This past week has dried up any extra resources I thought I had stored within me.
It has been emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausting.
And I believe it is right where God wants me to be.
Eighteen months ago, I started to really struggle with my spiritual belief system. I held to the belief that Christianity was like a math formula. I am an algebra geek; if you are not, bear with me for a minute. Math, to me, shows that our minds were created through intelligent design (as opposed to evolving somehow from some ape-like man form). Math is very black and white. 2+2 can only equal 4. Nothing else fits to make the statement true. Only 4, or another equation equaling 4, can fill the space after the equal sign of 2+2. Similarly, a mathematical formula is solved by following steps in a particular order. If one does the steps out of order, one will not get the correct answer. This is important in many areas of life. For example, if one is baking a scrumptious dessert for a family reunion, the recipe would most likely need to be doubled or tripled to feed a crowd of people. If the measurements aren’t correct, that dessert will be heading straight to the garbage can instead of gracing the table at the reunion. If dad is trying to calculate how much time will be needed to drive to grandma’s house 500 miles away for Thanksgiving, the distance formula will give him the answer. If dad doesn’t plug the correct numbers into the formula, turkey and mashed potatoes will be devoured by Uncle Fred before dad can get his family there. My understanding of Christianity was similar to these examples. I did my part then God would do His. My part was A, God’s part was B and putting them together would equal C–a good life. A+B=C. Sounded right in my mind.
The problem is, it wasn’t working out like that. I suspect most everyone reading this would agree that, even though you may be doing all the right things, sometimes life doesn’t work out the way your mind’s formula told you it should. Eighteen months ago, the unreliability of my formula sent me into a tailspin of doubt and disbelief. With the help of a patient pastor and the prayers of many people, I was able to see that my formula was flawed–downright false. I now realize, that when A+B does NOT equal C, that doesn’t mean God has forsaken me or stopped caring about me. Even knowing that, though, it is still sometimes difficult to understand exactly what I am supposed to be doing or learning from difficult times.
Coming back to this past week…a looming situation that holds too many unknowns to wrap my mind around, a work project that is among the most stressful I have ever done, a young adult frustrated with an aspect of life, an ever present exhaustion from disease, a husband gone for work, an emergency surgery for our oldest son, a house that desperately needs some tending to, hurt feelings…all these things built and built until the pressures of the collection nearly caused me to let go of the thin piece of rope to which I was clinging.
I have spent much time in the book of Psalms lately, pouring over David’s cries to God–cries to save him, to rescue him, to forgive him, to vindicate him, to search him and to be with him. I came across a verse I had found at one point in my life to be important enough to highlight and star in my Bible. It is found in the 56th chapter of Psalms. It reads, “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (v. 8) God collects my tears. He sees them. He knows why they fall. He cares about them enough to put them in a bottle! How amazing is that? I could not even begin to guess how many tears I have cried in my lifetime. As a child suffering at the hands of some who were supposed to love, the tears would have been too numerous to count. Yet, in the last few months, I think I may have cried even more tears than those shed in the painful years of childhood. Yet, God does know how many tears I have cried. I began to wonder what my bottle might look like…I wondered if when I get to heaven, will I get to see it? I envision it as a very large bottle, perhaps with snowflakes on it–clear so as to always see the level of liquid inside. Will Jesus show me this bottle, pour out its contents, and then wipe up the liquid as he erases all the earthly pain and anguish that produced the tears?
As I pondered this verse and its implications, I sensed that God had me right where he wants me, for it is in the pain and the tears, when I have nothing left in me, that I turn to Him. I plead with Him to remove the pain and discomfort just as David did in so many of his writings. This past week, He said, “No.” Sometimes God says no. I remember writing to my pastor eighteen months ago, detailing the anguish of my doubts to him. His words to me made no sense at the time. He said, “Remain in the tension God has you in.” I wanted nothing more than to RUN from that tension. Last week, I wanted to RUN from the pain once again. I couldn’t stand up under it. God knew that. He didn’t expect me to stand up under it, at least not by myself. He was watching–collecting the tears as they fell and offering His hand as assistance. As I took it, I didn’t find myself feeling like I had the power to leap tall buildings in a single bound. In fact, I still felt very weak. God didn’t help me stand up under the intense pressures of this past week. No. Instead, He brought me up only as far as my knees.
God had, God HAS, me right where He wants me–no strength of my own to stand all the way up (thereby trying to fix all of these things myself), but instead, just enough strength to get as far as my knees, depending on Him to work out the details.
His formula is the only one that will ultimately solve the problem anyway.