It Isn’t Fair
I remember after a particularly painful experience in my life, I began to feel like God had forgotten me. I couldn’t seem to understand why God would allow something so painful in my life, when I was consistently serving him, and trying to live the “right” way. It just wasn’t fair! I had been an active member of my church, served on several ministries, and tithed for many years.
I remember sharing these feelings with some close friends, and several staff members within my church, and was shocked at the response I received. Every single one of them either discounted my feelings, accused me of being ungrateful for what I did have, reprimanded me for my “lack of faith”, or started making a case to defend God’s actions or lack of actions (as I saw it)!
I remember feeling very alone and even guilty for feeling this way. What was wrong with me?! I had what I considered to be a strong faith. How could I doubt God’s goodness, after serving him for so many years? Did other Christians ever doubt God, or get angry at him? Was I the only one? Maybe if my faith was stronger…
Feeling I had nothing to lose, I did the one thing I knew to do when I felt I had no one to turn to: I talked to God. I told him how I was feeling. I told him that I felt hurt, betrayed, abandoned, and forgotten. I complained that it wasn’t fair, and then proceeded to point out all of the reasons why I deserved better. For the first time in my life, I was completely open and honest with my feelings to God.
The Turning Point
After laying it all out there, the most amazing thing happened. I began to feel the peace and comfort I had been longing for throughout this whole mess. It was as if he had placed his arms around me, and just continued whispering, “I know”. This was completely baffling to me, because never in my life had I been able to be completely honest with someone about how I felt, and still feel so loved and accepted. This experience completely changed my life.
Understand, I am not judging the people who dismissed my feelings, or tried to explain why God would allow such tragedy. Before this experience, I would have, and maybe had done the same thing. I often felt it was my job to convince people of God’s goodness, and felt very uncomfortable when I encountered individuals who didn’t view him the way I did. I get it! It feels wrong and maybe even dangerous to “be mad at God”.
Here is a thought: what if God can handle our feelings? Doesn’t he know them anyway? What if He is waiting for us to go to him as our father, and be completely honest about how we feel? What if we (like children), need to kick and scream, and pitch the preverbal fit, and have God (like a parent), quietly and calmly soothe us, allowing us to move through the pain, that we as “children” can not yet understand? How could this perspective change our marriage, our parenting, our friendships, even our ministry?
What I Learned
It is not my place to defend God. To do so would imply that I possess the knowledge and wisdom to fully understand His thoughts and His ways. This, at best, is naïve and arrogant, and at worst, hurtful and off-putting to people who do not understand the heart of God.
It is my job to point people to God. To share my own struggles of faith as an encouragement to those who are currently struggling. It is my job to show compassion and care for the hurting, and to comfort others with the comfort I have been given.
People who are hurting need compassion and empathy. They need us to acknowledge their feelings, even if we don’t share them. They need to know that they are not alone, and that regardless of how they feel, we will be there to help them through it. They may need us to provide them with helpful resources for dealing with loss and grief, or scriptures about God’s comfort, love, and faithfulness.
What they do not need, is shame for feeling the way that they feel. Feelings/ emotions are not facts, and the only way to move past them is to go through them. Being a safe place for someone to unload their pain is much more representative of being the hands and feet of Christ than the most profound theological explanation of God man could provide. Jesus sat with people in their pain, without judgment, and with the greatest of compassion. Let us strive to do the same.