Faith In The Storm: when the goodness of God is clouded by life

[I am pleased to have Maureen, who blogs at Emotionally Rich, writing for us today. I hope you check out her blog after reading her great post here on faith and the goodness of God.]

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Rembrandt - Christ in the Storm

Rembrandt – Christ in the Storm

My husband loves to tell the story of the time he witnessed God’s hand of deliverance while on our church’s annual father-son camping trip to Goat Island.  It seems there were thunderstorms all around on the evening that they were transporting guys over to the island.  The storms were so bad, in fact, that the man who was driving the barge was frightened and called the island to ask them to pray.  My husband says that they prayed and the storm lifted and went somewhere else.  He tells that story to illustrate the powerful hand of God in the ministry of Goat Island.  Storms dispelled, accidents avoided, beautiful weather – these are all put forward as indicators of God’s work in their midst.

But what would he say about God if the storm had not lifted?  Does God cease to be good when circumstances are bad?  What about those times when the weather is not sunny, when the storm touches down and wreaks havoc, when accidents happen and people are hurt?  Do we conclude that God has abandoned us, that He hasn’t answered our prayers or that He is not powerful enough to save us at all times?  Or do we look at ourselves and wonder what sin we have committed that prevents God from hearing our prayers?

I feel like I need to know the answers to these questions because of what is going on in my life right now.  It seems to me like everything is going wrong.  Even my husband, the optimist, has said that he feels like he’s living in the book of Job.  I want to have a theology that makes sense in all of the many phases of life – in bad times as well as good, when God answers prayer with miracles and when He does not.

I keep going back to the story of Lazarus.  John’s gospel tells us that Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, yet he stayed where he was two days and Lazarus died.  The storm touched down.  One can imagine that Martha and Mary prayed for their brother to get well, but he did not.  Martha said to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  They had faith, and there is no mention of sin blocking Jesus’ power, yet they went through a dreadful time of pain and loss.

What does that say about God?  In “My Utmost for His Highest”, Oswald Chambers says that “Jesus trusted Mary and Martha with his silence, because he was about to reveal to them something greater about himself, that he was the resurrection and the life.”  His love for them was so great that he was able to see them through the pain and agony to the other side.

If you look at the parable of the wise and foolish builders, the constant in the story is the storm.  It touches down on both houses.  What is different is whether or not the house falls, and that is determined by the solidity of the rock on which the house is built.  Jesus says that those who hear his words and put them into practice have a foundation that will survive the storm.  The story of Mary and Martha shows us that not only will we survive, but we can actually prosper spiritually as a result of the storm.

My intent in all this is not to minimize stories of God’s power as demonstrated by His deliverance from the storms of life.  But we must not limit ourselves to telling each other only these stories, because they do not tell the entire truth about life, ourselves and faith in God.  We need to encourage each other to hope in God at all times, even when we can’t point to miraculous deliverance from the storms of life, even when it looks like all is lost and God is silent.

The human heart is vulnerable to discouragement and despair.  We want evidence that God loves us and we look to the circumstances around us to prove it to us.  But the truth of the matter is – nothing, no circumstances, can separate us from the love of God.  He has the power to save us and He has the power to hold us securely in His sustaining embrace while the storm rages.

“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the LORD.  Be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” (Psalm 27:13-14.)

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13 Responses to Faith In The Storm: when the goodness of God is clouded by life

  1. Very timely post for me, Maureen. Thanks.

  2. Mary Anne says:

    What troubles me about the story of Lazarus is that (as you point out) Mary and Martha went through a time of terrible pain and grief and loss, but they got their brother back. For the time being, anyway. (Lazarus got a raw deal, having to go through dying twice . . .) But like you, I need something for when no miracle happens, loss is loss and will never go away in this lifetime, the terrible storm sweeps through and levels everything whether your house is built on a rock or not . . .

