Cry Out to God

I have alluded to the service for Andy several times in my posts this week, so Pastor John graciously agreed to share his notes so I could pass along the healing words that helped me so very much as I searched for answers this week. For those of you also seeking to understand why, I pray you find comfort in these words. This brief post is but a very small shadow of the powerful service. I wish you could hear the message of truth and forgiveness spoken with love from the heart of Andy’s and my dear friend.

December 18, 2012

John Alden Tagliarini

(Taken from the service for Andrew Ivor “Andy” Parris)

“Why?” Moses asked, “O Lord, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt?” (Exodus 32:11 NASB)

The psalmist asked, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1 NASB)

We have to ask, “Why God?”

We have to ask, “Why, Andy, did you take your own life?”

And, we have to admit to no satisfying answers.

In fact, the only answer I can find here is to encourage you – in whatever trials you are going through – I encourage you to know that suicide is not the answer. Call someone, call out to God!

We usually acknowledge our lack of vocabulary as we try to address circumstances such as these. Then, without sufficient words, we continue speaking as if the sound of our voices might somehow sooth our souls and prompt some insight regarding the meaning of it all. My sense is that God is grieving with us. His anger is kindled over the evil results of our deeds.

God gives life. God desires that we enjoy abundant life. Yet, God also gives free will. The consequences of our choices sometimes leave scars. Jesus bears just such scars. His hands, His feet, His side, His brow show the results of evil running its course. Yet, God forgave, and He forgives! This is the only grace I can offer this afternoon, God’s love.

Someday, God will bring into His world the fulness of abundant life which He began in Christ Jesus. Until that day, let us find ways to affirm life, to accept others, to listen deeply and to stand firm against all that destroys the life God intended. Let us trust God to heal our hurt, to love and to forgive.

Speaking as we have of love and life and suffering and pain, God reminded me of the picture painted by the prophet Isaiah of the suffering of our Lord. Though stark, Isaiah’s words are laced with hope. It is the hope that God heals us through the suffering of our redeemer. It is the hope that Jesus bears our sins away.

Let us hear the word of the Lord.

Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
 And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
 He was crushed for our iniquities; 
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, 
Each of us has turned to his own way;
 But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all 
To fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
 Yet He did not open His mouth; 
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
 So He did not open His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:4-7 NASB)

As a result of the anguish of His soul,
 He will see it and be satisfied;
 By His knowledge the Righteous One, 
My Servant, will justify the many,
 As He will bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:11 NASB)

In Christ Jesus, God bears our sins away and offers forgiveness and love and comfort.

With the psalmist, we ask, “Why?” The psalmist answered his own question with honest trust in his God. He said, “O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; And by night, but I have no rest. Yet You are holy, O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel. In You our fathers trusted; They trusted and You delivered them. To You they cried out and were delivered; In You they trusted and were not disappointed” (Psalm 22:2-5 NASB)

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7 NASB)

Whenever God’s people are hurting or are in trouble, they call out to Him for deliverance. The people of Israel experienced times when it felt as though all the blessings of God, all the good work of growth in the Promised Land after Exodus from Egypt was wasted, and that God had rejected them. Yet, the people called upon God. They prayed that God would shine His face upon them in renewed blessings.

Hear some verses from just such a psalm of petition.

Oh, give ear, Shepherd of Israel,
 You who lead Joseph like a flock; you who are enthroned above the cherubim, shine forth!” (Psalm 80:1 NASB)

..stir up Your power 
And come to save us!” (Psalm 80:2b NASB)

You have fed them with the bread of tears,
 And You have made them to drink tears in large measure.” (Psalm 80:5 NASB)

We cry out to God today. “O Lord of hosts, restore us; Cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved” (Psalm 80:19 NASB)

We have an affirmation of faith, penned by the shepherd David in Psalm 23.

The Lord is my shepherd,
 I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; 
He leads me beside quiet waters.

He restores my soul;
 He guides me in the paths of righteousness
 For His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
 I fear no evil, for You are with me; 
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
 You have anointed my head with oil;
 My cup overflows.

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
 And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. “ (Psalm 23 NASB)

Ordinary Time

In the Christian calendar, the time that falls outside the distinctive liturgical seasons is known as Ordinary Time. There are 33-34 weeks of Ordinary Time which fall between Christmas and Lent, and between Easter and Advent. In Latin it’s called Tempus Per Annum or time throughout the year. The term comes from the word “ordinal,” which simply means counted time and has nothing to do with the ordinary or mundane.

