Thursday, August 13, 2015

DOUBT. LAMENT. and learning to SURRENDER

If you are a follower of Jesus, know that it is ok to doubt.

I have walked with Jesus for almost 44 years. I would venture that 42 of those were very consistent. Honestly, it was hard to figure what I could and shouldn't do for a few years.

Less than two years after I began a relationship with Jesus, my mother died unexpectedly in the middle of the night. Not only was I devastated and shocked, I wondered if God cared. Looking back, I remember for about two weeks before she died that I had this real certain feeling, maybe it was assurance, that God was about to do something BIG in my life. Like bring the guy who was to be "the One".
His big thing appeared to be taking my mom. I was confused and hurt and doubtful. I look back in hindsight (oh if we could just do that while we are going through trials) and see that because my mother was no longer around, I learned very very early in my walk with Jesus, that HE was the only ONE who would always be around. I leaned into Him because I didn't know where else to go.

The next 40 or so years, I had plenty of times when I doubted Jesus. When my anger was the reason that my sons ran away; from me and from the LORD. When my teenage daughter developed anorexia and was hospitalized for 2 months. When another of my children was dishonest about a relationship that ending up causing them tremendous pain.

Doubting if Jesus was watching or even cared, came when my husband was laid off from a job he loved. And when mental illness was having its way in our family. When one family member became so depressed and despondent that they tried to end their life.
Yes, following Jesus has caused me quite a few doubts.

My brain knows that He says: "I will never leave you or forsake you.", but my heart questions if God even sees the anguish, the tears, the fears that have enveloped my life at times.

And yet, I know He loves me, I know He loves you. That's the cerebral part of me working. I have spent years in His Word. I believe it all to be true. I love the Bible because it comforts me when I need it. But sometimes I need proof; I want to see visibly that God cares. I don't always get what I want from God. I imagine that most of us feel that way at sometime and it is in those times, that the doubt comes.

This summer has been one of those times for me.
I have been confused. I have doubted. I have been so angry at God that I have yelled at Him numerous times.

"Don't you see we can't take this?"
"Why don't YOU do something?"
"How much more can she endure?"
"Don't you care?"

Almost 44 years of walking with Jesus and this has been one of the most difficult spiritual crises' I have experienced.
A dear friend sent me a paper on having Hope in Lament.
She too, is having a rough time of it.
I always knew that there were a number of Psalms that we called "psalms of Lament", and this summer I have truly experienced lament.

According to Dan Allender,
"To lament-that is to cry out to God with our doubts, our incriminations of him and others, to bring a complaint against Him-is the context of surrender. Surrender, the turning of our heart over to Him, asking for mercy and receiving His terms for restoration is- impossible without battle. To put it simply, it is inconceivable to surrender to God unless there is a prior declared war against Him."   
That pretty much summed up in a nutshell what has been going on in my life. Have I waged war with God? Partly yes and partly no.
I have had active hostility in my anger. I have been in conflict with Him. I have contested His ways.
Oh I have been angry; so angry that my tears spill all too frequently out of my eyes. 
I think I have surrendered to His will and then when things appear worse in this situation, I get mad all over again and my doubts are full blown.

The one advantage I have in walking with Jesus through all my adult years is that even though I don't "feel" it now, I know He cares. I have experienced His faithfulness. I have relished His Grace. I have known His forgiveness in sweet sweet ways. And I know that in the end, His way is always the best way.
It's just that now, I don't see it.
I am confused. I am hurt by what seems His lack of involvement. 
I know I am impatient, but I also know how very long (18 years) this struggle, this pain, this un-ending trial has gone on, and I just want to see some answers. I want to see His Hope again.

Yet through this hard time, I remember.
I remember through all the other very difficult times, I have known more of Jesus, I have been swept into intimacy with Him like never before. And so I wait. I wait for that to come.

In the meantime, I struggle. I doubt. I still get angry. I still confess my sin (over and over and over again).
And I know that God's love for me has not changed. He loves me as much this minute as He always has. I have not fallen from His graces. He is still here. And He isn't going anywhere.

So when your doubts come, please oh please, do not despair. Don't give up. Get mad, tell God you are confused and frightened and angry. He can take it.
And then breathe in and wait.
Soon you will know more of Him than you ever have.

With Job, I agree:
"Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him" (Job 13:15)

Where else could I possibly go?

Monday, August 10, 2015


Summer is officially over at Woodleaf. Our camping season ended Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, the last group of our campers and leaders left; and Sunday saw the goodbye of the third session Assignment Team and the Summer Staff and the WorkCrew.
I am so grateful for all who came to Woodleaf this summer and gave of their time, their service, all for the purpose of bringing high schoolers (and one 5 day session of Middle Schoolers) to the feet of Jesus.
EVERYTHING that is done at camp, from the program team entertaining our campers, the leaders who counsel their high school friends, the speaker who has the privilege of telling campers the greatest love story ever told, to the people who spend hours in the kitchen preparing the meals, those who keep you safe on the ropes course and tower, the lifeguards who watch you closely, the boys who empty the garbage, the gals who clean the toilets, the wranglers who keep you safe at the track and on the rides, the doctors and paramedics who are here to help you when you are sick or injured, to the crew that manages the sound system, the girls that served you delicious whirleys, or who helped you make a craft or sold you special merchandise at the store, along with the one who recorded your week to view again and again; EVERYTHING is done with the purpose of allowing our friends to hear the Good News of how much Jesus Christ loves them.
But there is a very special group of people who came for 13 weeks to help the property staff accomplish all that is needed to be done in order to have a fun and successful camping season.
This year we were privileged to have 17 young adults from all over the country serving here to make this place " the best week of your life" to thousands of high school kids.
This group is called Interns, as they are here to learn what it looks like to work and live on a Young Life Property. Every Young Life camp has interns that come and serve for the entire summer.
This year at Woodleaf, Our Interns (affectionately dubbed "Winterns" by themselves) was THE MOST EXCEPTIONAL group I have ever gotten to be involved with.         IMG_0339
The entire group had such incredible hearts to serve Jesus wholeheartedly.  They always had a smile on their face, they worked ridiculously long hours without complaining and loved each other so well.
It was not a summer without difficulties. They endured tragedy and sorrow and comforted and encouraged each other thru some really hard times. But they also had FUN. They thoroughly enjoyed each others company, they developed deep and lasting friendships and experienced community like never before. They lived in crammed and tight quarters, but they cooked for each other and served each other. There was MANY late night discussions (and you think we didn't know!) that were real, honest and vulnerable.
These Winterns worked tirelessly and they were playful too. They loved each other with abandon.
For eight different summers, I have had the immense privilege and opportunity to lead the amazing and talented interns. Each summer has been unique. Each group different but all here to serve Jesus. Each and every intern at each and every camp deserves our appreciation.
Thank you doesn't seem to be adequate, but the gratefulness I feel, is one that words can't fully express.
This will be my last time to be an Intern boss, and what a gift this group of 17 has been to me. Going out with the BEST.