    • Dear Mary Anne, I feel your pain! I’m so glad that you trusted me with it. Of course I don’t know what terrible storm has leveled your life, but it sounds like it has been horribly devastating. I’m not really at liberty to talk about the storms that have swept through our lives, but I have mourned and wept and railed at God, like David in Psalm 13, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?” I get really frustrated when I read some authors who portray the ideal Christian as simply trusting that God knows best and never complaining. I’m “emotionally rich”, I’ve got a huge bank account of feelings that I can make withdrawals from, and I have found that it’s only when I get those emotions expressed that I can find peace, like David at the end of Psalm 13. I’ve found that, at the end of the day, God’s shoulders are big enough to cry on. If you want to check out my blog, I’ve got a poem that I wrote about that very thing, called God’s Shoulders.
      When I leave my computer, I will go and weep for you and pray that you will know His arms around you in your pain. Bless you! Maureen

  3. Tim says:

    Maureen, thank you so much for allowing me to run this guest post. You remind us that even when times are as hard as can be, God is still God and our hope in him is not misplaced.

    • I thank you, Tim!!! I’ve been longing to share this hope with others ever since I began writing my blog, and you’ve given me the opportunity. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to share what our hard times consist of – although walking through mental illness is certainly part of it – but I want people to know that God is always there, and He will never let them go. Bless you! Maureen

    • BTW, I love what you did with the post, adding the extra paragraphs and the picture. B-e-a-utiful! (Bonus points if you know who said that, and in what movie…) Maureen

  4. Adriana says:

    The power to save and the power to hold — I love this post so much, Maureen! Thrilling to see it here!

    Last week I went to Children’s Hospital with my five year old son for some testing. We received good news and were so grateful! On the way to the elevator, I noticed the chapel and asked my son if he would like to go inside and tell God thank you for our good news. He nodded yes and we entered quietly.

    After we prayed I noticed a prayer book on a stand with a note inviting all to write a prayer. How humbling it was to read the prayers on those pages! Prayers of profound gratitude. Prayers of shattered hearts. Begging prayers. Prayers of relief. I can’t even think about them all without tearing up. And all to the same God. He gives. He takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

    You’ve expressed the truth of God’s love and the power of the Resurrection as a person who is living it out by grace, with gratefulness. You are a wonderful source of encouragement! I’m grateful to you for sharing this message with others. Thank you and God bless you, my friend.

    • Thank you, Adriana! I’m excited by this opportunity to share with more people, to speak encouragement, and also to pray for others’ needs. I thank God that your son’s tests came back with good news, and I also prayed for him that the experience wasn’t traumatic for him (although it sounds like it wasn’t – it sounds like more of a faith-building experience than anything else). When I read what you said about the prayer book, I thought about the scene in Revelation 8 where the angel offers incense and “the smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand.” I don’t know for sure who “the saints” necessarily are, but I do know that not one of those prayers have gone unnoticed by God. Even though we don’t know the people who wrote the prayers, we can ask Him that He will graciously intervene in each of those situations. Will you join me? Maureen

  5. Maureen says:

    Amen, sista-who-shares-a-name.

  6. Jeannie says:

    Hi Maureen – it’s so great to see you here! (Hey everybody, I know Maureen in “real life”!) I love your post and it is so, so true. My mom is in hospital right now — very sick. It has been such a hard month for our family and we are clinging to the hope that nothing (even liver cancer, even the threat of loss of someone we love) can separate us from God’s love. I was at a reunion for a singing group I used to be part of and as we caught up on our lives and shared our stories, the constant was “I suffered [or am suffering] … but God is faithful.” Thanks for reminding us of that today.

    • Hi Jeannie, Wasn’t that generous of Tim to let me guest post? I owe you a debt of thanks for introducing me to his blog, which led to this great opportunity. I will pray for your mom, and for your family. Are you down there right now?
      I got thinking about the prosperity gospel after reading your comment. It is so true that we all struggle with something or other – we are all frail human beings in need of God’s grace – and telling people that believing in God will make all their problems go away is just so patently untrue, I can’t understand it. Sigh. But that’s cool that you were able to reconnect with the people that you used to be in a group with, and that you are telling each other stories of God’s faithfulness. Makes me want to do the same! How did you go about reconnecting? Maureen

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