What Is God Doing?
It has been a hard month.
Every person I talk to is wrestling with uncertainty, strained relationships, exhaustion, anxiety, frustration, health stress, family pressure, and/or financial danger or devastation. I am wrestling with previously unknown amounts of uncertainty as it relates to my church, job, and future. I feel the pain of not being able to physically meet and connect with people (which energizes me) and that has me experiencing a bit of what I think must be depression, when I’ve never struggled with that before. The weight of the trouble our world is facing, and more specifically that people I love are facing, is overwhelming. Just yesterday, one friend’s brand-new business burned to the ground (since no one was physically present in the three stores that burned down), one friend is being furloughed from a medical job, a family member had to lay off two employees and was met with a pay cut, and another was feeling beyond her capacity trying to help her kids get online schooling done. Probably not unlike you, I am being stretched and strained from many different directions in ways I don’t like all at the same time.
And in being real, God has been significantly quieter than I would like. He isn’t fast-fixing things I want fixed. He isn’t removing much of my uncertainty; he is letting it hang-out. It feels like I am running smack-into obstacles in front of me instead of overcoming them. Several times, it has seemed like I could see new light and hope on the horizon, only to have it snatched away by Covid-19 realities or bad luck. Some aspects of my life have felt that way for the past 18 months, but now it’s heightened. My nerves are raw. My efforts seem inconsequential. My fear is growing. My anxiousness is far higher than usual. I don’t understand what God is doing or why, on a worldwide scale or with me personally.
Well, I do know some of what God is doing with me personally, because there are a few verses in 2 Corinthians 1 that God draws me back to over and over again. He drew me to them when I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when I was 19, when we were out of money in 2004, when I was faced with an impossible decision between work and school in 2006, when I had the mysterious Guillain Barre Syndrome in 2011, when my dad was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma cancer in 2015, and again now in Covid-19. Paul, who knew more than his share of suffering, says this (2 Cor 1:8-11):
“8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”
I’ve had a problem all of my life—I believe I am capable, strong, determined, and able to overcome whatever comes before me—which is utter bull crap, but I still think it. I tend to think my experience, education, faith, talent, and confidence will get me through and help me overcome whatever is in front of me. But Jesus says I’ll fail, fall, and struggle. Only he can overcome the world. Only he can strengthen my fragile psyche. Only he can repair what is broken, calm what is chaos, and restore what’s been destroyed. Only he can give me rest.
I’ve had to admit (and keep admitting) in these current circumstances (and in all of my life’s circumstances for that matter) that I can’t do much to alter them. I don’t quite feel “the sentence of death” like Paul literally did, but I certainly feel like him as “utterly burdened beyond my strength, even to the point of despair.”
As he has repeatedly, God keeps leading me back to the phrase “But that was to make [you Kirk] rely not on [your]self, but on God who raises the dead.” All of my abilities and experience and desire don’t amount to much, but when I depend on God, I tap into his dead-raising power. However, I feel and whatever I face, the dead-raising God is present to deliver me. I want that resurrection power applied immediately to relieve my pain, discomfort, suffering, uncertainty, and frustration, yet God usually doesn’t want that. He wants me to stew in the struggle so that I will trust and depend on him and not on myself. Without struggle, I am incredibly prone to self-reliance. God wants me to seek him in prayer, and to ask others to pray with and for me, so that people will see and honor and thank him—our good, merciful, and gracious Father God.
God promises he will not leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5). He promises that you and I can “with confidence draw near to the [his] throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16). As I try to apply Philippians 4:6-7 to my circumstances, I recognize that though I am anxious, I have much to thank God for. Though I feel like I am wrestling with God on a number of issues, Jesus’ peace that transcends understanding is available to me to guard my heart and mind in Jesus Christ. That doesn’t make my angst or uncertainty disappear, but it makes it bearable. We are promised deliverance, so I can wait with hope even in less-than-ideal circumstances.
I do not like being confronted by uncertainty with so many things in my life on so many levels. I hate many of the cultural and social realities of a nation and world caught up in this Covid-19 pandemic, though my issues are rather small and inconsequential compared to what others I know are facing and struggling through today. God’s desire for each of us is complete dependence upon him. He wants all of my comfort, all of my security, all of my certainty, all of my health, and all of my satisfaction to be found first and foremost in him; not in my self, situations, or circumstances. He wants me to speak to him about my hurts, concerns, struggles, pain, wants, and laments, trusting them to him and seeking him to change them, even when or if he doesn’t. “On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” Our hope can be there too, because God is faithful. He is good. He loves us more than we can understand and he will not waste struggle or suffering in order to draw us ever nearer to himself on his throne.
For that I am grateful. With that truth in mind, I will keep working to rely on God and not myself, and through all of this, he will help me, and all of us who seek him, look, act, and be more like Jesus, through the work and power of his Holy Spirit in us. Thanks for reading.
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