As a followup to my previous letter regarding the 'why' questions that arise when we see unexplainable suffering, I now have to explore another why question. Why is it we are so afraid and reticent to allow our why questions to surface? What intimidates us from bringing our questions and doubts and fears and even our suppressed resentment to God? What is behind the fear that blocks us from even becoming honest with ourselves enough to be willing to allow our why questions the freedom of getting air time with ourselves and with God?
My response regarding the timing of facing our 'why' questions would be 'rather sooner than later.' I realize that there is a lot of fear involved in facing these 'why' questions which is exactly why we don't want to go there. But our fear is implicated as the very culprit that blocks us from growing in all our relationships, both with others around us as well as with God. Fear also allows lies to remain entrenched deep inside us, unexposed and lurking in dark corners but eager to sabotage us when another crisis invades our lives only to reinforce our doubts about God's goodness and fairness.
This is why I believe it may be healthier to force these fears, doubts and questions into the open sooner than waiting until they come out without our choice as to the context. I would rather arrange my own circumstances in which to drag these rascals into the open to deal with and dispense with them instead of letting them determine the circumstances. For if they continue to maintain the upper hand in our lives, their intent will be to break us and erode our trust in God, which is exactly why we are afraid to turn them loose at all. Thus our fears intimidate us to allow them remain even as they threaten to prove themselves true while we know with our reasoning mind that they are likely not true.
I can't speak for others, but for myself I have been slowly learning for years to trust God more and ask Him to bring these things up to me and to reduce my resistance to facing them. Sometimes there are triggers that will set them off, but I am learning the value of seeing these times as invitations by God to bring this stuff directly to Him and then challenge Him to explain where they are originating. And almost always it will be seen that these triggers are rooted in past experiences and subtle heart-lies that combine to hold me hostage in some area of my life. And while I cannot explain them away myself, I can experience powerful healing as I allow God to take me back to that root memory to expose the lies embedded there and replace them with His liberating truth directly.
Yes, it can be very helpful to have this take place in the presence of an experienced, wise and mature friend who is willing to pray through it with me and act as an objective stabilizer while I flail around feeling very out of control for a time. Yet in my experience I have almost always had to settle for letting God take me the long route, at least it feels that way to me, as He incrementally chips away at these strongholds while I remain in His presence alone. I believe both of these options are valid, for either way God needs to be the source that provides the healing and deliverance, whether I am alone or with a godly mentor/friend.
However, I need to know that such a friend/counselor is keenly aware of their need to avoid offering suggestive answers as I go through this process as this can easily derail the healing process of getting to the real roots by diverting my attention from being led to the true root as quickly as possible.
I am increasingly convinced that one thing the devil is terrified we will do that will dissolve the handles he uses to manipulate us is when we finally become willing to get in God's face and unleash our pent-up anger, our debilitating doubts, our terrifying shame and the questions we are afraid to ask and keep holding back. We have been so preconditioned to believe that it is impious, immoral or just downright sinful to assault God with our hidden fury or our doubts about His fairness or our feeling offended at how we think He is handling things. Yet the very reason we think this is dangerous or wrong is because we believe lies that God might take offense at us or punish us for coming to Him too irreverently or disrespectfully so we are unwilling to take such a risk with someone who has such enormous power.
Yet this very lie that God ever takes offense at anyone lies at the root of how sin keeps perpetuating itself. This lie that God takes offense over our sins and then has to have His mind assuaged for us to avoid punishment is the essential version of the false gospels that saturate every religion. And it is these false assumptions that keep us afraid of God that prevent us from getting totally honest before Him and allowing Him into the messy, filthy, shame-filled areas of our hearts where He wants and needs to get to in order for us to experience the healing we so desperately need.
I have a friend who years ago ended up in a rehab place only to discover that his worst addiction was religion. A big breakthrough in his recovery came when at last all his pent-up, suppressed fury against his perception of God suddenly burst out of him like a ruptured dam as he stood alone in a room. As he lashed out at God with all the vile epithets and foul language that he could must, He was absolutely certain beyond any doubt that God would quickly retaliate for his impertinence by immediately striking him down with lightning.
But to his absolute amazement, instead of being punished he received a vivid impression of God leaning over His throne watching him intently with a look of eager anticipation. And when he had finished unloading all the rage and felt completely empty and vulnerable, God suddenly began applauding and cheering with excitement that His child had finally gotten the nerve to get honest about what was killing him from the inside and exclaimed that now their relationship could become real and seriously begin to move ahead.
I have never forgotten that story and over the years since I have sensed at times that God has been inviting me to engage in something very similar with Him for the same purpose. I too struggle with hidden rage, and yet the more I have come to know the real truth about the cross and its implications, the more convicted I become that this just may be the door to freedom for any one of us. Yet at the same time it sounds and feels so dangerous, like tempting fate by jumping into a raging river or grabbing a high power line, that most of us would prefer to just keep playing it safe and let our hidden issues remain suppressed. But that choice might become a fatal mistake if we put it off too long.
The amazing thing is that when we finally do choose to take that plunge and move out beyond our safe zone to where we know we will lose control, that is where we finally discover that our own desperate demand to remain in control is the very problem God is seeking to save us from. Our fallen nature always makes us to want to stay in control of every relationship, every situation, every problem and we feel if we cannot provide compelling answers for a situation then we just avoid thinking about it because it might make us look like a fool for not having the right answers.
