Monday, January 10, 2011

A Beautiful Letdown and the Presence of God

I guess you can tell that I write out stuff. Why? It has always just come out of me this way. It started my freshman year in college when I began to keep a journal- and I found it healthy in two ways: 1) It is good to articulate/record what I am thinking and feeling and it is a great resource to look back from time to time and see where God has taken me- memories- good times and bad.

In 2004, I began to do it online- and I always wanted to be honest and real with it. Why would I do this? Isn't it highly self serving and narcissistic? I think there are some who see facebook posting and blogging as symptoms of the the most self-absorbed generation in the history of man. Is this just a big altar to SELF?

I have always wrestled with this and prayed about it- I think I hold it with an open hand to God. It is so interesting to look back and see even where already some of my views have changed. I see typos and stupid posts. But I will leave it as it is- look inside and see a man- foolish and prideful- but sharing my heart- without fear because I am dead anyway- My life is hidden in Christ. I don't fully understand that but I accept it as my only hope.

I recently re-watched Gone With The Wind- (I thought of my mom- she was so happy when they showed it on TV one year many moons ago- and we watched it over a two night period.)

So I watched it again- and like all classics- they grow with age. The older you get, and the more life happens- you see all the innuendo and political punches- and you appreciate it. Vivian Lee with all of her little facial cues gives my favorite acting job of all time. The irony is that Scarlett is usually pretending- so this in some way must have been one of the most demanding parts of all time.

What does 'Gone With the Wind' have to do with what I am walking through?

God is a master director- all people, believers and unbelievers, are living out a real life and telling a real story. In the end, the director will show up and the drama will be finished, and it will be a grand story to His honor and renown.

In every life, God ordains dark days- and these are complex things. Sometimes it is of our own making, sometimes it is suffering for righteousness sake, and sometimes it is just 'rain falling on the just and the unjust' - as 'Calvin would say the luck of life' (stole that one from a friend).

When it happens- it is impossible to know all of the reasons why. And my guess is that we are NOT supposed to know all of the mystery.

So without any details or reasons- I do want to talk about what to do when this happens and what God does for His children when it happens.

The summary is this: When God allows your whole world to crumble- it is at that moment when you have a chance to discover Him as the most Beautiful Person in the entire universe and find a deep joy in the pain that allows you to treasure true value in this crazy life.

Now, we have 'mini-letdowns' all the time- little thorns that are designed to turn unbelievers to God and believers to focus on heaven and love the world less.

But what I recently experienced was a biggie. One that cuts too deep for words and shakes you down to the core. It is one of those things that make nights seem long and lonely. The visual is George Bailey on Christmas Eve- all alone- trembling, sweating, crying and wondering if there is any meaning or hope to life. When your inside pain makes your eyes feel too deep to see and your prayers seem in vain.

All of this seems so dramatic- and we all tend to over-dramatize personal pain. It even makes us angry that the rest of the world goes on.

But I want to give a personal testimony to anyone who God allows to read this with an open heart. I would have NEVER chosen what has happened to me- I wish it on no man- I will not accept that it happened for sound reasons- but I am resigned to accept it as God's plan. (One day I am going to flesh out how 'God's Will' gets us in trouble- but I'm still searching Him out right now).

But let me write about what I did and what God did for me and why I sing songs of praise to Him in the midst of the carnage.

For a short time- He creates a distance. Usually during the long, dark nights. It has not been unusual for me to pass out dead tired at 10PM and wake up at 2:30 or 3:00 AM- my heart is beating defeat in my inner ear. And I lay there for hours replaying words and deeds- and all I can pray is "Help, I am hurting" and I say it over and over. (The Raven comes to mind as I write this).

Now the good stuff- every morning as the Sun came up- He met me in such a real way. And here is how it works- Read the Scriptures and pray- for some reason the OT really painted my heart with soothing medicine. The Psalms of Ascent (120-134)- The Book of Isaiah, and Ezekiel were the most helpful to me. I also encourage you to play Christian music during this time. I would put my ipod in my ear and run and run and run- Praise music just flooded my heart with grace and promises.

My family- wow- what a treasure! There is nothing like having your wife and children hug you and pray over you. My friends- thank-you. There were those here and far away who reached out as God's ministers. I heard beyond their words and felt their love- and my loyalty to them was cemented forever!

There are also some tangible things God did for me- right away- that were clear signals that He was in the midst of my pain.

I don't know if this is appropriate for every situation- but God's clearest message to me in this time has been "WAIT"- in other words be careful and not hasty. Speak less and pray more. Don't think about what I am going to do- instead seek Him and search Him out.

I am going to list one other tool- if you ever find your life has been pushed down to the dust in defeat- here is something that has helped me.

I am a theological junkie- read it all the time. I am one of those 'weird doctrine dudes' who actually study Bible commentaries. I am just being honest here when I write that- in my amateur and limited opinion- the greatest commentary ever written- the most readable- the most relevant- the most useful for the layman- the one that offers pure medicine for a crushed heart- is one on Isaiah: God Saves Sinners- Edited by Kent Hughes, and written by Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr.

If you want to find God is a deeper and richer way- after He allows the beautiful letdown- read Isaiah and read this commentary and you will fall on your knees everyday and cry out worship to God. Christ is that good. He is all I ever need and I'm sure I will have to re-learn the lesson over and over again until He appears. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

I have attached it as a link- you ought to buy it and try it. I will finish this blog out with some quotes from this book.
"Self salvation makes a lot of sense, until you try it. No one anywhere, even under ideal conditions, has ever figured out how to live well without God... even if you are (on a beautiful beach or resort) you will still need God. And being there without God would be hell. And being here, or anywhere with God can be heaven."
"Never outgrow the humility of brokenness before God. In becoming a Christian, you admit that your whole life has been wrong. As you grow in Christ, never leave that realism behind. Your failure is God's opportunity. Your sin is God's moment."
"The crisis of life is over. We find rest, not because we can cope with our attackers but because we are at peace with God."
"And that startling sense of our  acceptance in Christ is how we become the trusting people we should be, the broken people we should be, and the renewed people we should be. That's when nothing can hold us back from the newness of life, not even our own second-rate repentance."
Whether this post has been narcissistic or witness- whether it is psychological manipulation or Holy Spirit confirmation- I will never stop proclaiming the incredible news... God saves sinners like me and it is never too late to cry out a simple prayer..."HELP!"


Russ Murray said...

"The Lord gives & the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord." (Job 1:21)

Thank you for sharing your journey. It has lifted my eyes to the One who is holy, loving & wise in all He does. It doesn't always look or feel this way. But, as we choose to place our trust in Him & His unchanging character, we can truly experience His grace & mercy in our time of need, as well as in our time of plenty. His mercies are indeed new every morning! Job said it so clearly, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him."

I'm privileged to call you my friend & be a sojourner w/ you on this great adventure of faith. Thank you for leading by personal example, imperfect as it is! I love you, bro! Blessings, Russ

Jayopsis said...

Thank you my brother for years and years of prayer and discipleship training and ministry in my life. You have touched many people and you have an incredible gift for encouragement!