“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof? ” Job 38:4-6
The above passage is God, speaking to his faithful servant, Job. Job had just endured some of the worst setbacks and personal tragedies in history, and had fallen into misery and depression, thinking God had set out to destroy him. After much bogus counsel from friends, and a wife that told him outright to curse God, the Lord finally appeared to Job to set the record straight. God knew Job was haggard and worn thin from his ordeals, and he had great love and mercy toward Job. But he simply had to set the record straight: it was God who knew all, and not Job. God had overseen Job’s entire ordeal, and had seen to it that Satan was not allowed to destroy him. Job could not see the whole picture; indeed, Job could only see what was applicable to his own small universe.
And such is the place where we stand when God allows us to endure tragedy and trial.
We who live according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1) seek to know God’s heart and mind. We – for all our frailty and lack of knowledge – seek to find God’s ways in order that we might live our lives in a way that is pleasing to him. Though we try desperately, we can only see our situations from our perspective. Not knowing the entire spectrum of events surrounding us can often lead to frustration and anger, simply due to a lack of understanding. It is perfectly acceptable to feel this frustration, and God really does have a heart overflowing with love and mercy that looks upon us with pity when we hurt. The difficulty and troubles begin when we harbor this frustration and anger, hiding it from our Lord in dishonesty.
Here is where we must learn to use the biblical principles given to us by our father God to facilitate a healthy relationship with him.
My own suffering began when I was about eighteen. My grandfather – a man with honor whom I admired greatly – had suffered a debilitating stroke not more than six years after my grandmother had passed away. Here was a man who, at 72, mowed his own lawn, did his own home repairs and had less gray hair than most men at 60 – and he was reduced to a wheelchair and not even half the man he was before. He could no longer talk. He could only babble incoherently and cry in order to communicate. He needed constant supervision and had no use whatsoever of the left side of his body. He was a man filled with Godly love and wisdom before; now he was a shadow of that man and we could only assume the Godly wisdom he once possessed was still in there somewhere, hidden below the inane babble and tears.
I began to secretly harbor anger toward a God who could do this to one of his children. I slowly shut my heart down, not allowing myself to feel anything from then on. For almost 10 years, God allowed me to fester in my own hatred of what he’d allowed to happen to my grandfather. My life changed three years ago forever, as God had decided my time for pity was over.
I moved to South Florida to follow a company who’d offered me a good job – one that might secure my future. To say what I felt upon arriving here (being a small-town boy from Alabama) was culture shock would be the understatement of the year. I was completely taken aback by the rudeness and fast-paced living that I witnessed here. Not more than six months into the move and I began to experience panic attacks.
I allowed the panic attacks to continue on until they became so intense I had to avoid certain situations, being afraid I might experience one in front of friends I feared would not understand. After a time I realized I had no choice but to seek professional counsel. My pastor told me of a Christian psychologist who he knew could help me. Enter: Amy. She was the same age as me, yet possessed a depth of wisdom and knowledge of God I’d rarely seen in people twice her age. God was about to end my pity-party, but he was going to help me every step of the way.
Amy forced me to be honest. She would never allow me to wallow in my own self-pity. Questions were asked of me that I often would not – and did not – want to answer. Yet, she would always manage to convince me these questions were for my own good, and that if I sought to rid myself of my fear, I should think on them and finally answer. The questions were such that I would have to admit my anger toward God and face myself and him once, and for all.
I hated God for what he’d done to my grandfather. Yet, I was terrified to tell him so, being taught more of his law, and less of his mercy in the Christian schools and churches I’d grown up in. I feared he would strike me dead – or even worse: he’d do the same to me as my own grandfather. Amy slowly began to convince me that God had enough mercy for even on so enveloped in anger as me.
I remained debilitated by depression and panic attacks for two more years. There was a period of almost a year that I could not function at all. I could not go to work, to church or be with family or friends. My wife and Amy were the only two women who understood and seemed to have no fear of what I’d become. And then, as quickly as it began, it all started to make sense.
Throughout my turmoil, God had been quietly calling my name. He’d not struck me down for my anger – no, he had begun to build me up. There was a day in therapy with Amy that I admitted my anger and hatred. To this day I can remember what freedom was given to me at that moment. God had such mercy that he listened and understood. And you know what? He loved me for it! He loved me for my honesty! I think the Apostle Paul said it best in Romans 8:38-39: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Not even my own hatred and anger towards God for what I’d thought he’d done to my grandfather could move me from the center of his own love! Yes, I’d had to go through so much to get there. Indeed, I could have changed the course of those three years had I only admitted to God how angry I was when my grandfather had his stroke a long time before. But there really is no regret – for God allowed me to wallow in my own self-pity until the day I chose to admit it all to him. At that moment, something new began. A new and exciting relationship with a God that loved me for me – self-pity and all!
When we are angered and hurt with God and we feel we cannot tell him, let us remember what we know to be true: that God knows our hurt and cares for us in ways that we cannot fathom in our wildest dreams. Let us know that he always has our good in mind, and has seen the entire picture, and he knows how to use all for good in our lives. Has he not told us this, in plain writing? Yes, he has! “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
We always have a place in God’s heart, and we know that we can come to him with our hurt. We know this because he has told us: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
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