“God, my God!
Why would you abandon me now?
Why do you remain distant,
refusing to answer my tearful cries in the day
and my desperate cries for your help in the night?
I can’t stop sobbing.
Where are you, my God?”
Psalm 22:1-2, Passion
As I was praying this morning I began to thank God for some of the most painful times of my life. Times when I felt abandoned, trodden down, desperate and alone. Seemingly helpless seasons, stripped bare by circumstance. When storms raged through my life divesting me of dignity.
Yes, those times!
The times we never invite. The times we didn’t pray for, or a least didn’t realize we were praying for when our knees hit the ground asking for more of God. The times we cried, “Do anything you want, Lord! I give you all of my life and heart!”
Prayers that are incendiary, but we didn’t expect to blaze through all that we thought was standing strong in our lives.
Yet, when the dust settles and our soul finds its equilibrium once again, we see more clearly the depth of His love and His presence. We know His comfort and our own weakness and vulnerability in ways that never would have been possible had God not graced us with suffering beyond what we thought we could bear.
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” (Philippians 3:7–11 KJV)
Over the years I have trusted in so many things that could never stand the storms that came. I have propped my ego with a thousand noble-sounding excuses seeking my identity in doing and having, instead of finding my rest in being a child of God.
This, I believe, is the purpose of prayers often answered with silence. God’s seeming abandonment is actually His kindest answer. He knows not just what we need, but even more who we need to become. He has Kingdom purposes and responsibilities that He desperately wants to entrust us with. He also knows the depth of character required to carry such things without crumbling under the false illusion that we are somehow up to the job!
He is building the man, not the ministry. Whatever that ministry may be, marketplace, home or church – you are of far greater interest to your Father than the things he has called you to accomplish.
He is building the woman, not the work. Your identity and worth are intrinsic, planted in the soil of Papa’s rich love. Not because you are beautiful, thin, rich or successful. Not because you measure up to the world’s ideas of womanhood. None of these things make you more precious to Papa. He loves you so deeply and jealously he cannot allow lies to shape your value.
And sometimes His silence is the prompt we need to go to places we would otherwise choose not to go.
The woundings we endure and carefully nurse through the decades.
The hidden darkness that lurks under the nice church exterior.
The scared and frightened child fighting for attention and affirmation.
The blind spots of pride and protection that supposedly keep us safe from harm.
In seasons of pruning all of these are fair game for the Father.
He is the gardener of our soul, bringing beauty from the dirt. Calling forth fruit from the barren ground, and showering our deserts with rain from heaven.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” (John 15:1–4 NLT)
Papa wants you so much more than you want the things you think will make you whole. He is our life. His words are our sustenance. His love is our security. His plan is our pathway.
When we are entrusted with a valley journey He is never far away, and his silence is not one of disinterest or disdain – it is His way of saying in the loudest and clearest tone, come out and play. Stop hiding your hurts and let me heal them. Trust me here in the darkest times, so we might afterward rejoice more fully in the light.
“Wow! My Dad is amazing! My Papa in Heaven loves me enough to let me try and fail, to fear and flee, to flounder and fumble, to trip and fall. Yet I am not diminished in the testing, I am brought closer to your heart. Contrary to popular belief You are not enamored by my successes, instead you are enthralled by my need for you. You know that I cannot make the grain apart from Your love and grace, and that my stubbornness and pride so often insists I find my worth in worthless things. No, Papa, I want to fall on my knees and worship you, the God of my mountain peaks, and the Lord of my valleys. If I hadn’t known suffering I would not have known your comfort. If I had not experienced death, I would never taste the resurrection. Papa, I won’t judge myself so harshly, I won’t compare myself with others. Instead, I will trust you with all of my heart. And when I foolishly lean again into my own understanding, and prop myself up with proud notions of my deserving and earning, you will privilege me with a fresh pruning. Let my heart be prepared and thankful in every season of the soul.”
“Child, it is good to hear that your heart is beginning to grasp the depth of my love, expressed in ways unsearchable to reason. I never want my children to hurt, but I know the inner pain that drives so many, the pain they are unaware of. They don’t see the drivers that steer their vision of who they are and what they are capable of. I want entrance to those deepest places so I can restore, and shower you with my affections. Thank you, little one, for letting me in. I love you with an everlasting love, and my heart in all you go through is to bring you closer to home.”