Monday, August 1, 2011

Beauty From the Ashes....

It seems that death is an inescapable part of life. I hate that it is.

My friend, J, lost her husband to cancer last year.
My friend, K, lost her boyfriend when he was killed in a riptide- today is the 10 year anniversary of that.
My friend, J, lost her dear friend when she was murdered by her husband in front of her two children a few months ago.
A young teacher my age, whom I enjoyed teaching with, died suddenly in her sleep last year.
A student I taught and was very fond of died in a car accident while traveling between home and college.
9-11, Katrina, Haiti's earthquake, Japan's tsunami. New Zealand's earthquake. TRAGEDY.

This blog post is in NO WAY a comment directed to any of those above-mentioned friends. It is simply the words that have been resounding in my heart through each one of these events. And a blog is supposed to be about what is on your mind/heart/calendar, right? And so these are mine.

It seems death is usually accompanied by "why?" Sometimes it's rhetorical, other times is angry and accusing. Usually directed to God. And why wouldn't it be? He's God.

And as my friends have gone through these losses in their lives, I have prayed my heart out. But praying isn't like rubbing a lamp. God isn't a genie, here to grant my three wishes. Sometimes I feel like my prayers have been answered with "no." And that sucks! Why, God, didn't you save their loved one? Dear God, please stop that plane from hitting the second tower... But I'm glad I have a God I can't manipulate. What kind of a God would He be if I could?

Believing in Him doesn't mean I understand Him or His ways. But saying "God, why??" means that we recognize that God is big and strong enough to have done something to stop it. And if He's big enough to do that, He's more powerful than we humans are. Isn't that something you want from your God? I sure don't want to worship a human...we're pretty unreliable and weak. I don't want a God like me. I want a God who is stronger than I am. I want a God who created the earth by speaking it into being. And the reality is that if we believe God to be big enough to do those things (stop someone from dying, prevent world tragedies, etc), isn't it possible that He is a God also big enough to work in ways we don't understand? Isn't it likely that He sees/knows things we don't? A God like that does things that don't always seem right to us- sometimes it can seem downright WRONG in the small picture that we understand the world to be. But He doesn't answer to us. I'm glad I have a God who does His will- promising that it's good and perfect, though not pain free- even when I don't feel like it was the best way. Who am I to think I would have done it better?

I have been told before that people who believe in [a] god are just weak and are using that god as a crutch because they can't handle life on their own. I disagree. I have a living, breathing relationship with God that has experienced Him- I know what it is like to stand in His presence. I know what His Voice sounds like. I know what it feels like to be personally and lovingly disciplined by Him. So I won't be convinced that He's not real. And while I will admit that "I can't handle life on my own," it's not in the way that they meant. It's more like asking, "Why would I choose to struggle through this life alone when I don't have to? Why would I choose to walk through quicksand while wearing a 100lb pack when I have Someone bigger and stronger next to me who will carry the burden and will hold my hand while giving me help to get out of the muck?" That doesn't seem weak to me. It seems smart. I'm glad I have a God who doesn't promise that life will be easy, but who guarantees that I don't have to carry the load or walk alone. Who am I to deserve that?

And I think questioning God and crying out in pain is perfectly okay! David is one of my favorite guys from the Bible and as I work through the Psalms each night before bed, I'm struck by the honesty with which he talked to God. What stands out, however, is that as soon as he finishes saying "God why are you ignoring me?!?!? Pay attention to me! I have been yelling out for help for so long that my voice is dry and cracking and I am about to lose it!!!" he finishes with- "But you are God and I trust You to do Your thing. I will worship you in spite of it all." That's the key. We can bring our raw emotions to God- let's face it, "hiding them" by not saying it doesn't hide diddly squat from God- but remember to put Him in His place and remind yourself of yours when you're done, lest you start thinking of yourself as greater than Him. What kind of god are they if they are weaker than you??

Job watched his entire family die, his body was being destroyed and in constant pain, he lost his business and his house. Even his "friends" stood there trying to figure out what he had done to deserve it. And finally Job had enough. So he questioned God...and I get goosebumps every time I read the four chapters (Job 39-42) with God's response. Here is the gist:

Job 40:1 Then the LORD said to Job, 2 "Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God's critic, but do you have the answers?" 3 Then Job replied to the LORD, 4 "I am nothing -- how could I ever find the answers? I will put my hand over my mouth in silence. 5 I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say." 6 Then the LORD answered Job from the whirlwind: 7 "Brace yourself, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. 8 Are you going to discredit my justice and condemn me so you can say you are right? 9 Are you as strong as God, and can you thunder with a voice like his? 10 All right then, put on your robes of state, your majesty and splendor. 11 Give vent to your anger. Let it overflow against the proud. 12 Humiliate the proud with a glance; walk on the wicked where they stand. 13 Bury them in the dust. Imprison them in the world of the dead. 14 Then even I would praise you, for your own strength would save you.

Boo-yah, Job. And boo-yah Lauren, when you question God with a mouth that is bigger than your rightful size.

Job 42 wraps up that section:

1 Then Job replied to the LORD: 2 "I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. 3 You ask, 'Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?' It is I. And I was talking about things I did not understand, things far too wonderful for me. 4 "You said, 'Listen and I will speak! I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.' 5 "I had heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. 6 I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance."

So basically, these are the thoughts/scriptures that have been running through my heart, especially the past few months. This isn't a sermon, nor is it words to make the pain easier. I actually hate when people throw scripture and "profound life statements" to those who are experiencing great pain and loss because I don't think that's the time it's received. Those things don't mean much until the pain is over and it's time for the rebuilding.

But what I know of my Jehovah God is this- His will is good and perfect. (Romans 12:2) He doesn't often do things the way we would do them. (Isaiah 55:8-9) And He brings new mercies every morning. (Lamentations 3:23) He brings beauty from the ashes. I will pray over and over again for this.


  1. Beautifully written and thought provoking. You are very gifted with your words. This post makes me think of the song "Blessings" by Laura Story. A way to look at life that we don't always consider.

  2. Jessica,
    I had never heard of that song so I looked it up and the lyrics are beautiful. They remind me of the song "Gratitude" by Nicole Nordeman. :) Thanks for your comment.