The Crosses We Bear Are Good For Many Things

Someone left a comment on a post I wrote a few weeks ago, Letters to God. Here it is:
Why is life so full of disappointment, pain and suffering?
Why must I bear this cross?
What possible good can come from this?
You feel so far away.

Are you there, God?

I’ve been waiting a long time to say this. So, bear with me. Here goes.
Once upon a time, the future I thought I was going to have was lost forever. It was a very long time ago, but of course, if I try hard and think back, it was just like yesterday.

Some days, harder than others

If I am honest, the difficult days stretched into months and the months into years. But, some days were harder than others, and during the first of many difficult hours, I asked a friend to call our pastor and see if he would come and pray with me. I don’t know why I thought I needed his prayers more than the prayers of others, but I did. It didn’t matter. He never came and he never called. This was not good, but this is how it went. He didn’t really know me, and I didn’t really know him. It changed how I viewed the church and it changed the church in me as I became more responsive to the unlikely suspects standing in front of me at any given time.
My crisis quickly went from bad to worse. One night, I found myself in a bad situation, carried there by trickery and left there by betrayal. Once again, I reached out to a pastor – a different one – but it was near close of business and he told me he was going home for the day. I didn’t know him either. He was just one of several pastors at that church and I was just a face in a sea of a thousand faces. 
I went through some awful things while I was in this bad spot, but not as bad as what would have happened to me had I not found my way out when I did. I would have called my mother, but she is nearly deaf, and given the situation I was in, I couldn’t scream into the phone and I couldn’t repeat myself 15 times. So, I did the only thing I knew to do. I asked God to talk to my mother for me. Miraculously, He did.

Supernatural God

My mother showed up in an uncharacteristic way and interrupted things. Although I was a young woman at the time with no memory of being an infant, I suddenly remembered what it was like to be her baby. I was not the kind of daughter who ever needed rescuing. I never got into trouble. I had neither a colorful past nor the kind of present that keeps a mother on edge. So, the fact she showed up at all is a testimony to the supernatural working of God that is available to us all. I really hope you’ll read that part again, because it was, in fact, my miracle.
The months that followed were very hard. Bad stuff led up to those hard times, and some brokenness followed. But, it’s really good to be broken sometimes. I wouldn’t change it. The person I was before all this happened is different than the person I am now. I like the person I am now. I would not trade her for that young girl. At the same time, I still miss that girl sometimes.

The Hardest Part: Remembering the Wonderful

When I was little, I remembered hearing people talk about falling prostrate on the floor before God. I figured it couldn’t hurt, so this is how I prayed every night for several years – with my nose buried in the carpet. (Very uncomfortable, I might add.) I also went through long confessions of everything I’d ever done wrong from the time my memory began. And, the hardest thing of all, every night as I lay in my bed, I forced myself to remember everything wonderful about what I had lost and I thanked God for it all. The movement, the laughter, the time. It darn near killed me, people, but it worked. I healed.
During these years, two, for sure, I had some amazing conversations with God. These conversations took three forms: 1) Listening 2) Reading the Bible 3) Praying.

Betrayed by a Kiss

It was during one of these conversations that I fully grasped for the first time how devastating it was for Jesus to have Judas identify him to the mob, not with a pointed finger, but with a gentle kiss. I instantly felt like I was in a club with this Jesus – the same Jesus I’d heard about my whole life – the Jesus in the flannel board stories; the Jesus in the hymnal; the Jesus on the cross. This Jesus I believed. This Jesus I would follow. I was certain He loved me.
Prior to Judas kissing Jesus, Jesus was praying, and in the modern vernacular, he was freaking out. He could hear the crowd coming and he was sweating blood. He was running back and forth to his disciples and they were so thoughtless, instead of praying with him like he begged them to do, they just kept falling asleep. Pardon the example, but it was like they’d eaten too much turkey on Thanksgiving and had the tryptophan-induced stupor to prove it.

Where is God When It Hurts?

The thing is we live in a fallen world. I’ve read all those books like Yancey’s Where Is God When It Hurts and Kushner’s When Bad Things Happen To Good People. They’re great — while I’m reading them. I’m like, yes, yes, yes, when they answer those difficult questions. But, soon I forget the answers, and not even the poetry of God being in the elevator or the stairwell on 9-11 can make me feel better.
But, this is what I do know for sure. Disappointment, pain and suffering are gifts that can make us better people — whether those awful things are visited upon us by our own hand or someone else’s. They make us show up without hesitation when people call and ask us to pray for them. We believe God has not only ordered our steps, but their steps as well, and so we go and never count the cost.

What You Would Never Do

To this person who left the comment, I know that you would never, ever not show up if someone called and asked you to pray with him. Never. So, maybe herein are the answers to your questions; the greater the trials, the greater the faith.
Why must you bear this cross? Like the cross of Christ, it can bridge the gap between you and God. He has placed limits on himself. This is simply the world in which we live, and, yet, our creative God figures out a way to use them for our good. This gives our sufferings and disappointments great purpose.
The crosses we bear are good for many things. In them, we find our miracles. What possible good can come from pain or disappointment? People see us in the pit also see us rise up, and when they do, they will be so amazed. They, too, will put their trust in God (Psalm 40). They will find great purpose, too, as they rocket along on the beautiful blue planet.

