Sunday, September 29, 2019

And they say God doesn't have a sense of humor...

"I raise a hallelujah, in the presence of my enemies. I raise a hallelujah, louder than the unbelief... I’m gonna sing, in the middle of the storm; Louder and louder, you’re gonna hear my praises roar....I raise a hallelujah, I will watch the darkness flee. I raise a hallelujah, in the middle of the mystery. I raise a hallelujah, fear you lost your hold on me." by Hillsong Worship

Isn't it ironic that the first song we sang at church today started with the word, "hallelujah!" That wasn't an accident and God's sense of humor made me smile because I've been mad at hallelujah Christians for two years. When they sang "you're going to hear my praises roar," I sat down and started journaling instead of singing.

By the end of Grace's first fight with cancer my faith was stretched past breaking. When Grace relapsed a year and a half later, it was a million times worse than before. That day was truly the worst day of my life. And God was totally silent. He sent friends and family and strangers to care for us and show us the love of God instead. Which was beautiful, but not the healing balm of God's holy presence like the first time Grace had cancer.

I felt completely abandoned by God. Completely alone.

I didn't hear my praises roar. I heard the storm roar. My only faith was to weakly call to God for rescue, and even that drained the reserves of my faith. Some days I've felt so much shame for not being a "hallelujah" Christian through the storms of life.

But God showed me something today at church. He reminded me that if a person was walking through an old graveyard at midnight, they would hear fearful sounds of swaying trees and moaning winds. Long shadows and gravestones hidden in the mists would consume them with fear. They would be chilled to the heart in the cold, wet bleakness. There, devoid of all light and hope, death's silence would overpower them.


If the smallest voice was also there in the graveyard, weakly singing songs of trust and praise, the power of it would shatter fear's dominion.

It might not look like a victory to the singer, if all she can see is the darkness outside the small, weak realm of light she stands in. But even the smallest light in pitch black is brilliant and shows the shadows to be powerless. God showed me that any song of praise, any whisper of desperate hope in a graveyard, is a courageous roar against the evil one, and helps others lost in the fog to find the way home.

It made me think that God isn't measuring the volume of our hallelujahs. He sees our hearts laid bare, whether in the light or in the darkness. He looks to see who is willing to survive off the breath he breathes into them for that day, regardless if the day will end in victory or defeat.

I felt God remind me that Satan wants to deceive us by making us believe that our faith is weak and unacceptable to God. Because it's what Satan despises the most- weak creatures exposing his charades. He knows that when we are the weakest, God's love and light and power are made most visible.

I grew up afraid that Jesus would rebuke any unbelief, such as the time he rebuked his disciples, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?" But I don't think Jesus was rebuking the disciples at all when the storm in Galilee almost sank their boat saying, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?"

I might say something similar to my children if they cried out in the night for me, "Why are you so afraid? Don't you know I'll protect you?" I know that their understanding is limited. I wouldn't shame them for their weakness but I'd wearily delight that they came to me when they were afraid. They trusted me. Some of my most tender memories are snuggling next to my kids in bed until they felt safe enough to fall asleep again. I know God loves us even more tenderly. He knows how little we are. He wants us to trust his bigness, cuddled up until our fears are gone.

So I refuse to let Satan make me feel as I should hide in shame from God just because my faith is struggling. Because my heart is still broken. Because I still cry in confusion when I can't understand God's sovereignty.

Wandering through the lonely hospital hallways, late at night, my heart desolate and my faith depleted, still it was enough. In crowded church pews, feeling insufficient, it was enough for Jesus, Though my hands were empty, I know Jesus is my rescuer.

My tiny flame of faith terrifies the evil one. And Jesus counts it as a truly courageous roar.

**** Personal thoughts on Mark 9:14 and Matthew 17:14 ****

At this point in Jesus' ministry he was only months from crucifiction- hence, "how long am I to be here with you?" It may have been a warning that they needed to take their discipleship more seriously since time was running out. 

I believe that the boy's body was so twisted and frail, foaming and writhing, and had been that way for so long, that the disciples assumed there wasn't anything that could be done for him. Maybe they assumed this one was past God's power. Perhaps the disciples were afraid of the crowd judging them on how much faith and power they displayed through miracles. Perhaps they'd rather not try unless they knew they'd come out looking good. They had an image of "faith" to keep up.

Maybe the disciples blew off the father and son like they did so many of those they saw as "beneath them," such as the Samaritan woman at the well, all children in general, the loud leper, the crying woman with perfume. The disciples had a notorious reputation for not seeing people the way God does, even when God himself was physically there, teaching them.

 Jesus rebuked the disciples out of their false beliefs about themselves so they could see who Jesus was, and what faith actually looked like. 

The boy's father refuses the disciples apathy and goes straight to Jesus himself. The father's faith is weak, but it was enough to find Jesus. Jesus challenges the father about his unbelief. (Again, I know this can't have been a shaming moment because Jesus doesn't work that way. I believe it was a question asked directly but also gently). As soon as the father declares he wants more faith, Jesus fills in the gaps. He heals the son. The father's weak, shaky faith was enough for Jesus. The disciples' version of faith wasn't.

Clearly God's view on faith is different than what I assumed it to be.

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