It’s back-to-school season, and parents everywhere are greeting their children with the age-old phrase, “What did you do at school today?”
If your children are like mine were, they’ll answer with a shrug of their shoulders, or say “nothing.” That’s when you stop asking the direct question and learn to wait them out.
Sometimes we, as adults, feel like we’re having the same experience with God. As we go through challenging times with our children, our life seasons, or the unexpected mountains we encounter, we ask God the questions. But instead of giving us clear answers, He appears to us to be shrugging His shoulders in response to our prayers. We have to learn the patience to wait Him out.
My Prodigal Son took a few steps backward this week. As I listened to his wife’s description of what happened, I dropped right back into my old “Why, God?” patterns. During my conversation with my sweet daughter-in-law, though, I was able to talk myself through the old patterns and beliefs. By the end of the conversation, I had been able to come to a much more Spirit-led, correct, and mature conclusion. More about that later.
Ranting at God
When we are in a season of suffering, we may spend a significant amount of time ranting at God. Let’s take a look at some of the things we say, and God’s response from His word.
“I don’t deserve this!”
When troubles come, your first human response is often, “I don’t deserve this!” You wonder, at some level, what you could have done to cause God to punish you with this pain.
Here’s what God has to say about that:
“[W]e rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Rom. 5:3-5)
God isn’t punishing you with this suffering. It is part of His way of refining you, teaching you, and building you up. I had to keep this scripture framed on my wall for about five years before I finally understood and accepted it.
“And Now THIS!”
Multiple problems seem to be piling up on you. As you seem to be getting bombarded from several directions all at once, you’re almost afraid to ask, “What next?”
Let’s take a look at Job. Job was a wealthy man; healthy, righteous, Godly, and enjoying “the good life” in a country called Uz. Seeing Job’s abundant life, Satan approaches God with a request. “Let me test Job’s faithfulness,” he says. Satan’s pretty sure that if Job didn’t have such a great life, he would stop being faithful to God. God, confident of Job’s faithfulness, allows Satan’s test, with the one restriction that Satan not take Job’s life.
In one fell swoop, Job loses everything: His ten children, his lands, and all of his wealth. However, he refuses to blame God or lose faith. (“In all this, Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” – Job 1:22).
Satan strikes him with a horrible disease that tortures him day and night. His friends come to him and harangue him with their mistaken opinions about God and His punishing wrath. Even Job’s wife tells him he may as well curse God and die, just to get it over with. Job remains steadfast in his faith, but he can’t figure out the reasons for his suffering.
In desperation, Job cries out, begging God for answers about why He is allowing him to suffer. Why, when he was such a righteous man, would God take away everything? His children? His health? Why?
In a lengthy and beautiful dialogue, God responds to Job’s pain and frustration. God reminds Job that He, not Job, is the Author and Creator of the world and the heavens. He tells Job that, because He is the Almighty Creator there are mysteries that no human being can possibly understand. Therefore our faithfulness must rest in God.
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” – Psalm 34:19
“How Long Will I Have to Go Through This?”
When you are in the midst of a crisis, there can seem to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Things seem to be staying the same or getting worse, and you feel as though the only option is to wait. But waiting is the exact opposite of what you feel like doing. You want to take action; to make it better NOW.
God has a response to this, too:
Abraham became a father when he was about a hundred years old and Joshua had to wait 40 years to see the Promised Land. We have no idea of God’s timetable. Here are some of His words on the subject:
“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” — Habbakuk 2:3
“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”– 2 Peter 3:8
How to Stop Ranting and Start Listening
So in His words, above, He has given us clues as to His control, His power, and His timing. What can we do in the meantime to stay strong, to keep going, to not lose faith, and to see how He is working?
Pray for His Will to be Done
Years ago, a co-worker of mine had a son who was born at about 22 weeks. As this child struggled for every breath in the NICU at Duke University, the rest of us were compelled to pray. But how? Did we pray for him to live or to die? The choice, of course, rested with God. My prayer, which seemed incredibly hard at the time, was, “Thy will be done.” It was difficult to pray this because, no matter the outcome, this family would struggle in the wake of God’s decision.
Only God could carry out His plan for this family.
Although it seems hard to commit your pain, your troubles, or your sorrow to God, the outcome is in His hands anyway. Bringing yourself into alignment with Him by accepting that His plan will, in time, free you of the burden of constant worry. You can rest in the knowledge that God has an outcome that is right for you in your situation. Scary as it is to let go, He is catching your trouble in His capable hands.
And, by the way, Cooper will turn twenty-two in November. To paraphrase Rich Mullins, “Jesus led him all the way.”
Ask Yourself This Question
When I sat down to pray this morning, I was feeling uninspired about writing my blog. My prayer, always, is that I can write something that will be encouraging to parents, especially parents who are struggling. I had no idea what I was going to write about today, but nothing seemed inspiring.
As I prayed, (and this is going to sound weird), the Holy Spirit turned on a light. Not just any light, but one of those lights that police used in old movies when they were trying to make somebody confess. In its glare, my brain saw this question:
“WHAT DID GOD TEACH YOU TODAY?“
Whoa. If you get nothing else out of this blog, I pray that you will at least get this.
Whatever your circumstances, crisis, or suffering, ask yourself this question, “What did God teach me today?” Reflect on the events, the ups and downs, the goals aimed for, and the wisdom you have at the end of the day that you didn’t have when you got up.
I’ve written this question in my Bullet Journal, to be answered as I plan for tomorrow. Reflecting on the gifts God has given you each day will help you to feel more excited about tomorrow. It will remind you to trust Him, and it will show you, over time, how He is using your circumstances for your good. Today, when my Prodigal went a little sideways, this question has helped me to climb down from my defensive, panicky mom ledge, and remember to place my worries on the Lord’s broad shoulders.
So as I said at the beginning, stop asking the direct question and learn to wait Him out.
God’s Love Note
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…
4 Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
Grace is real,
Judy Albert, The Default Mom