A Grief Observed, fairness, faithfulness, forgotten, getting the run-around, given the run-around, Joseph, Karate Kid, Lamentations 3, Mt Rainer, Proverbs 3:5-6, Psalm 26, roused, Run-around, training, trickery, trusting God
“The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” ~ Genesis 39:23
“Why you wanna give me a run-around?”… ~ Blues Traveler,“Run-Around”
“O’ God, my God, why did you take such trouble to force this creature out of its shell if it is now doomed to crawl back—to be sucked back—into it?” ~ C.S. Lewis,“A Grief Observed”
Have you ever wondered, felt like, or even been peeved at God, as if he were possibly giving you the run-around in your life? Like God has just led you on but never really fully planned to follow through for you. Part of me feels like I shouldn’t ask this question. It feels wrong, like I should be suddenly struck by lightning or something. Does God do this though?
For the record, I don’t believe God actually does this, however, when due to certain events of your life it seems as if you just can’t win and things aren’t happening as they “should”, how can you almost not ask such questions? I have felt this way on occasion over the past 2 and a half months or so. You wonder, what is God doing? Why have things turned out this way? How could things have gone as they have? Sometimes I’ve had the feeling or wonder of being somewhat used and abused even. Did God just lead me on? Have I been played? Well, touché, touché… Again, should I be admitting this?…
I wonder if Joseph ever felt this way. There’s really no record of it throughout his story in Genesis, but you almost have to wonder. Joseph is acclaimed as being faithful and trusting God no matter his trials. God is said to be with him throughout them as well (Genesis 39:2). After being stripped naked and thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, played off as dead, wrongfully thrown into jail for sexual harassment, and forgotten, should we doubt that he had any such wonderings or feelings? Could he still be known for the same if it’s true? Am I any different because I ask such questions or have these feelings/struggles?
Such have been some of my thoughts or late, and certain circumstances can heighten them dramatically. Like last week when I started a factory job early Monday morning. This job seemed to fit my circumstances and needs perfectly. I only need a job for about a month before I start a Clinical Pastoral Education experience after Memorial Day, and this job close too in driving distance with decent pay too. However, half way through Monday everything was full of confusion. It turns out they weren’t really expecting me, the job I was supposed to be doing they weren’t ready for yet, and they didn’t know if they actually had anything for me at all. I went home after my shift not sure if I had any such job anymore, or if I could find any substitute position anywhere for the weeks remaining. I found myself having episodes of frustration that day where I thought, “God has been making things fall into place so nicely for us as we’ve moved and trusted him in our circumstances, and now this… Figures!” I managed to control my frustrations okay thankfully, and by Wednesday morning they called me, asking if I would return the next morning for a slightly different and necessary job. I’ve had work ever since.
While reading “A Grief Observed” a few weeks ago there was a part where C.S. Lewis basically laments having fallen in love with his then late wife at all. Why did God care to rouse him so late in life, only to lose her so quickly and be left so disheartened? Wouldn’t he have been better off to never develop such love, devotion, and joy for something not meant to last? His hurt made him feel this way at the time. For myself, I felt revived and roused going into my second church as pastor after my first grueling experience, and then to have it end the way it has sucked the air right out of me. Was that really necessary?! I now find myself easily relating to the psalmist in Psalm 73, and others.
A number of weeks ago now I was reading Psalm 26 and I had sort of an epiphany of understanding. I’ve had trouble reading such psalms, and others like it in the past (follow this link to read it for yourself). I cannot claim to lead a blameless life like David does here (I can’t imagine he really could either), and I also have trouble speaking of other people as he does, regardless if I had bloodthirsty and wicked enemies (maybe I’d feel differently if I had people vying and running for my life so much like him).
Suddenly this psalm made more sense a few weeks ago though. David desires fairness from God. “When will things finally go my way? When will it be my turn? I am tired of being on the run… Me, my complaint is more like this—“I am tired of other people seeming to find life and meaning and blessing, and me, I get a lot of disappointment and grief”… You feel like life and God are somewhat against you and you don’t understand why. “Have I not been faithful? