Where We Find God

~~I’m still reeling from my recent conversation with God about how I don’t let him rescue me. It’s like suddenly discovering that you’ve had your skirt tucked into your panty hose all day and everyone noticed but you. The funny thing about faith is that you can preach it all day long, but you can’t prove it until you need it. And it’s the needing it that none of us wants. It’s in the needing it that I perceive God’s betrayal. And maybe I’m right, in some small way, to believe that God will not rescue me from all sadness and from all pain and from all conflict, because God is not really interested in saving us “from”. That would leave us with an unproven faith. It would be like having a pretty chair in our house that no one ever sits in because it is far too delicate to be trusted, or comfortable. There it sits with its pristine upholstery, starched and upright and priggish, but not at all useful. We walk around it admiring it and we praise it to our friends and talk about how much it has added to our already aesthetically pleasing life, and they in turn praise our remarkably good taste in having chosen it, but we don’t sit in it, and we don’t want to.
I just left a hospital waiting room where a friend now sits making the decision about whether to sustain her husband’s life or let him go. He fell in the garage. Now, after 34 years of weaving the threads of their lives together into one tapestry, she faces the rest of her life without him. A blank canvass. Just like that. As I walked to my car, I realized that I was relieved to be on this side of the decision she’s facing and the pain and loss that’s ahead of her. I was selfishly thankful that I could get up and leave all that behind me after offering my sincere but pitiful encouragement. Every day I pray some version of “save me”. “Save me from the pain. Save me from the loss. Let me enjoy this faith-thing in theory, just not in practice.” But in the pain and the loss…that’s where God is, and we can’t find him – not really – any other way.
Just before all this happened I was having breakfast with a friend who said that we have the God of “through”. God told Moses to go “through” the Red Sea, he led the Israelites “through” the dessert, and he took Joshua “through” the Jordan River. When Joshua reached the other side of the Jordan God told him to set up stones of remembrance. This is what my friend needed today…my friend at the hospital deciding between useless life and all-consuming death. She needed remembrance. She needed to remember that three years ago this same man had a stroke and had to learn to walk and talk again and that she got through that. She needed to remember that when he couldn’t return to work and she became their support, she got though that. She needed to remember all the things she never wanted know or experience to begin with (and there is much!) so that she could remember how she got through. She has rock solid faith that has not wavered that in the face of this decision. Doesn’t mean it will be easy, but she knows she’ll get through because she’s already had to. She’s had to because God did not save her from all that came before. Since he did not save her from it, she now knows that she can get through it. Her faith in Him is proven.
"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that thetesting of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, sothat you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4 NASB) Let endurance have its perfect result: proven faith.
The hardest thing to remember while we endure this life is that hardship and suffering are not proof of God’s betrayal but tools through which we prove that HE IS. You can fill in the blank there – He is strong, He is merciful, He is present in our pain. He invites us to experience him fully as we endure what must be endured. We endure believing that He is with us through it, working to part the waters, leading us where we need to go, patiently enduring our fits and false starts, and walking us slowly, slowly into deeper faith. Unshakable faith. Unwavering faith. Tested, proven, suffered and endured faith. Faith not like a useless chair, but like a sagging sofa with a particularly soft spot molded through time and experience to your exact form. Faith that has come through, not faith that has escaped from.   
Consider it all joy.

In memory of Mike Stockton. Go in peace to your eternal rest. We'll join you when we're through here.