Saturday, June 11, 2011

Faith, Failure, and Hope.

Do you ever get scared to pray prayers because you’re afraid God is going to answer them immediately? I’ll give you an example I’m kind of embarrassed of. I don’t pray for patience anymore. I honestly don’t because I’m scared God is going to cause my car to break down, or somebody will rob me, or someone will ask me if I can watch their brat 8-year-old who has found the only remaining bottles of Surge left on the planet and drank them right before I came over. I’m only 25, but quite frankly I don’t feel like I have the nerves left to learn patience anymore. Obviously, I am way wrong and have much more to learn in patience, and plenty more nerves left to burn out. I’d just rather pray for “supernatural patience.” You know, the kind God just downloads into your soul and you get it. Like Keanu Reeves learned kung fu in the Matrix.

But as you’ve probably learned, as have I, it doesn’t usually work like that. Life is full of lessons that can only be learned on the streets pain and in the schools of hard knocks. Mr. Rogers did his best while I was growing up, but there are some things that expressionless puppets can’t teach you. Who knew?

Yeah, I am afraid to pray, sometimes. Am I the only one who ever treats God like he’s this fortune teller/genie thing that is just waiting for me to screw up the magic words only for it to only result in the exact opposite of what I want to happen? I have somehow done it. I’ve minimized my Almighty God down to a bad made for TV movie.

I know the verses like Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God,” and Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” But it is a whole other challenge to actually believe them and implement them into your mind. Isn’t it funny how we can know things are true and still not believe them? We’ve been conditioned to be doubters.

Every time I go visit my mom in Ft. Pierce, FL thereI usually try to go to the jetty at the beach and pray at night. It’s pretty much pitch black there so many of my prayers are to not get shanked and robbed. After that fear subsides I just look at the ocean and talk to God. That’s right Sunday School teachers, I am praying with my eyes open. I’ll return all my Bible bucks if you want. But not the candy, I earned it.

One night I was out there and I was praying and just thinking about the future and my life. Places I felt like I’ve failed. Areas I wish I could change but can’t. Overall frustrations with being a young man in pursuit of God. Now you can say that God no longer speaks, or that we can’t really ever know that it is God, but I would like to clearly state that I believe God still does speak to his children. I felt like the Lord told me that night that I have become a doubter. He told me that I was always looking over my shoulder waiting for something to break or to lose something I loved. I’ve become good at praising God through the hard times, and maybe so much so that I forget the blessings the Lord has promised his people. I’ve had some things in my life happen to make me kind of not the wide-eyed, optimistic believer that I once was. Some of it is part of the maturity process of getting out of new born faith in God, and some of it is just not of God.

I guess I’ve just become someone who is tired of getting his hopes up and being let down. So better to just be surprised than disappointed, right? While that might make sense in some worldly wisdom form, I don’t think it is how a God follower’s mentality should be. And the Lord cut me to the core that night.

People love a good underdog story, but no one wants to be in the beginning of one. We love the story of Joseph in Genesis, look at how glorious it ended! Second in command of all of Egypt!? Come on somebody praise the Lord! Can I get an “amen?” And yes, that is one of my favorite stories. The guy went through hell and God exalted him. We all want to be Joseph from Genesis 41, but no one wants to be Joseph from chapters 37-40. Having your own brothers throw you in a pit, getting taken out of the pit and sold as a slave, turning down sex and getting accused of rape, put in prison, and helping people in prison who get out and forget about you for years. No one wants to be that guy.

The world is quick to look at a chapter 37 Joseph and call him a failure. Give up man. It’s over. Quit trusting in your God that doesn’t bless you. Give up on your “dreams,” they were just dreams.

But if they would only wait until chapter 41. If they would only consider the end of the road. If we would only consider that maybe it is all a part of a process bigger than ourselves and bigger than our weak minds. That maybe God HAS indeed heard every single prayer we’ve prayed and seen every single tear we’ve cried. And maybe, just maybe, he knows and loves his precious children like he says he does.

One of my favorite verses is 1 Corinthians 13:12.
“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

This verse clearly states that we just won’t understand some things. Many times we can see that God is up to something, but we just don’t know what it is fully. We get so frustrated that we don’t know the whole story or every detail of the work being done, but honestly, we’re just not going to know some things. At least not right now. But soon, we will see it face to face. We will see the completeness of the love of God and we will understand it. We will know fully. We really will get it.

The frustration of not knowing can lead to doubt. One time I felt so confused about things going on in my life and I was becoming convinced that I must have totally been missing God because I was confused, and God is “not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).” Then I heard the Lord say, “You’re not confused; you’re just discouraged.”

If I feel like God is not being faithful, it’s because I don’t know what faith really is.
If I feel like God is not being good, it’s because I don’t know what good really is.
If I feel like God is not being loving its because I don’t know what love really is.

God is not a magician; he is the Creator. God is not a genie; he is the Good Shepherd. As my friend Mike once put it, “A really Good Shepherd.” It is all part of the journey in faith. Learning to bet it all on God. Accepting the hard times but trusting that the Way actually knows the way.

Pray on, prayer.

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