Why Bother Praying?

Are you there, God? It is a question we must ask ourselves every day, for “He has cast His eyes to and fro about the whole earth looking for those whose hearts are turned toward Him so He can support them.” (2 Chronicles 16:9) Are you there, God? It is not a question we ask because we doubt that He is there. It is a question we ask as an invitation. What we are saying is, “I am turned toward you God. Please notice me, and cast your eyes upon me because I need you so.”
And, He will, every single time.

 

25 Responses to “The Crosses We Bear Are Good For Many Things”

  1. jennifer

    @REIDAR – A fanatical Christian would never post your comment without giving you the *what-for* Tell me about the real world you live in, Reidar. I really want to know…a world with just loneliness or a world with loneliness *and* a Creator who knows you are dreadfully alone. Thanks for commenting. I sincerely mean it.

    Reply
  2. Reidar

    You are the very definition of a crazy fantatical christian Jen. Hopefully one day you will learn that this is not the real world the rest of us live in.

    Reply
  3. jennifer

    @JEFF – You are not responding to my post, but rather offering a blanket response to Christianity based on assumptions YOU have about MY beliefs that aren’t accurate. Among the people responding to this post is one practicing Judaism; one who is agnostic and Christians. I remain open, daily to the love and understanding of my Creator. I choose to follow the teachings Christ. I fail at this miserably more than I like to admit. I do not have all the answers, but I remain open to God, whose love rescued me from a low hell. Thank you for your comment, though, because it is only through dialogue that we can understand each other. I’m sorry for all the Christians who have ever offended you. They have offended me many times, too, particularly for my liberal political views. I think my faith informs these views, but many Christians think I’m off track. I hope you’ll visit my site more often. I don’t write about religion much these days, but maybe I should.

    Reply
  4. Debra W

    Jen,

    I feel that way too. And although I somehow wish that it was possible to make those more spiritual connections, in person, I am grateful that we can use the internet to find those souls who we would have no other way of connecting with. Somehow I feel, that you and I will be able to someday share a smile and a hug in person, but until that time, it brings me so much comfort to know that you are there.(albeit, half a country away!)

    Like you, I am surprised by that idea that we are both interested in hospital chaplaincy or counseling! There are not many who would be interested or willing to plunk themselves down into that situation, but I am not surprised that you have an interest in doing so. You have that kind of spirit…that kind of essence.

    Thank you for your very kind words, dear heart. I always feel better after reading your comments, too. You make my heart happy.

    Hugs,
    Debra

    Reply
  5. jenX

    @DEBRA – One of the things I love about blogging is it allows us to find people we are most compatible with, especially spiritually. Unfortunately, the Blogosphere is enormous, which means that sometimes, our most authentic connections develop with people who live half a nation or an ocean away. I would have given anything to have your prayers that day, and I know I would have – even if I’d only been able to blog about needing them.

    And I agree with what you said – those people should not have been pastoring, and thankfully neither one are now. They were hirelings.

    I still can’t believe we both have thoughts about hospital chaplaincy/work. I have no doubt that our understandings about prayer and peoples’ need for love and understanding from a “quieter soul” play a part.

    Thank you so much for leaving this note. The love just pours out of you! I always feel better after reading your comments. – jen

    Reply
  6. Debra W

    Jen,

    I just read this and for me, it was so raw, so opened-up. I have prayed with so many, many people. This is not a very “Jewish” thing to do, and it struck so many of the people that I was lucky enough to share those moments with, as unusual. There have been so many moments in life when I have wished for someone to just take over the reins, so to speak, and contact The Big Man(and I don’t mean Clarence:)) for me. I always envied the more Christian way of praying with someone and therefore, created my own way of doing that at the hospital I volunteered at. To my surprise and wonder, SO MANY people have an inherent need for that kind of love. That kind of blanketing.

    I wish that I could have somehow been there during those crisis points in your life. And although I am not an ordained anything, I would have done anything I could have to pray on your behalf. I hope that those pastors are no longer pastors. To leave someone who has called upon you, to leave that person broken open, is something that they should be ashamed of. Truly. It is a calling to be there for one another, which is why so many clergy-types tend to fall from grace. They are not in it for the right reasons.

    Please excuse my somewhat fragmented thoughts. This post gave me so much to think about and the thoughts just keep coming. It sometimes takes a much quieter soul than someone who becomes a pastor or a rabbi or a priest, to be there during the “off hours”. I know that you understand that now, but I am sad for the person you were, the one who needed the prayers and came up empty-hearted. I am so glad that your mother somehow sensed that you needed her and that she showed up. That is what I mean by “quieter soul”.

    Be well, dear heart. Have a happy weekend!

    Love,
    Debbie

    Reply
  7. Jared | SpiritualZen.net

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    From the The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, “It is not objective proof of God’s existence that we want but the experience of God’s presence.”

