Trusting God When You Can’t See – January 18, 2018

Lately, I’ll admit I’ve struggled with the ‘why?’ a lot.  These past few years have been both a joyous time and a rough time for me and my family.  Our littlest one was born in summer 2016 happy and healthy, and we are thankful.  It was a bumpy ride getting through the pregnancy, and has gotten bumpier and busier with other stuff going on since, but she’s been a joy in our lives.

I started blogging here a few years back to openly share some of my struggles and questions and things that I am learning in my studies of the Bible, the way I feel like God’s Word speaks to me and how to apply it, because writing is a good therapy for me, and I hope my experience can help encourage someone,  just as so many posts on here have encouraged me along the way too.

Often the studies leave me with more questions than answers, but that’s okay.  I think I’m being taught a lesson here, maybe it’s to trust Him when I don’t know or understand.  So often I want things in black and white with no extraneous spaces in between, spelled out in specific detail.  I think it’s just human nature  (don’t I wish my kids had come with instruction manuals too?!).

I struggle with OCD.  Some days, weeks, and months are better than others.  Sometimes it’s exacerbated by stress, other times it flares up out of the clear blue.  My 19 year old daughter was, after several inpatient stays where we couldn’t figure out what was wrong, finally diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, and my mom is diagnosed with schizophrenia,  and we are currently waiting on a neurology referral to find out if she has had a stroke or has an underlying neurological disorder that is causing her difficulty with movements and normal activities of daily living.  She is not yet even 60, but has just in the past few months declined significantly both mentally and physically, and my sister and I are currently sharing caregiving tasks.

I say all of this because mental illness is one thing I definitely don’t understand.  And I get that we live in a fallen, sin-filled world where sickness and disease runs rampant.  But it hurts to suffer, and to see the ones you love suffer, and you try to trust in the Lord, knowing that He has the answer, but you can’t help but wonder why He won’t give it to you.  Where is the cure?  Where is the healing?

It’s times like these when I hang onto the words that Jesus said even more.  I don’t want to let go.  I pray when struggles come that I’ll run to Him, not away (been there, done that).  Deep down in my heart of hearts, I know the Truth, even when I get discouraged.

So, in my study today, I was reading about the guy commonly known as Doubting Thomas in John chapter 20.

It says, “Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  The other disciples therefore said to Him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’

So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.’

And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them.  Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said ‘Peace to you!’

Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at my hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into my side.  Do not be unbelieving but believing.’

And Thomas answered Him and said, ‘My Lord and my God!’

Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed.  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’ (vv 24-29 NKJV).”

Did you catch that last sentence?  That’s what got me.  He says we are blessed when we believe when we haven’t seen.  So often, I wish Jesus were standing in front of me and I could reach out and hug Him or talk with Him face to face.  And oh how easy is it for me to say, “Well, if you’re there, why don’t You heal this problem, or why don’t You show me a sign?”

But then, the cross.  Oh, I guess He did give me a sign.  Oops.  And when I think about what He did for me on the cross, how much He’s forgiven me for, how many second, third, fourth, umpteen chances He’s given me, and the things He’s delivered me from, all of a sudden I fall silent.

I’m still left with questions.  Will there ever be a cure for the mental illness?  Will we ever be delivered?  Will it always be this hard?  What part does all of this play in God’s plan for my life?  How is He going to bring good out of this?

But when I read His words to Thomas, I realize the questions are okay.  But He’s not asking me to figure it all out.  He’s just asking me to believe.

“Father, I thank You for the hope I have through your Son Jesus.  I thank You that through Thomas’ story, I can see myself and identify.  I do believe, Lord, help me in times of my doubt and unbelief.  Please forgive me for the times I don’t trust You enough.  Please give me strength, both physically and in my walk of faith, that I would not waver, that I will be obedient even when I can’t see.  I pray for others struggling with mental or physical health issues,  Lord, that You would wrap Your arms around them with Your peace and Your presence as well, Lord.  Thank You for all that You have brought me through.  I pray that through it all You would be glorified. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

 

Overcoming Doubt – December 16, 2017

Do you think of yourself as a Doubting Thomas or a person of faith?  I know I like to believe I am a person of faith, but doubt creeps in before I even realize it sometimes, and I find myself slipping into negative thinking and neglecting my time with God, which for me often leads little by little to impatience, a quick temper, worry, and trying to do things in my own strength rather than trusting in Him.  Then I find myself worn out, tired with a stomach ache and a million worries going, “Lord, help!”

