I used to be ashamed that, as a Christian, I would still ask this. I used to be too afraid to let anyone know that this was still a question I had. How could I think this? Hadn't I said I believed? Didn't I believe? Yes. Even so there is doubt, honestly, there is always doubt.
I'm thankful that the Bible gives us countless examples that doubt and belief can coexist, they don't negate one another. Rather, I've found they reinforce each other when neither though is ignored.
This whole idea of Christianity is pretty crazy when you lay it out. My faith has been challenged in an entirely new way with kids. Not in the typical Facebook rant kind of a way of "Lord help me survive this day because these kids drive me insane" (although there are many days like that). My faith is challenged by what they say or ask and how I have to respond.
One thing we've started is if someone-- kids or grown ups-- say something unkind to someone you have to say something that is kind, loving and true as you apologize. So the other day my three-year-old said that, Jesus wasn't a very good friend (she was trying to be funny reversing some lyrics of a song we sing). To be consistent with our new rule, I told her, "Baby, that's not a kind thing to say to Jesus, you need to say you are sorry and tell Him something you do love about Him."
She burst into tears (emotions run very high in this house of 3 little girls) and, as my stickler of reality, said, "But Mommy, I can't He isn't here!!!!!!"
My heart broke. I get it. I totally and completely get that feeling of wanting God to be there to tell Him something or hear from Him and finding that He isn't there.
I've been in a season this past year of seeing Him and feeling Him unlike I've ever experienced. I never could've made it through this past year and a half without His daily sustaining. Not because anything horrible happened, just a lot happened. I could've gone into survival/push through mode, and, for the first time maybe, I didn't. It has been the sweetest thing to experience. Truly otherworldly and not at all like the camp highs I've experience in the past. Just so very normal.
However, this past Sunday all those past feelings came flooding back for me. The many questions. The hurt over things that had occurred in the past. Bitterness. Doubt. Unforgiveness. Pain. Betrayal. The ever present question, "How could a loving God allow all those things?" before me as memories flooded my mind.
The above picture was one I snapped in the middle of worship at my church home, Church Project. You can imagine me behind that camera with tears streaming down my face trying to choke out the words to Not for a Moment by Meredith Andrews:
You were reaching through the storm, Walking on the water, Even when I could not see. In the middle of it all When I thought You were a thousand miles away Not for a moment did You forsake me. Not for a moment did You forsake me.
And I flashed back and saw myself in the middle of a counselors office years ago sharing some of the stories of my past and her telling me it's time to let Jesus heal them. We picked a moment that was particularly painful, I closed my eyes and she said: "Becky, where was Jesus?" I couldn't see anything. All I saw was myself sitting on a set of stairs sobbing after an incredibly traumatic experience.
(CHORUS) After all You are constant. After all You are only good. After all You are sovereign. Not for a moment will You forsake me. Not for a moment will You forsake me.
The counselor asked, "What do you see? Where is Jesus?" I didn't see Him. I just saw the hurt. I flatly said, "I don't see Him. Where was He? Why did He allow all of that? Where was He?" She so gently and full of grace said, "Keep looking Becky. Verse after verse in the Bible confirms that God is with us and will not forsake us. Keep looking."
You were singing in the dark. Whispering Your promise. Even when I could not hear. I was held in Your arms. Carried for a thousand miles to show. Not for a moment did You forsake me.
Finally I saw Him. I saw Him in the room with me holding me up as I experience total betrayal. Following me down the hall after and to that staircase where I collapsed from total grief. I don't know how long I stayed there. But I saw Him, as only a good Father would do, wrap His arms around me and just held me as I cried and shouted out. He didn't rebuttal with "just have faith" answers then. He just held me.
And every step every breath You are there. Every tear every cry every prayer. In my heart at my worst. When my world falls down. Not for a moment will You forsake me. Even in the dark. Even when it's hard. You will never leave me.
If I let my heart go there that moment and countless others still sting. Within moments I can go back to that place and the emotions come back raw and full again.
For so long I wanted the church-y answers to be enough, but they are bandaids not healing. Jesus is the only one that can heal. So when my faith is rocked or challenged yet again, I go back to these moments and look for Him and find Him. That kind of healing takes time and it doesn't change what's happened.
I don't have big answers to the big questions. I don't know if we ever will.
I know what He has done in my life. I know what He can do in your life. Today, if you find yourself asking the question "Is God really there?" Give yourself grace to ask it, really question it. But give yourself time to find Him. Know that He and His healing will likely look different than you are expecting.
For so long I though God's presence would mean that I wouldn't experience the pain. As I continue studying His Word, I find no promise of that from Him-- He doesn't promise an absence of pain or struggle. Listen, I get that answer sucks. It's not what we want to hear. I get that. Here are some things He does say:
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you where you go." (Joshua 1:9)
"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)
"Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread... for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you." (Deuteronomy 31:6)
"I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20
"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else is all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:20)
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." (Psalm 23:4)
"Where shall I go from Your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me." (Psalm 139:7-10)
"The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing." (Zephaniah 3:17)
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Take a moment and listen to Not for a Moment by Meredith Andrews: