God in the mess

Depression. Trauma. Shame. What does the advancing kingdom of God have to do with our inner struggles? How does Christ’s coming 2,000 years ago change our current, messy reality? I admit that I have often felt that the God of Sunday-morning worship was a million miles from the mess of Monday-morning blues, that the tidy, lofty theology of the Scriptures bore little relevance to my complex, conflicting emotions, and that the kingdom of God was more of a spiritual nicety than an active reality. But I am not content to give in to those lies and give up on a God who is intimately involved in restoring the most broken places of my soul.

In the midst of the many dark valleys in my own life, I have gone searching for Him. I needed to know where He was in my circumstances and how He was leading me forward through them. At times that search has been long and agonizing, leaving me questioning along with the psalmist “How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever?” (Psalm 89:46). At other times it has been sweet and intimate, leaving me at rest under the shelter of His wings even while the storm still swirled around me.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
Psalm 103:13-14
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Psalm 139:13

The fierce storms that I have weathered have often left me battered and broken, stretched beyond my limits and feeling devoid of life. In that inglorious state, I have wondered how God could possibly love or be glorified by my train-wrecked frame. He has slowly but surely convinced me that He knows the limits of my emotional frame because He designed it that way (Psalm 139:13; 103:14). He understands why prolonged, overwhelming circumstances would leave my soul drained and unresponsive, why experiencing helplessness in the face of overpowering evil would for years afterwards cause me to tremble and curl up in a tight ball, or why other peoples’ demeaning treatment would result in my own self-loathing. If God designed my frame to work in these ways, then surely He “gets” what is going on inside me even when I don’t understand myself.  He knows exactly where I am broken and perfectly how to fix it. Far from walking away from me in the midst of my brokenness, He has drawn near to comfort, heal, and restore.

Through the stories of Scripture, He has proven Himself the most brilliant of counselors, the most effective of healers.

But God’s healing in my life has not come merely through the experience of His Spirit within. Searching His Word for stories that parallel my own has opened my eyes to just how much the Bible does say about our inner struggles. I take the questions of my heart to these biblical stories. I empathize with what the characters were thinking and feeling. And then as God responds to their unspoken questions and unseen needs, I experience Him responding to me. Through the stories of Scripture, He has proven Himself the most brilliant of counselors, the most effective of healers.

Messy people are at the core of God’s kingdom. The sick in spirit are the very ones for whom Jesus came. And good theology actually can address the cries of our heart.

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