I know I’m not the only one.  When I was reading Matthew 16, it hit me right between the eyes.  Jesus spoke about this very thing.

The Pharisees and the Sadducees, it seemed, also had a problem with doubt.  Verse 1 begins with the Pharisees and Sadducees testing Jesus and asking Him to show them a sign from heaven.  I thought to myself as I read this, how often do I do the very same thing?  “God, show me a sign!”

But Jesus refused. “He answered and said to them, ‘When it is evening you say, ”It will be fair weather, for the sky is red”; and in the morning, “It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.”  Hypocrites!  You know how to discern the face of the sky but you cannot discern the sign of the times.  A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.’  And He left them and departed (vv 1-4).”

The Pharisees were so caught up in following laws and traditions that when the One that they had been waiting for was right there in front of them, they refused to believe it.  There had already been healings. Mute people speaking, lame people now able to walk, blind people being able to see (Matt. 15:29-31).  The Pharisees saw this and couldn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah.  They couldn’t stomach the idea of a servant King.  In their minds,  He was supposed to solve the political problems of the day and establish an earthly rule.

The Sadducees on the other hand did not believe in an afterlife. Hence, they denied the resurrection.  From what I’ve read, they weren’t necessarily atheists, as they did believe in some tenets of the Torah with regard to the Law, but they largely denied the spiritual realm.  In essence, as they saw it, people are created, they’re born, then they die.  They too tested Jesus, asking for a sign.  Is it possible that deep down they were starting to doubt their own philosophy,  yet looking for a way to disprove it because it was easier to do that than to embrace change and the unknown?

Doesn’t it sometimes seem easier for us too to just try to reason things out on our own and “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” than to trust God, who we can’t see?  Or to keep our blinders on because it’s easier to remain comfortable than to step out of our comfort zone and embrace change?

See, when first reading this, it’s easy for me to say about the Pharisees and Sadducees, “Were they blind?  Did they not see the miracles that Jesus was doing all around them?”

But, I need to ask myself the same question in my life when I start to doubt.  “Am I blind?  Do I not see all the miracles and changed lives because of Jesus?  Has He not answered many prayers and saved me?  Not just my soul, but rescuing me time and time again from myself.

What Jesus is getting at here is that the sign He gave them was Himself.  The sign He gives us is Himself.  His trip up the hill to Calvary, being crushed by the weight of the cross, then being nailed to that cross after having been mocked, beaten and suffering, and giving up His final breath on earth as He said, “It is finished.”  Then, just when His haters thought they had won, He rose from the dead so that now you and I can have eternal life too.  His very presence a sign in neon lights for sure!

Jesus talked with the disciples after the exchange with the Pharisees and Sadducees and explained how a little bit of false belief or doubt (in this instance the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees) can become a huge problem.  He likened it to the way that yeast makes bread rise (vv 5-12).

When those thoughts of doubt, worries and stresses creep in, what I need most is more time with Jesus.  Somehow, when I talk to the One who is in charge of miracles, I find that He changes me.

“Thank You Father, for Your Word, and for exactly what I needed to read today.  Help me to remember You are more than enough, and that You are more than able.  Forgive me for many times trying to figure things out on my own, and sometimes acting like I don’t need You.  I do, Lord, I do need You desperately, every day, every hour.  Forgive me for the times when I doubt.  You proved Yourself faithful 2000 years ago, and You’re still faithful Lord.  I pray for anyone reading this who may not yet have trusted You.  I pray that they will ask You into their heart and life and that You will change them in a great way, that they will truly know Your precious gift of forgiveness and salvation by grace.  Change me too, Lord.  Make me more like You.  I love You, Father.  In Jesus name, Amen.