But when does God measure us by how well we know the right answers? How does that affect how much He loves us? Why are we afraid to admit we do not know, to let ourselves be out of control, to simply be honest and blurt out that we can't figure things out but our Father knows and we can put our full trust in His heart? If we did start to trust Him with our fears and questions He just might share the truth with us if we were willing to be honest enough to get real with Him.
I have come to believe that one of the greatest obstacles blocking God from salvaging His children is not just the doctrinal lies we might believe about Him but the lie that we have to learn enough answers to earn His trust in us. But when we flush that illogic into the open it really makes no sense does it? We don't earn our way into His favor by any means, whether through knowing all the right answers or getting our act together or any other such nonsense. The angels who came to announce Jesus' birth to the various participants told them that God's favor was already a given. And Jesus Himself announced in His first sermon that the favor of God. And there are no preconditions to God's favor. That is the essence of the original version of the true gospel.
What I have come to realize is that salvation belongs to our God, a truth that is shouted before all the universe in the book of Revelation. This means that it is God's reputation that needs the most salvaging, not ours. And while it is true that God is working to restore everyone who is willing to be recovered into full harmony with the principles of His own character to make us safe to live in the pure atmosphere of His presence, we are not restored by working to change ourselves but rather by participating in the restoration of the real truth that has been demolished in the slander against His reputation.
I would urge all of us not to avoid the tough questions, the doubts or to fear the 'why's', but to get in God's face alone, at least at first, and get bold enough to have it out with Him – no holds barred. There is no valid reason to be afraid – not at all. This is because God never takes offense over anything, so it is always safe to vent everything on Him. Just be honest enough to do it believing that He cares about you enough to listen without any threat of recrimination. For in reality, all you are really doing is getting honest with yourself, for you are not actually informing Him of anything He doesn't already know. But He also knows how important it is for you to become aware of these things yourself so He can then help to heal you. He can't access garbage suppressed inside of you until you first allow yourself to own it, acknowledge it and let it surface to your own self.
I know, it is terrifying to lose control. I am just as afraid of this as the next person. But then losing control is what a genuine relationship with God always requires isn't it? Letting go of control is a necessary part of deepening any relationship, which is why so many of our relationships remain so shallow. Yet with God it is even more important, for this is the only door to healing, to growth, to living in authenticity. So don't allow your fears keep you chained up as all your relationships suffer. Only as we allow the Spirit to set us free with truth can we come to know what Jesus was talking about when He said the truth would make us free indeed.
A few words of caution are in order. Is there danger in discouraging another person if they are allowed into a venting episode with God? Yes there can be. That is why I believe that as much as possible we do most, if not all, our intense raging and venting toward God while alone with Him. But there are many who cannot work up the courage to even pop their cork to even start getting real with God and it may be helpful in those situations to allow a very mature and wise friend to accompany you into this experience. The essential requirement though is that this second person must themselves grasp the right truth about God in relation to this and His true feelings towards sinners. It is also important that they themselves have been matured through similar experiences with God. In other words, we need a person who understands the vital importance of getting real so they can encourage us as we take our own timid steps toward freedom on a similar path to one they have already travelled.
Such a friend must also have sufficient reserve joy strength themselves to not be overwhelmed by anything that may burst out of us as we unexpectedly unleash all sorts of filth and fear and rage from deep inside our souls. This will eliminate most of the people around us, for it is not safe to trust just anyone with this sacred responsibility. And most importantly we need to earnestly invite God's Spirit and His angels to surround us, guide us and protect us as we are drawn to enter into a most sacred time of encountering God at a very real level of vulnerability.
That last word may be the pivotal description for what God longs to accomplish in us. I have come to realized that vulnerability is a core ingredient of the atmosphere of heaven, essential even for love to thrive. Vulnerability is the twin of freedom, for to be free to be vulnerable means to also be free to love without any fear of regret or of being exploited. This is the atmosphere of the kingdom of heaven, a state of mind as well as a place where we are free to be real, free to be vulnerable about anything inside us no matter how disgusting or sensitive or shameful.
This truth can take us to an understanding of what composes the true glory of God, for glory is not about His ability to put on bright light displays or exhibit enormous power to impress others. Rather His true glory is seen in the tenderness, the solicitude, the transparency and safety that He brings to everyone who is in the slightest way willing to be drawn by His love.
I am also coming to see that every negative attribute we have blamed on God that makes us afraid to trust Him all come about from lies about Him. All of the horrible consequences for rebellion and sin that will indeed come upon all who resist His love are never initiated by Him as punishment or retaliation but rather are simply descriptions of the operation of natural laws He has created and put in motion.
Yet separating the truth about His heart of pure love towards us from the painful and deadly results of living out of harmony with the principles of reality He created has been the challenge we have faced because of the insinuations of God's enemy who has blamed Him for everything bad that happens. This is why we find it so hard to trust God with our heart, for we are preconditioned in our fears and false assumptions about Him to think He is not completely safe to be vulnerable around.
The entire plan of salvation is all about God earning our trust and discovering the true safety of God's heart. Anything that contradicts this fundamental reality has been infected with lies that produce resistance to Him in our hearts. This resistance itself becomes both the chains of fear that restrain us as well as in the end the fuel for the torture we experience if we reject His love to the point of destroying our capacity to even respond. Pain, suffering, torture and punishment all come from the realm of natural consequences of violation of natural laws, not things imposed on us by an arbitrary deity. When we finally begin to believe this core truth we will start to be able to trust Him enough to get real with Him and allow Him access to repair and heal all the damage that rebellion has caused in our souls.