Among the other books I am reading, I picked up the 40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole again to go through during this Lenten Season. My oldest daughter introduced me to it last year and it’s one of those books everyone should purpose to read at least once or get a little crazy and make it a yearly Lent tradition.
It’s so good!
She takes you through the book of John, traveling with Jesus to the cross. She also challenges you to a daily “fast” of sorts to decrease self as Jesus increases in you. Today’s reading is to fast from “fixing it.” That’s a hard one isn’t it? We like things fixed!
Disappointment in this life is just part of this life. We get disappointed in ourselves, in others and even in God. When those dreams we understood Him to whisper take longer to come to fruition or they never arrive the way we thought they would, when the project, the baby, the adventure, the relationship fades into non, unexplainable existence, when waywardness has it’s way and promises seem to dissolve, we are left heartbroken, confused, even bitter at times.
Watching others in these struggling seasons is uncomfortable, we have a propensity to strap on our cape, rush in, and try and save the day as much as we think we can, but nothing, but Jesus and time, can fix this sort of deep ache.
Alicia writes, “Let the mourning mourn. Grant those who grieve the dignity to ask questions. Bestow upon the bewildered permission to not edit their honesty. Crucifixion, after all, is serious work.”
Oh how I love that! We are all off the hook to fix it! No pressure to make it better! Good thing because you couldn’t make it better if you tried. It’s not your responsibility to fix the God-sized, faith failing, crucifixion crushing hole that ensues when promises feel broken and dreams are shattered. That is a God-sized job for God alone.
Isaiah 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,” says the LORD.
The most important thing you can do in this season is listen.
Listen to their heart’s cry,
listen to their story,
listen to their disappointment,
listen to their questions,
listen to their wrestling with the invisible,
It’s uncomfortable, yes, but it’s important. It is an exercise in learning to become comfortable with what is uncomfortable. Don’t offer advice, don’t look for a solution, don’t challenge them, or make them wrong. Don’t make it about you, don’t try to share your stories to identify with them, don’t minimize their pain, don’t fix them!
The greatest gift you can give someone in a heart-wrenching season is to sit near and be an ear to listen if and when they choose to talk.
Never underestimate your gift of simply being present.
God is after something in them, in the pain, in the crushing, He is looking for the oil. “Olive oil comes from the olive fruit. But when you press the fruit real hard, you won’t find oil, only a white sap. Also, the fruit tastes very bitter. To get the oil, the fruit and its seed have to be crushed by a great weight in an olive press. The crushing also removes the bitterness.” (Understanding the Significance of the Olive Tree and Anointing Oil, Joseph Prince)
God is not afraid of our questions. An African proverb states, “The one who asks questions doesn’t lose his way.”
Psalm 6:3 “O Lord—how long?”
Psalm 10:1 “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”
Psalm 44:23-24 “Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?”
Psalm 74:1 “O God, why do you cast us off forever? Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?”
Psalm 77:1-9 I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I consider the days of old the years long ago. I said, “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” Then my spirit made a diligent search: “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”
Let those who grapple, grapple. Let them mourn. Grant them the dignity to ask questions. Give them permission to be bewildered and do not edit their honesty.
“Crucifixion, after all, is serious work.”
God is faithful to answer when He is good and ready, when the crushing is finished and the sweet oil pours forth.
He will see it through.
He is not afraid of the pain.
He is not offended by the questions.
He does not turn away from the shaking fist, the seething accusations.
He can embrace even when faulted with devastating disappointment.
He is not appalled by unholy words.
He is not agitated with the silence.
He does not distance Himself.
Deuteronmy 31:6 Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.
Romans 8:38-39 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
He will see it through!
Psalm 77:10-20 Then I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side. The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.