what has God done for you lately?

Category : God, Mother Teresa, Psalms, sin, trust

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Sometimes I am amazed, and a bit ashamed, how readily I turn away from God.  It seems that no matter how much God does for me, the minute a problem arises I start wondering why God has abandoned me.  I can’t help but ask, “what have you done for me lately?”

Sadly I am not alone in this.  Maybe I should be encouraged by that.  But I am not.  We all suffer from this same problem.  We all wonder of God, “what have you done for me lately?”  Even Mother Teresa had her moments of doubt and discouragement.  Although in many ways it seems her life proves her exceptionalism in her faith: she experienced an intense interaction with God early in her life – and then virtually nothing for decades.  My faith would have crumbled.  Her faith remained.

We’ve been this way for centuries.  Isn’t that the point of Adam & Eve?  Satan told them, “God is holding out on you.”  And they said, “yeah the garden is nice, and not worrying about zipping our pants is sweet, but what has God done for us lately.”  And so they ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

I wonder, what our lives would look like if we remembered his past actions?  What if we took those things seriously instead of tossing them aside?  How many miracles would we need before we believed?  One?  Zero?  Because if I really trusted God, and if I really put all my faith in him, I bet it wouldn’t take a miracle in my life to help me to believe.  How many miraculous healings do you need to see before you think, “wow, maybe there is something to this God character?”

But I don’t take him seriously.  Oh I say I do, and on the good days maybe I get close.  I guess that’s part of the struggle of our faith.  It’s this conflict that reminds me not to become too prideful.  Because when it comes to crunch time I find myself demanding, “what have you done for me lately?!”  I am no better than anyone else in that regard.

Which why I am grateful God is merciful.  As the Psalmist said:

Yet he was merciful;
he forgave their iniquities
and did not destroy them.
Time after time he restrained his anger
and did not stir up his full wrath.

He remembered that they were but flesh,
a passing breeze that does not return.

hope

Category : God, Mother Teresa, faith, hope

  

There are days when I really struggle with my faith.  Not because I lose my intellectual belief in God, but because I lose hope that he cares.  Of course this is a completely ridiculous thing to believe.  Even a cursory glance at the Bible shows just how much God has sacrificed so we would know him.  But some days, when things seem out of control, I can’t help but feel that way.

That’s usually when the questions start: “how can I believe God will act when our lives are so screwed up?”  “How can I trust when bad things happen?”  “How can I continue to hope in God when no matter how hard I work, something goes wrong?”

Its days like this that I come closest to giving up on God.

When I get right down to it, I think I’m really saying I’m losing hope that tomorrow will be better than today.  But that’s the wrong idea to have about God.  Certainly God wants us to be happy, and I’m sure he wants tomorrow to be better than today.  But when we speak of our lives “improving,” aren’t we mostly talking about our lives becoming easier?  Less dangerous?   More comfortable?  That’s not at all what God promises us in the Bible.  If anything the Bible teaches us that the closer we come to God, the more dangerous our lives become!

My problem is I begin to confuse God’s Hope with the world’s hope.  I begin to define hope in terms of prosperity and the “good life.”  But that’s not really the Hope God offers.  What God offers is a better, eternal future with Him.  And sometimes that means we must endure hardship right now. 

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really find that easy.  I’m not sure I have an answer for how to maintain hope when things are going wrong.  But I do know there are some things that help me.  First, I just look at God’s character.  Is he a God that would abandon us?  Is he a God that would turn his back on us when we need him?  The answer is clearly no.  Secondly, I remind myself that the purpose of our lives should be around knowing God, and following him.  If that’s the case, my focus shouldn’t be on making sure I always have the nicest things.

I admit, sometimes that doesn’t feel like enough.  Some days I just need to admit that I’m struggling with my faith, but focus on God anyway.  But that’s not always easy.  That’s the great thing about the Time Magazine story regarding Mother Teresa.  She demonstrated the kind of hope that God embodies – a Hope that lasts and trusts in the face of adversity.  A Hope that God is real, and he moves in this world, even when we can’t sense him.  To me, that’s one of the real messages of her life – that she Hoped even when she didn’t feel God.

what I’m reading: Her Agony (Time Magazine)

2

Category : God, Mother Teresa, faith, feeding my brain, love, trust

   

Most days I set out with some kind of intentionality behind what I read.  But occasionally I come across something by chance.  And that’s how it was for Her Agony

I had been eating lunch with a friend, when the topic of Mother Teresa came up.  (Up to that day I probably had a total of one other conversations regarding Mother Teresa.)  At any rate, my friend mentioned that Mother Teresa had gone most of her life without feeling the direct presence of God (outside of a very intense period at the beginning of her ministry).  I didn’t know a whole lot about Mother Teresa, so I found that both interesting and encouraging.  Ironically, within a week the  media “broke” the story of Mother Teresa’s intense feelings of isolation. And her “secret” letters. 

Naturally I was curious, but not curious enough to investigate outside of what I ‘heard’ on the news.  I was busy and didn’t think it would have any direct application to me.  It felt like just another attempt to tear down someone who had done good things.  But, as luck would have it, I came across a copy of Time at work.  Sometimes you choose the book, other times the book, er magazine, chooses you!   

While it was publicly known that Mother Teresa felt separated from God, a new book Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light outlines just how deep her sense of separation went.  My first reaction to this news was “isn’t that common knowledge?”  Followed by a bit of nervousness at the prospect of a great icon of Christianity leading a dual life. 

I admit to being skeptical about Time and it’s presentation of difficult religious conversations.  But the article does a good job of presenting both the Christian and the secular view of Mother Teresa’s plight. It really captures the depth of her struggles and suggests what those struggles mean to a Christian. Of course it also leaves open the possibility of secular (read: God doesn’t exist) interpretations.  But that’s okay, because I’m interested in the truth, not something simply to make me feel good.

The article itself is striking and conveys how deep her pain must have been.  But one part in particular stood out.  The book’s author said, “[Mother Teresa] was a very strong personality, and a strong personality needs stronger purification [to cure their pride].”  This is something I can identify with.  It’s also a theme you see repeatedly in the Bible.  Paul, one of the great evangelists of the early church, talked about his “thorn” and how God told him his Grace was sufficient.  Sometimes people who are working in the midst of great miracles need an extra helping of humility.  When you are surrounded by God, it is very easy to lose sight of who’s really doing all the heavy lifting in your life. 

Some will look at this book as proof that God does not exist.  But I have to disagree.  I believe God treats each of us according to our own needs, that he interacts with us in ways that match our personalities.  And I think for whatever reason Mother Teresa needed to go through this experience.  Sometimes walking with God does not take you down an idyllic path.

Despite that, I don’t know why Mother Teresa felt as if God were absent from her life.  Perhaps it was to keep her humble.  Perhaps it was her own doing.  Perhaps it was a little of both.  But what I do know is that she acted on her belief in God despite not feeling God’s presence.  And that should be a lesson to us.  When we feel this need to be perfect in our faith, (because otherwise we aren’t “good” Christians) we need to remember that Mother Teresa starkly contrasts this idea.  By learning she wasn’t perfect it makes our own struggles with our own faith seem more manageable.  If someone so remarkable as Mother Teresa struggled with her faith, then maybe my struggles aren’t so dark.

Upon reflecting on this article I have to wonder: wouldn’t it be just like God to use Mother Teresa’s personal suffering to reach, and teach, millions of people well after her death?  Wouldn’t it be just like God that her greatest struggle is what will give the greatest hope to millions of people.  Sounds like it to me…