Sometimes God’s love is unbearable. I remember coming to that conclusion during a season of life in which it seemed we survived one round of intense hardship only to face the next. Every task we put our hands to failed miserably; everyone we prayed for ended up in a worse state than before; the ratio of our dead children to those still living was 2 to 1; each month left our bank account further in the red; and the only thing we could really count on is that my next major illness would strike while my husband was away on an important ministry trip. Where was God in all this?
I was faced with a conundrum. The Scriptures depict Him so clearly as the God who sovereignly reigns over every detail of life, but if I were to really believe that, it would mean that His was the hand obstructing my path and inflicting my pain. How could I go for comfort to the very hand that was wounding me? I had nowhere else to go. But why was He being so hard on me? I wasn’t living with unconfessed sin. I wasn’t pursuing my own selfish interests. My whole life was oriented around bringing His glory among the nations. Didn’t He want me to succeed?
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
Endure hardship as disipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.
…God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:5-8, 10-11
As it often does, the book of Hebrews spoke directly to my questions: “… the Lord disciplines those he loves, and punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons”(12:6–7). In the past this passage had comforted me, showing me the value of the hardships I was facing and reminding me that God was lovingly using them for my good. But this time it was too much. I had willingly endured so much hardship at His hands that I just couldn’t take any more. I knew that out of His great love for me, He was putting me through intensive training so that I could share in His holiness. But frankly, I just couldn’t handle any more of this kind of love. It had worn me out and broken me down. I wanted Him to leave me alone, to go love on someone else for a little while. But how could I actually say that to God?
David went through similar seasons in his own life. He didn’t hesitate to express his sentiments directly to God, and God in turn recorded them in His Word.
But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you …
I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for you are the one who has done this.
Remove your scourge from me; I am overcome by the blow of your hand.
You rebuke and discipline men for their sin …
Look away from me, that I may rejoice again
before I depart and am no more.
Psalm 39:7, 9–11, 13
God includes such disrespectfully raw prayers in the Bible to give us permission to express to Him the true cries of our heart.
That’s how the Psalm ends. Not very emotionally tidy or theologically comfortable. When the composers of the Genevan Psalter put this psalm to music, they just couldn’t leave it off there. Their solution was to add on the first few lines of the next psalm so that we wouldn’t be left hanging in the depths of despair. But God includes such disrespectfully raw prayers in the Bible to give us permission to express to Him the true cries of our heart. Forced resolution, fake smiles, empty platitudes just won’t cut it. Sometimes we need to acknowledge our despair to Him and sit with the dilemma. So I will…
(until next time.)
3 thoughts on “Leave me alone…”
I’ve been enjoying reading your blog. I love the rawness and engagement with the difficult questions of life. I resonate a lot with this post. A few years ago I read the book ‘Raging with Compassion: Pastoral Responses to the problem of evil’ by John Swinton. There is a chapter in it called ‘Why me, Lord: The practice of lament as resistance and deliverance’. It looks at lament psalms in the Bible and even helps give instructions for writing your own lament psalm. What struck me, is that the psalmists would bring their deep lament and struggle before God and simultaneously speak of his character and promises. It taught me that I don’t have to answer all the in between questions of how these 2 things can co-exist but I am able to come to God with my grief and disappointment while praising his beauty. I say this from the trenches not in a flippant way…but practicing lament like this has seemed to help me keep my head above water (mostly anyway).
Keep writing. This stuff is needed.
Dear Leaf, I have the utmost respect for the way you have persevered in the trenches even while lamenting. Thanks for drawing my attention to Swinton’s book. I want to look deeper at the role of lament, both as part of the grieving/healing process, but also as an act of personal resistance to the “wrongness” of the way things are. I love what you have to say about the “in between questions.” I still find myself asking them, even though I am consistently dissatisfied with the paltry answers I meet. But, as you point out, not being able to answer the “whys” and “hows” does not preclude us from being able to relate to God. I get the mental picture of sitting across the table from Him, showing Him my drawings of hurt and frustration and looking over at His drawings of love and goodness. I suspect that what is lacking is within my own perspective on the situation, but He neither resolves that immediately nor demands that I get over it. I guess that is where the role of faith comes in.
Thanks for engaging and encouraging!
I will never ever forget meeting you! We were at some kind of gathering and you were talking about the fact that if we fail to praise Jesus, even the rocks will cry out! I can still hear your voice and see your smile! I remember you being such a precious soul, living for and loving Jesus. Thank you for your evident joy in Him, that I vividly remember 5 years later! Praying blessings upon you and your family!