No, I didn't win the $10,000 at Burger King. I did win a croissanwich, an apple pie, and a whopper. Yes, I've been eating way too much fast food lately. The closest BK to us is 45 minutes away so anytime we go out of town we ravenously eat fast food like the world is coming to an end. What does that have to do with the good news? I have no idea, so I will move along.
Before I get to the good news I am going to give you another confession from the laundry room. This one isn't funny. It's downright painful. Even though I am a preacher's wife, sometimes my faith falters. It can be a small question of how a bill will get paid. Or, unfortunately, I can fall into an outright fit of doubts, tears, and questions. This happened recently and unfortunately at a public place. The mall to be exact. I found myself in a public bathroom crying my eyes out and asking God if He hates me. Yes. I really did ask Him that. I know that many of you will find that shocking. There was a time in my life that I would never dare ask or question anything about my faith. Who am I to ask such questions of a Heavenly Father who sent His only Son to die for me? Well, at the moment I was just a very weak, exhausted human who felt a little abandoned.
Please don't label me a heretic and stop reading. I promise I am getting to the good news. The reason I am even sharing this experience, which is not even close to my finest moment, is because I feel led to. I am pretty certain that even if you have never outright asked God if He hates you, you may have had some time in your life when you have questioned God's plan or His love for you. The more I talk to people the more I feel like this is the dirty little secret in Christian communities. We all stand up and say "God is good, all the time!!" So how can we possibly wonder if He is good? How do we make sense of those times when all signs point to the fact that He must not be good and He must not love us? I know that I have been so blessed and yet I ask this question. I am surrounded by people who have sick children, disabled parents, loved ones in war zones, and people who are struggling through financial crisis. How do we possibly reconcile that God loves us when so many are suffering?
Often people will talk about a man named Job in the Bible who lost everything, but maintained his belief and devotion to God. I have recently been reading a book titled "The Gospel of Ruth". It takes a look at Naomi, someone who is often overlooked in scripture. She also suffered many of the losses that Job did. On top of her losses, she was a woman, and in her culture a woman with no man to care for her was as low in the social caste as you could be. I realized reading this book that I often cast Naomi aside because it calls her bitter. Who wants anything to do with someone who is bitter? It's better to just move onto the story of Ruth and how God worked things out for her.
I am so thankful that I took this deeper look at Naomi because she teaches us about suffering. She also teaches us that God's love is continual and not only that, but He will still bless us and use us in spite of our weak faith. The truth is that Naomi had every right to be bitter. She lost her husband, her two sons and her home. Due to famine her family was forced to leave their homeland and her sons married foreign women who worshipped foreign gods that required child sacrifice. She had grown up hearing the amazing stories of Yaweh and how He had saved the Isrealites and provided for them. She had placed her faith in Him. At the point we begin reading Ruth we see that Naomi feels betrayed. She doesn't feel that the same God who took care of the Isrealites has taken care of her. She feels betrayed. Despite Naomi's pleas with Ruth to leave her and go back to her home Ruth refuses. Even after Naomi has made it clear that her God has abandoned her Ruth still insists that she will not only follow Naomi wherever she goes, but that she will follow her God as well.
The very next day after my breakdown at the mall Josh and I recieved a gift with a note. The note said "Jesus told me to give this to you. He said to tell you He loves you."
Can you believe that? I personally felt like I deserved a note that said "Jesus said to take a hike. You've become a selfish, spoiled rotten brat who is causing problems with all of your questions." In some ways isn't that what we've been taught? Who are we to question or cry or struggle? Aren't we supposed to put on a happy face and tell people how the Lord works everything out? I used to think so. But now I know that's not true.
Here is the GOOD NEWS! The good news is that God is strong enough to handle our fears, frustrations and doubts. He is who He is. Our emotions, good or bad, don't change Him. Our circumstances don't change Him. The even better news is that our circumstances that may seem like the very thing that will pull us away from Him can often be what He uses us to draw us closer to Him. In "The Gospel of Ruth" Carolyn Custis James says, "Somehow we've convinced ourselves that the more mature we become as Christians-and both Naomi and Job were seasoned believers-the thicker our spiritual skin will become. We'll be resilient in adversity. It's a sign of spiritual failure (so we tell ourselves) when suffering gets the better of us and our faith in God gets shaky. Such notions (which aren't supported by Scripture, certainly not the legacies of Naomi and Job) get in the way of our spiritual growth and block us from engaging the God who pursues us in our pain."
I don't know what is going on in your life today. What questions, fears or doubts you have. I just wanted to give you the gift I was given. Jesus told me to tell you He loves you.