Text: Lamentations 3:34-66, Psalm 32:3-5
Sustaining grace does not promise the absence of struggle but the presence of God.
– Max Lucado
Lately I’ve filtered my conversations with God. Many of my moments with Him begin, “If You allow…, then I will…” My vague threats quickly turn to silence for fear of what else my flawed heart might say.
I recently learned that I’m pregnant. It’s my fourth pregnancy, our fifth child, and yet only one of our children lives on earth. This pregnancy was a surprise, but even more surprising have been the emotions I feel toward God right now. I’m a believer, but I find myself doubting. I know He loves me, but I find myself wondering. Like the writer of Lamentations, I’m standing in the wreckage of what could have been, but isn’t—and I’m questioning aloud if God is here.
“If you let this child die, I will never forgive you. Never believe in you again. How can you claim you are sovereign if you continually let this happen to us?”
So my prayers are weak and unbelieving. Distant. Filtered. I avoid confessing my anger and my hurt. Will God punish me? Will He even care? I’ve always struggled with prayer, but now more than ever before. My own sinfulness delights in this withdrawal from God to near silence. Filtering my prayers and pleas, my hopes and fears, means allowing my human nature to take back over. Not bringing my true emotions into the light is just another way of delaying what I know I need to do.
I need to repent. Even here in this moment— especially here. I am angry for the loss of my children, I am distraught at these blows to my faith, I am hurt that God did not rescue us from the storm that caused this wreckage. I am tempted to draw a line in the sand and say, “No. My faith in You can not go any further.” And though it is painful to say it all aloud, I know His love for me and my children is not threatened by any of these emotions. I know He hears me. And I know He is here.
So like the poet, I turn back to God with all of me—even the angry, confused and weary parts.
“Let us search out and examine our ways,
and turn back to the Lord.
Let us lift up our hearts and our hands
to God in heaven”
- Lamentations 3:40-41
Sometimes, it’s just all we have left to wearily “lift our hearts and our hands to God in heaven.” We all are sinners, regardless of the circumstances we’re walking through. We live in a broken world where awful things happen, and we don’t get to choose what happens to us. But the choice we have is this: what we will do when we realize how much God loves us? Is faith truly faith if we set limits and issue demands? Do we love someone simply because they save me from the uncomfortable?
Does our Lord love us this way?
Paul reminds us how to strengthen our faith and turn to God in times of trial:
“…a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”
- 2 Corinthians 12: 7-9
Paul pleads with the Lord. He keeps bringing his pain back to God—not hiding it from Him—so that God can administer grace once more.
Our God sovereignly waits for me to return to Him with my brokenness, just like He waits for you. I don’t have to waste away in silence. I don’t need to draw lines, set boundaries, or attempt to control any outcome. I need to repent of these things, allowing the Holy Spirit to bend my will to the Lord’s. Knowing my Savior also suffered, I accept His perfect “grace upon grace” in the midst of the chaos and confusion we will all experience.
Our pain and our emotions are real, but so is our God. His grace is enough.
“Prayer is the breath of the new man, drawing in the air of mercy in petitions, and returning it in praises; it proves and maintains the spiritual life.”
- Matthew Henry