    I too went through a life changing experience several years ago.

    My mother did not come to save me, she simply prayed. Not matter how much she loved me, she could not save me. As I believe the gift of Love from a mother is like God, true Love is allowing one to live their own life. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for a mother to watch their child slowly kill themselves. Or God to witness the horrors of humanity. Yet true Love is allowing us to live.

    I believe it was a prayer of my mothers and something she had told me since I was a child, “The Greatest Gift a Child Can Give is That Their Parents They Outlive,” that saved my life.

    I experience God’s presence everyday. I know God is there. I do not understand God, nor do I need to. However, I do know God.

    Reply
  8. Poetikat

    Jen, If you ever want to talk (like really talk – on the phone) all you need do is drop me a line.

    Kat

    Reply
  9. jen

    @KAT – The struggle must be going around. I have so many struggles with Church. Maybe someday, I’ll get it all figured out. I’m grateful for our communication. And, yes, today, Father’s Day – is a very hard day. I’ve been so down about my dad. I did not go to church b/c I didn’t feel well, and I’m sure it has a lot to do with him being so sick and that I have to see him in this state. I hate it…I look forward to reading your poem. Thank you for thinking of me.

    Reply
  10. Poetikat

    I’m struggling these days – not with belief, but with being present for God at church. Thank you for such an honest, warm and forgiving post. You are so good – truly one of God’s finest instruments, Jen.

    Kat

    Reply
  11. jen

    @LE – I would have let you, and I know you would have. Thank you! I’ve missed you!! How did the job adventure go?????

    Reply
  12. le @ thirdontheright

    hello dear one – and I would have bought chocolate and a 100 hugs and held you tight and sobbed with you and stroked your hair while you prayed to your man up there – while God is the one for you – empathy can take us along for the ride when another needs us by their side – le xoxo

    Reply
  13. jen

    @Oklahoma Girl – Love the refiner’s fire metaphor!

    @Kristin – Yes, I believe that, too. Chuck’s project turned out to be short-lived, but look at the purpose it had for me. I am so glad to have connected with you through it.

    Reply
  14. Kristin T. (@kt_writes)

    Wow, Jen. Beautiful. Your miracle–the story of your mother showing up when you needed her most–is very powerful. We need to tell those stories again and again.

    We also need to tell our stories of pain, because the miracles and redemption come out of that pain. As you know, I’ve had my share of all of those things.

    I’m still amazed, as I learn more and more about you, how much we share. And I am certain the same God that sent your mom to you that day, sent you to my blog and me to yours.

    Reply
  15. Oklahoma Girl

    Beautiful post!! This was truly moving, thank you for sharing.

    I believe there is a Purpose in everything we experience. In those dark moments we learn so much – about ourselves & others. It is always amazing to me when pastors behave in this manner. Then I have to stop & remember – People will disappoint us, but God never will.

    Just as gold is refined by fire so are we refined by the struggles we encounter. At the end of the darkest night, there is always light.

    blessed be…

    Reply
  16. jen

    @NAOMI – SO well state. They use to blow the Ram’s horn at a Baptist church I attended. this comment is post-worthy!

    Reply
  17. Naomi Munn

    This is weird, but this post reminds me of a little French song I sing to my children called, Frere Jacques (Brother John) — Are you sleeping, are you sleeping, Brother Johh, Brother John?

    It’s not what it seems — it’s not about waking up, but WAKING UP — coming alive to God’s presence in the world. In so many ways, so many of us are still asleep.

    Sometimes, the alarm bell to wake us from our stupor of thinking every bad or good thing that happens to us is ABOUT US — is very, very loud indeed. It might be called tragedy, but it’s really a shofar (ram’s horn) that calls you up out of your slumber.

    The shofar is saying wake up! Remember who you are, who we all are — we are God’s children. He never, ever leaves us.

    *hugs*

    Reply
  18. Randy Watson

    These were good thoughts expressed well. thanks for posting them

    Reply
  19. jen

    @LORRIE – It certainly went far in inviting no judgement from me when somebody tells me they don’t go to church. I try to be better for those faces in the crowded sea that seem uncomfortable – uncertain – alone. Thank you…..

    Reply
  20. jen

    ROB – Thank you for your continued support. I wouldn’t write without it.

    @TERRITORY MOM – You know, even still, all these years later, these words mean quite a lot.

    @REBECCA – That is so beautiful. And it is so very true.

    Reply
  21. Rebecca

    Just yesterday, in the midst of deep, human sorrow…I asked God this question:

    “Are you there God? I can’t feel your heart and I’m afraid!”

    His response to me was this:

    “Don’t be afraid my child for I am with you! In the times when you don’t feel My heart remember that what matters is that I know yours…”.

    I needed this today…

    Yer Sis, B

    Reply
  22. Anonymous

    Jen, you are right about the question “are you there”, we know God is. It’s just like when we pick up the phone and don’t hear some one on the other side. We say hello, are you there. Rob

    Reply

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