Rip the Heavens - The strange gift of our doubts and questions
If you had asked me 10 years ago if my faith in Christ was on solid ground, I would likely have said “yes” - I was active in my church, leader of a community group, active in serving the needy, involved in regular fellowship with a wide network of believers, and a generous giver of time and treasure. Things looked pretty good on the outside, and from my perspective it all made perfect sense - I was doing my part in serving God, and he was smoothing out the bumpy path called life and sparing me the issues and trials so many others seemed to have. Apart from wondering why God had saved me and not my friends, I thought I had life sorted out and really had few questions when it came to Jesus or my faith.
Two seemingly trivial events - slipping on a log with my left leg extended while backpacking in April of 2009, and stepping barefoot on a sharp pebble while carrying a heavy box in July of 2009 - turned my world upside down and ushered in a very unwelcome and extremely unwanted guest - chronic pain. In the past training, physical therapy, and perseverance had always overcome my injuries, but not this time. As 2009 moved into 2010 and then 2011, my fear and anxiety levels began to rise as the various treatments, therapies, and medications had no effect on the searing, burning pain that started in my feet, then ran up my legs and into my back.
Back then I used e-mail to send out regular prayer request updates to a group of about 30-40 friends and family; between myself, my wife, family, church, community group, and e-mail prayer list, I quite literally had an army of prayer warriors interceding daily on my behalf, asking God for healing and restoration. When the healing didn’t come, the life that seemed to make so much sense completely fell apart. My confidence was replaced with doubts and questions - Had I done something wrong? Was God punishing me for some hidden sin in my life? Maybe a wrong attitude in my heart, or priorities that were wrong? Did he really still love me? If God did love me, why would he allow me to suffer like this? How could this much pain have any meaning or purpose?
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down. (Isaiah 64:1)
Can questions like this have any value? Thankfully the answer is “yes!” My devotional for today titled “Rip the Heavens” comes from Our Daily Bread; it isn’t the most descriptive title, given the subject matter - the author begins by sharing a conversation with a friend who’d abandoned their faith, in the process asking a familiar question, “How can I believe in a God who doesn’t ever seem to do anything?” (That was exactly my question for many years as I sat at home, unemployed, in pain, with seemingly little purpose, direction, or hope)
What do we do with questions like that, and do times of struggle and wrestling with God have any spiritual value? Absolutely - the writer in Our Daily Bread says this, “Our doubts and troubles offer a strange gift: they reveal how lost we are and how much we need God to move toward us.”
Then, it gets even better - we don’t just see how much we need God; we also see how much he did for us. The writer states, “We see now the remarkable, improbable story. In Jesus, God did rip the heavens and come to us. Christ surrendered His own ripped and broken body so that He could overwhelm us with His love. In Jesus, God is very near.”
Don’t be afraid or ashamed of your doubts and questions; let them be a tool to point you to Jesus!