In my previous post I related some of the feelings and frustrations related to not having achieved any version of “success” in my life. In this post I will continue that discussion into how my faith has been affected by those failures.
I think the largest and most significant emotion that I have felt during the past 2 years has been betrayal. Some of this betrayal has come from others, but their betrayal doesn’t really bother me a whole lot anymore. What bothers me a whole lot more is feeling betrayed by God. I can handle people betraying me. It doesn’t feel good, but I can handle it. But what do you do when it seems like God has betrayed you? What do you do when you believe in an all-sovereign God who loves you and wants the best for you, but in reality your life feels like nothing more than a series of crushed hopes and dreams?
I don’t believe that anything that happened to me during seminary was beyond God’s ability to prevent or redeem. From my health issues to the actions of others to whatever. All of it was within His power to prevent. And if He wasn’t willing to prevent it I believe it was within His power to redeem and use for good. Well it has been 1 year since I graduated and 2 years since everything started crashing and burning for me and I’m still waiting for this entire mess to be redeemed. I’m still waiting for the smallest semblance of “success.” Still waiting to not feel ashamed about my lack of accomplishment in my life. To not feel ashamed about being 33 (almost 34) and living with my parents. To not be in an area that feels suffocating to me and seems to hold no future (like seriously, I do not like SWFL). To not feel like I wasted 6 good years of my life and a hefty chunk of change on an endeavor that so far has turned out to be mostly a waste of both time and money.
So why go on believing? Why not just curse God and die? Well, because everything I’ve described so far are just feelings and I do not believe that feelings determine reality. Just because you feel like God has abandoned you doesn’t mean that He has. One of the more useful experiences I had in seminary was being chronically exhausted. I was able to experience just how much different reality felt when I was I exhausted compared to when I was well rested. I learned and experience just how fickle feelings are and how quickly they can change from one moment to the next.
God is not a feeling for me. God is a reality for me. Just because I feel like God has abandoned me doesn’t mean that He has. Reality is independent of our feelings. Furthermore, Jesus Himself, literally God incarnate, also felt the same way:
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”Matthew 27.46 (quoting Psalm 22.1; also cited in Mark 15.34)
For me it is a comfort to read these words. To know that Jesus felt abandoned by God, and that I as a follower of Christ feel the same way tells me that I am doing something right. It tells me that what I need to do is endure and persevere. If God can redeem someone from death then He is certainly capable of redeeming my situation also. But waiting for that redemption is hard. Very hard.