Wrestling With God Doesn't Mean You Don't Have Faith
March 4, 2016
A few weeks ago, I witnessed the tragic death of an infant. Over the following days, I felt like a shell of myself. On the outside, I was trying to hold it all together, go about my normal routine and be as “OK” as possible, but the truth was the situation shook me to my core. Underneath the happy facade, I was depressed and attempting to make sense of it all.
The idea that God had a bigger, better plan only angered me. How could taking this little life be part of such a plan? I was furious with Him, but I felt guilty saying so. I found myself entering into a fight to follow Jesus.
Many Christians struggle to admit when they’re struggling. I believe there's a common discourse within the church that in tough times we're called to simply pray and trust God and He’ll make everything all right. The reality is that sometimes things don’t feel like they’ll ever be right again.
It’s OK to Admit You’re Not OK
God doesn’t call us to a life of perfection. Quite the contrary—He calls us to a life of repentance and dependence. The world tells us to hold it together, but our Father tells us to hand it to Him. As believers, admitting that we’re struggling means recognizing we can't do it all, but we serve a God who can.
We serve a God who is gracious as we fight to trust Him.
Feeling guilty about admitting struggles or asking for help is not from God. That guilt comes from our own sin. It’s prideful to think we can do life alone, handling all our problems without the help of others. We need community to walk alongside us in tough times, but more importantly, we need a Savior. Jesus says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).
Rather than pretending to have it together, sometimes the best way to show how God is working in us is to be transparent about our desperate dependence on Him. Doing so puts our inadequacies on display, which can be terribly humbling. But it also shows that we’re human, and that our power to persevere doesn’t come from us, but Christ in us.
It’s OK to Wrestle with God
For weeks, I was angry with God. Not just a little upset, but shake-my-fist-at-heaven, I-don’t-want-to-talk-to-you kind of angry. That feeling was chased by another wave of guilt. My doubts and questions felt blasphemous. I knew I should be able to take Him at His word, to believe He was good, but it wasn’t easy in that moment. Through the struggle, I was reminded that we serve a God who is gracious as we fight to trust Him.
God’s followers have been grappling with His Plan since the beginning of Creation. Throughout Scripture, there are stories of fathers of the faith questioning God, arguing with Him, trying to hide from Him, and even physically wrestling with Him (Genesis 32:24).
Unresolved feelings of anger and bitterness between friends can fester like an old wound. Pushing negative feelings down by swallowing them whole rather than working through them means they’re bound to come back up. Being vulnerable about hurts and fears and having the tough conversations shows the other person that salvaging the relationship is valuable. Our relationship with our Heavenly Father is no different.
It Doesn’t Mean You Don’t Have Faith
One of the most frustrating parts about admitting we’re struggling is knowing God could change that in an instant. With a snap of His fingers, He could easily lay out his grand plan, explaining away the pain and making sense of sorrow. But that’s not how faith is born.
Timothy Keller says it perfectly in his book, Jesus the King, “He actually has the power and authority to give each of us what we’ve been asking for, on the spot, no questions asked. But Jesus knows that’s not nearly deep enough. He knows … we don’t need someone who can just grant our wishes. We need someone who can go deeper than that.”
Letting God burrow into our souls—opening up our deepest hurts and doubts and fears —is an ugly process. It often brings years of unresolved pain and fears to the surface. Yet, entering into the fight to move forward shows we have faith in God’s goodness, even if we can’t feel it in the moment.
It Takes Time
God promises to carry our burdens, to make our yoke light, but He never promises it will be quick or easy. Trials are not meant to be something we speed through, checking boxes along the way. These “tests” are designed to challenge our faith in a way that produces spiritual maturity, steadfast endurance and a deeper dependence on our Savior. That might mean letting go by handing our anxieties over bit by bit, slowly unloading them onto the back of the One who already accepted all of our burdens that day on the cross.
I love The Message translation of James 1:3-4, “So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” Steadfastness is not born overnight, and we can’t rush the healing along. My pastor, Jeanne Stevens, put it well when she said, “Healing is not the resolution of the struggle. Healing uses our struggle to draw us into deeper relationship with the one who heals.”
I wish I could tie a big red bow on my story and say that I’ve come out on the other side and all is well. It’s not. I’m still trying to find my new normal. But it’s a partnership. I’m doing what only I can do by rejecting the lies that fighting to follow means a lack of faith. Meanwhile I’m giving Jesus the space to dig deep into my soul and heal in a way only He can. I’m not OK, but that’s OK. I believe God has the power to restore and that He’ll continue to meet me in my weakness.
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