As I went through the busy day yesterday, I thought about how my own time is counted. I go from season to season much as the church calendar does, but it is the time in between those busy seasons that make up most of my life. Talking with a friend, sharing a meal, playing with the girls, reading, and writing would be considered ordinary time in my life.

Counting time is a big part of my life. Counting down from one holiday or special event to another is very like that liturgical calendar, but I miss the ordinary time in life if I focus upon counting down. When it comes to my calendar, the ordinary time is the most precious time of all, and I mean that in an ordinary and mundane way.  I understand the concept of the liturgical calendar and use it as I study and pray; but when it comes to living my life, I plan to make sure I develop a deeper appreciation of that ordinary time between special events.

Holidays and special events cause many to sink into a state of despair and depression. I think everyone can relate to that or to the post celebration blues that follow a special day. I thank God for the celebrations on the liturgical calendar and on my own, but I pray that I will gain a greater appreciation for the ordinary time in both and be mindful of how I wait for God. How I wait is entirely up to me, and I can smile if I remember that God has me in the palm of His hand. I rarely remember that when I’m marching off on my own. Mylah learned to march this week, and her goose step is hilarious:) I go off with my own goose step, and I am thankful that God sees the humor in my marching around as I see it with Mylah’s. Even Lillyann had to belly laugh when she saw her little sister’s serious stepping:)

Joy takes on a new meaning as I learn patience in waiting and understand that suffering is an important part of the process of finding the fundamental joy that so differs from the ha ha happiness I often seek and the Pollyanna joy that can lead to the deepest despair of all. The deep joy God has in mind is not lighthearted happiness that comes from circumstances or pretending all is well but rather a fundamental joy that comes from the overwhelming sense that God’s hand is holding me always. I don’t truly get that until I am made aware that I’m not holding myself.  That’s where suffering enters in. As I come to that level of learning, I can smile knowing that He knows me and I truly know Him. That is what joy is all about.

Suffering teaches obedience, and obedience leads to joy. A simple path, but one on which I am given the choice of coming to know God and finding His joy or turning my back on Him and blaming Him for my hurt. There are times when I wish I didn’t have the choice; but then I realize that choice is what leads to joy and knowing God intimately, so I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

The Worth of Weakness

Hebrews 5:2 says of the high priest “he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness;” (NASB) Those words show clearly the worth of weakness. All are weak, but not all are willing to admit weakness. Our society looks down on weakness, and meekness is certainly not a trait we value. That is never more obvious than during an election year:)

We are all human beings, and the author of Hebrews is saying that is a good thing. Acknowledging weakness builds a bridge between us as we share the suffering sin inevitably brings. Jesus can relate to our suffering, and he is a compassionate Savior who can relate to our sin because He carried all our sins with Him to His cross.

Human beings are vulnerable and weak and always will be. In recognizing my own weaknesses, I am able to relate to the those in my path. At the heart of God’s truth, if I am willing to hear it, is the inescapable fact that I am a sinner. I must come to a place of knowing and understanding that to accept the forgiveness He offers and begin to walk in His kingdom.

God became human so he could relate to us, and that is at the root of Hebrews 5:2. Even more compelling is the description of Christ’s prayer in verses 7-10 “In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.  Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,  being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.” (NASB) When I think of Jesus crying out to God and learning obedience from His suffering, I am humbled and comforted as never before.  As I cry out, my tears are caught by hands that hear and sympathize as only those who have traveled the same path can. Christ never sinned, but He did take on mine and understands my heart in a way that makes me want to obey and experience the joy He has in mind for me. He knows exactly how it feels to want God to reach down and fix problems and take away pain, but He also knows that will only make things worse.

Fixing and enabling teaches dependence not obedience. It is human nature to want to fix weakness instead of allow it to takes its natural course and create the environment necessary to learn obedience. Nothing hurts more than seeing our children hurt, and God knows that better than any one. Nothing hurts our children more than making the path too easy and taking obstacles out of their way. It’s a most difficult lesson, and even Christ cried out for His Father to take away His cup. Obedience is not about control. In fact, it is about letting go of control. That letting go leads to joy, and that’s why God won’t take away our suffering. He knows it’s necessary in order for us to learn obedience and find the joy He has in mind for us.

While there is no end to the cycle of sin, suffering, and obedience as long as I am in this body, there is also no end to the joy that comes when I respond with an obedient, trusting heart. That is the abundance God promises when I understand the worth of weakness and humble myself in obedience to Him.  God’s Holy Spirit will help me when it comes to obeying, and that will lead to joy. Coming face to face with my imperfections is part of His perfect plan. It is what knowing God is all about:)