It is now June. I haven’t posted on my blog since February. I guess I could come up with millions of excuses, but there’s really only one reason. My blog is titled Faithful Thoughts. But my thoughts have been hardly faithful over the last few months as I struggle with doubt, trust, faith, and even belief in God. Not for any particular reason, but just because our relationship with God tends to ebb and flow.
I’ve been ebbing.
I’m waiting for the flow. Seeking it. Aching for it. I’m missing the flow.
Late Monday into Tuesday evening, our Liquid Church staff went on a silent retreat, and for twenty-four hours we shut off our electronics, put our schedules away and spent the day “just being with God.”
The question of the day was, “How is it with your soul?” We were to really spend time seeking God and meeting Him, trying to unpack that particular question.
How is it with your Soul?
If you want some sort of supernatural answer, I can’t give you one. I honestly came home from the retreat feeling like I heard nothing from God and as much as it was a great time away to step back from reality and to connect with co-workers, I felt it was a waste of time between God and me. I was sad. I was frustrated. All twenty-four hours I heard others joyfully explaining how God “spoke” to them or they “heard” from God or cried with joyful emotion at just reading God’s Word because it felt so powerful. People walked away feeling nourished. I walked away feeling empty.
Was that mostly my own fault? Probably. I tend to feel awkward during times of seeking God or I don’t take it as seriously as I should. I find myself fearful of the vulnerability I may feel if I actually dig in my heels and try. But I did try. I did seek. I did ask. I did pray. And I knew exactly what I was to pray for. I needed to pray for God to release me of my doubts, my fears, my anxieties, my disbelief. My soul is crippled in these things. I asked God for help. I asked to be released.
The retreat was coming to an end, and if I have to be honest, by the last session, I was coming to an end. All I wanted to do was go home, sit on the couch and veg. My time with God never came and my mind was beginning to wander off to other things. But as it did so, it still somehow lent an ear to what our Executive Pastor was sharing in the final minutes. And it wasn’t until I had gotten home and into bed that it finally manifested itself in my thoughts.
That’s when it hit me.
You see, the story that was shared was about a Monk who carried a gun. And, in all honesty, I didn’t pay attention much to the story until the end, but all I know is in order to be a true Monk, he had to give up this gun. But he had always had the gun, his whole life he had this gun. He felt it protected him, kept him safe. It was his defense. He didn’t know how to live without the gun. And he would feel uncomfortable without it.
But you seem uncomfortable with it, too…
Fearful and nervous, trembling, the Monk loosened his grip and released the gun.
I’m carrying a “gun.”
And God can’t release that gun from me.
Only I can release that gun from me.
God can negotiate, plead and expose my discomfort with the gun.
But only I can loosen my grip and release it.
Our pastor shared with us his “gun’, putting a name to it and asking us to do the same. And last night all I kept thinking was I had too many guns. I live in fear, I feel anxious, I doubt God, I don’t trust Him or love Him. How many guns can I possibly have?
But then I went deeper. Maybe those were all the bullets. But there was only one gun.
It was my pursuit of unhappiness… disguised as my pursuit of happiness.
Self-pitied. Bitter. Selfish.
These are just some of the traits in my soul that are rooted in me, that are below the tip of the iceberg, the part you never see when gliding on the ocean top.
Lord, forgive me. I feel the need to have perfection in my life. To have everything go right and to never let anything bad happen.
I’m bitter because this world’s not perfect. I’m self-pitied because my world’s not perfect. And I’m selfish because I want my world to be perfect.
God says stop searching for a perfect world and search for Me – a perfect God.
Why do you insist that I’m not Good? Why do you insist on controlling every part of your life? Why do you insist on nothing bad ever happening to you? I clearly told you you will have trouble in this world, so when it comes, why are you surprised? And more importantly, why don’t you trust me?
The purpose of the Christian life is not to be happy. Though happiness can come and it certainly doesn’t displease God to be happy in your life, it’s not the point.
Happiness was never the point.
Living for Christ is. And that petrifies me.
Because Christ died on a bloody cross.
And we all have our own bloody cross. And we’re expected to pick them up and carry them. However heavy they may be.
Bad things will happen to me. And each time they do, I have to pick up that cross, and carry it.
My fears have shown that I want to control the inevitable things in life. I don’t want bad things to happen to me, even things that will someday eventually come, like the death of my parents or loved ones, or getting older. And in this I built up a fear in God, one that caused me to believe He was and is not Good. That He is going to let these things happen. That I can’t trust Him. That I’m alone in this fight.
This reveals my gun.
I want the happy life. The perfect life.
But the gun that I thought was helping me fight, that I thought was protecting me from these inevitable things, is the very same gun that is destroying me.
If I continue to hold this gun it will destroy me.
I can pray all I want to. I can ask God to release me of these fears.
But the gun is in my hand. And only I have the ability to drop it.
God is asking me, like the perfect Negotiator He is, to drop the gun.
To love Him.
To serve Him.
To trust Him.
To believe in Him.
To live for Him.
To drop the gun.