question: can I trust God?
You might think that this is closely related to the 2nd question, Is God good? If He is good, than surely you can trust him.
There is sense to that thinking, but the reality is that trusting is much more difficult than merely believing. Saying that God is good and letting it sink into your heart that you can trust Him with your entire being are two very different things. They are definitely related, but you have to take some serious steps of faith in order to answer “yes” to that final question and seriously mean it no matter what. If everything falls apart, will you still trust him? Will I still trust Him?
This leads me back to prayer. I’m not saying I don’t trust God. I’m not saying I answer “no” to that 3rdquestion. But I am struggling with it. It’s not a simple “yes”, and at times it definitely feels like my answer is “I’m not sure”. This makes prayer difficult. At least sincere prayer, I guess surface level prayers and saying a quick grace before eating a meal aren’t as difficult. But the real prayers. The kind that take trust and faith and a real relationship with God. Those are difficult. Yet, I still find myself trying, making attempts to say the words I struggle to say. Or just sitting quietly before Him and hoping (perhaps even daring to trust) that He will do the healing work in me that so desperately needs to be done.
He is good after all, right? I still think so.