Tuesday, August 04, 2009

When love doesn't feel like enough

I had the great privilege this week of ministering to a good friend and colleague at work. It is always an honor and a burden when someone brings their questions about God and faith to you, but I was blessed to be asked for my perspective and prayer.

J is one of my best friends at work. We've had great discussions across the aisle and over lunch about God, life, and the insanity of the stock market. While I can't say I know the finer points of her theology, I know that she loves God and loves people, and seeks peace and righteousness. She is usually the eternal optimist and has the best attitude of anyone at work.

So it broke my heart to see her optimism fading and her faith weakened. While I was on vacation there was a brutal rape and murder in south Seattle. This horrific crime rocked her to her core, she said, not because she knew the victims but because she was just struck by the senselessness of it all. She asked the questions we all ask in these situations: how could God let such a thing happen? Where is His love and justice? How can we go on living our normal lives when these things can occur?

She told me that she spent a lot of time in prayer and just felt empty silence. She asked if I had an answer, something that makes sense of it all, that would stop the endless questions in her mind.

What do you say to that? There are no pat answers, no truisms, no oft-quoted verse about all things working together for good that will satisfy a heart aching and broken in response to brutality. Scripture, while powerful and good, can fall flat on the ears of one whose heart has lost faith in the goodness of God's creation.

I prayed as she shared with me, that I would speak with the words from the Spirit, that He would minister to her through me. I thought about the times when I was hopeless, the darkest moments of my depression years ago, when the only thing I could cling to was God.

And there in that moment I knew that the only answer that I had, the only answer any of us has, if the overwhelming love of God. I told her that I didn't have an easy solution, that no one in the world will. I told her about this week's sermon, which was about prayer that is unanswered and the sufficiency of God's grace, about how we must not only rest in His sovereignty, the fact that He is in control, but also that His grace, His love, is enough to sustain us and make all things new. I told her about when my mom died and the struggles that my dad went through. I told her to watch the video of John Mark McMillan sharing his song 'How He Loves Us', because in the end, the fact that God loves us is enough. Even when the world makes no sense, and bad things happen to good people, His love is enough. I told her to read The Shack for a perspective on God in the face of extreme grief. I prayed with her, there in the cafeteria, for peace and love to comfort her, that her heart would remain soft but that she would be rooted in Him.

I'm still a little overwhelmed by the conversation and the opportunity to speak into someone's life when they needed a word from God, to be able to share truth that I have been comforted by in the past. And it's just like God that the sermon this past Sunday was related, and I have been listening to 'How He Loves Us' all week long and thinking about how sufficient that love is, how all the blessings in this life-salvation, family, community, life and health, even just that we live here and now-they are all superfluous to the amazing blessing of His love.

It was a night many years ago, as I was praying through my depression and hopelessness, that I first came to that realization that God's love was sufficient. That even if nothing ever went right ever again, that even if I was alone and lonely in this world, that even if there was nothing on the other side of this life, that His love was enough. That the truth that He loved me was more than enough. And I knew it in the depths of my heart and soul, knew that indeed, nothing can separate us from the love of God. And in that moment, the Spirit of God spoke to my spirit, and I was able to let go of my questions, my pain and anger and sorrow that I had been holding onto because of my circumstances. I knew peace.

It's hard to live in that peace, in that place of acceptance and reliance on God's love. Sometimes love doesn't feel like enough, and all you want is answers, something concrete and rational to hold onto. We can acknowledge that our God is a mysterious God, and His ways are not our ways, and our vision is limited and cloudy, but knowing this doesn't take away our pain. So when things don't make sense, holding on to the truth that He loves us, that He loves those who are victims, that He even in His greatness loves those who are perpetrators, and that He desires justice and reconciliation-this is all we have. When all else fails, we can only seek the Spirit of God, and rest in His love. And somehow, it is sufficient.

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