Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Problem of Pain (and the Power of Prayer)

It hit me right in the middle of an affectionate moment between my husband and I last week. A pang that almost doubled me over in its shocking intrusion. The realization that many many people in the world never experience moments like this. Not just a moment of knowing how deeply loved you are by a person, and  how little you deserve it; but the moment when you realize that it really wouldn't matter whether this wonderful person loved you at all. Because, the love you're feeling is not the sometimes fleeting love of another person, but the manifestation of the true Love only given by God.

And in that excruciating and distracting moment, I found myself, to my dismay, reflexively jerking back to the age old question that led me down many a wrong road in my past: "God...why?"

I have heard that word so many times in the past two years that I hear it in my sleep. My favorite "why" that I've ever been asked by Aquaman was "WHY do you call me Mr. Why?" I. love. that. kid.
He has recently graduated to the more eloquent sounding, and perhaps (he assumes) less off-putting phrase of "how come?", which in the rapidity with which he executes it, often comes out: "huh-um?"

Most of the time, I try to answer him, I really do. Many times he truly wants to know the way something works. Or with his sensitive and observant nature, he is trying to understand more about me, or even understand more about himself. Other times, he is rebelling or stalling in what is a less confrontational way than his usual and classic pitch-a-fit manner.

I'm pretty sure I question God for the exact same reasons.

Aquaman's sensitivity is not foreign to me, which is maybe why I find myself so often concerned about it.
I know its pitfalls.
I spent a good portion of my life asking God why, and not liking His answers. I spent my childhood and early adulthood as a magnet to people grappling with the very same questions, and who often didn't want to accept the answers. I have struggled, and wrestled with God until He finally had to wrench my hip out of socket. Except, I don't really remember the exact day it happened.

I just remember suddenly really knowing for the first time in my life that God is God, and i am not.

"Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything
before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few."

-Ecclesiastes 5:2

The simplicity of it struck me. I think it is a huge reason I initially was and am attracted to my husband. He does not try to bother himself with things he can't possibly understand. He just accepts them and moves on. Since I have learned to do the same, my life and faith have become much less complicated. But I fear I may have been over simplifying lately. My prayers have changed a lot these past few years, possibly because my brain is fried from lack of sleep and down time (I am a true introvert, and there is little room to be introverted in the life of a mother with small children). But I think some of it has been a protective mechanism. I do pray, quite frequently, like breathing air it's just a normal and regular part of my day. I've learned to include "Your will, and not mine" in almost every prayer. I've learned that faith is often manifested in laying my thoughts before Him and then moving on, believing it is in His hands now.

But in the process of my quest to stop asking so many questions, and to think only on things that are lovely and of good report- I have missed at times the opportunity to think on the things that are true and noble and pure. And the things that are hard and painful.

I want to keep myself set apart from the world, and I want to keep my mind from attempting to fully understand something that is completely beyond me, but what I don't want is to disengage myself from the pain of being without the love of Christ.

It can be easy in the busyness of everyday life to just go by, or throw a cursory bone, or utter a quick prayer. I don't want to be that person. I don't want to be an enabler or be dragged down by others' questions or tragedies either.

And again, the biggest answer I have found to this question of how has been prayer.
But not those toss it to God and then go skipping off to the beach kind of prayers.
A sacrificial kind of prayer, that makes me stand up and face those age-old questions and the reality of suffering in the world, and be willing to take on the burdens of others.

In the end I think deep down I know the real reason why I lash out at God in those moments of experiencing someone else's suffering. It's guilt.
It's knowing that I haven't been doing everything I can do to ease that suffering, and to answer the questions.
And it's a lot easier to ask God why he doesn't swipe his magic wand over the world then to get down in the trenches and get blood and dirt all over my own face.

"Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them: 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled", but does nothing for their physical needs, what good is that? In the same way, faith without works is dead."
James 2:15-16

It's not that I feel like my faith is dead. I mean,  I rely on God all day long. To help me get through the workday and meet the needs of the families I work with on a very fragmented nights' sleep and when my heart is at home. To keep me from completely losing my patience when Aquaman screams at the top of his lungs or The Dude climbs on the table and begins to dance for the 30th time.

 I need my faith to show me how to minister to my husband after he's had a hard day, and keep me scrubbing the toilets even though they're just going to get dirty again. I need faith to believe that God will provide for our physical needs today and in the future.

And it's not that I discount those things, because to me they are the most important things, but I also know they are not the only things, and I don't want to miss the heart of God.

So how do I do it? I read a quote once when I was studying how to keep up my supply with pumping at work when Aquaman was an infant that JT and I still laugh about by Dr. Sears: "You can't make milk, love, money, and dinner. Something is going to have to give."

But for the life of me, I still don't know what. Because I am still doing all of these things, and I don't resent them, I absolutely revel in them.

But how, as a woman, a wife, and a mother; do I fulfill all of my roles at home and still reach out to the hurting world around me?
I am going to be praying about this. I do believe that there is time for everything God has called me to today. And it may be less of a time issue and more of a heart issue. Surely there are daily opportunities to enter in to the lives of others and reach into hearts with the hope that I have been given. I think I will ask God to help me start with this:

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."
1 Peter 3:15


  1. I think you're already doing it, Joelle. With this blog. You are inspiring, thought provoking, and heart reaching. Mine, you have certainly touched.

  2. Thank you for the encouragement Laura!