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Check out my latest thoughts in the article below.
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Jubilee Sponsors: Shaun and Sonya Connolly, Bryan Jaster, Brent, and Anne Johnson, and Robbie Tomaszewski
Last night a friend texted, “Pray for us now!“ No context. No explanation. But none was needed. The last several years for her have been one thing on top of the next. Everything from family struggles to major personal health crises. She’s endured the worst any of us could imagine.
Last night she posted this quote on her social media:
“I dream of never being called resilient again in my life. I’m exhausted by strength. I want support. I want softness. I want ease. I want to be amongst kin. Not patted on the back for how well I take a hit or for how many.”
This morning I meditated on the first two verses of Psalm 130 and thought of my friend. I thought of her especially as I read verse two, where the Psalmist cries out, “let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy.”
I think people too often read things like this and think it reflects a need to ask and plead with God to refrain from reaping a vengeful wrath upon us because of our woeful and sinful ways. The “gospel” that comes from this mindset is basically, “We suck, but somehow God (even though God is eternally angry with us and out for blood) finds a way to show mercy and allow us into heaven when we die as long as we stop messing things up and stay on the straight and narrow… because God “loves” us. But by my assessment (and I’m not alone in this thinking), this “gospel” is no gospel at all. It’s not good news that the creator of the universe is perpetually angry with us and out to get us. It’s not good news that God is bloodthirsty and vengeful and needs someone to punish. That sounds more like an abusive parent than a God who loves what God creates and calls it good!
It’s not God we need deliverance from.
It’s not God who needs to stop dishing out punishment.
It’s not God who needs to stop causing bad things to happen in our life.
It’s life that rears its ugly head and pounds on us with relentless fervor.
So we cry out, “Make it stop! Enough! I don’t want this burden! It hurts! This is too hard! This is too much! Have mercy!“ Meanwhile, the world around us, even our closest friends and family, applaud us for being tough. Or they say unintentionally hurtful things like
“God will never give you more than you can handle, so you must be really strong.“
But those kinds of words and that mindset push the same toxic “gospel,” which is all but good news. It implies God is the one dishing out the blows, that God is doling out suffering so we might learn a lesson in enduring faith, and that God is the instigator and cause of every hurt we’ve ever known. I have no interest in following that kind of God. If that is how God is, then I’ll take my chances elsewhere.
Instead of God delivering punches, God is the one who steps in front of the next punch and absorbs the impact.
What if God intends to save and deliver us rather than punish us?
What if life is hard AND (at the same time) God is with us, holding us close when we hurt?
What if God sees us and hears us and knows the depths of our hurts, fears, shame, suffering, grief, failures, and doubts, and God loves us still the same as when God first created us and called us good?
Pain is inevitable, and I have no idea why some people suffer more than others. But I do know (because I believe and trust that God loves us) that God hurts when we do. God weeps when we weep. I know our cries never go unnoticed or unheard.
So cry your cries. Shed your tears. Sigh your deepest sighs. Shout out and scream and yell if you need to.