Some people need to relax a minute and back away from their keyboards. It’s okay to vent. I’ve officially given myself permission to vent. It’s a perfectly human reaction to troubling, frustrating situations. I’m not going to take a microscope to someone’s theology when I see them venting; that’s missing the forest for the tree jammed in your eye kind of thinking. So if I read someone writing something in their blog along the lines of:

“I feel a whole new kind of lost and I’m looking for anything or anyone to help me find my way. I try to look to God, but I’m so angry at him for this right now that even He’s no comfort. And I try to think to myself that everything happens for a reason, and this is in God’s plan for me and He felt that I needed to go through this, but all those thoughts make me do is question my faith altogether. Sure God’s allowed me to live and breathe, but that’s not gonna exactly make me do a happy dance.

“I just want to be able to look at myself in the mirror and not cry. I want to stay up during the day and sleep at night again like normal people. I want to talk to and be face-to-face with people who care about me and not feel inadequate. I don’t want to be afraid of the dark. I don’t want to look over my shoulders all of the time even in my car.

“Right now, in my state of mind, I think that even if God himself came face to face with me right here and told me why this happened, I still wouldn’t be satisfied. And people keep running these tired cliches past me as if any of them will make me feel better. The one that I’ve heard like 250 times in the past couple of days is, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Well, I was doing ok with the strength that I had before. I could have done without the extra boost. And if these things are the muscle enhancers in life, then I’d rather just be out of shape.”

I’m going to do the human thing by putting my arms around them and letting them know how much they are loved, not criticize their theology.

Frankly, I’m still kind of thinking through a post I made a few days back about how You Can’t Protect the Ones You Love. An idea that has been rattling around in my head is about whether or not we should be expecting “protection” from God. (It’s funny, just in writing that, I feel like I’ve turned God into some sort of mafia don. As if He collects my tithes, prayers, and good deeds as part of some spiritual racketeering scam.)

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2

God is in an unenviable position. He gets praised when good things happen and blamed when bad things happen. David sings His praises after God gets him out of a jam, the occasion of the Psalm being his escape from an angry king, and is called a man after God’s own heart. Later on, however, his own poor decision making leads to Bathsheba’s life being blown to crap. So often, we, like Bathsheba, end up asking “Where was God?”

We have a natural sense of God as our protector and desire to seek His protection. We want His protection, especially in light of the fact that we can’t protect one another. When bad things happen, it’s like we long for God to step in, in a more direct way, and control things. We don’t ask such things when things are going “okay” (or as we’re making our own bad decisions). It’s like we want a “sovereign” God when it’s convenient. Well, to quote Al Pacino in Devil’s Advocate, “Free will’s a bitch.”

God weeps over tragedies along side us, and if I’m permitted a moment of spiritual speculation, I’d daresay He weeps in a much more powerful way than we do. This isn’t what He created us or the world to be. I know that as a parent, I can relate to the idea of my children not growing into the men I want them to be. It’s tough, for me, to come to grips with the idea that my kids are, well, little people. Imbued with free will. And free will’s a bitch. At some point, despite or because of my best efforts, they will make their own decisions for their lives. The best I can hope for is to be there for them, in good times and bad. To help them, even carry them, through the bad times.

Evil happens. Evil people also have free wills and make their decision to inflict their brand of evil on others. Yes, God can shape evil things that happen for good in our lives, but that doesn’t mean that He caused the evil. Could He have stepped in and stopped it? Sure. Should He? If we’re honest, we have to answer “yes, when it makes our life smoother, but not all the time”. Well, if we want Him to step in, but not all the time to where it robs us of free will, where does that leave us? Are we ultimately in this alone?

Boils down to whether we will have a life based in assurance or based in anxiety. Let me see if I can explain what I mean by that. We can live in a state of freedom in life, having a state of peace, faith, and confidence stemming from the assurance that we have in Christ Jesus. OR, we can continue on our own way, left to our own devices, with fear, doubt, and insecurity, trapped in a cycle of spiritual death. This assurance springs from faith in God as the ultimate protector, that sense that He is the ultimate, faithful judge. It doesn’t mean that He will spare you from every bad thing that could happen to you, but it does mean that we trust in Him ultimately exposing evil for what it is, and avenging us.

Then again, during times trying to my faith, I still find myself echoing my favorite prayer: “Lord I believe. Help me with my unbelief.”

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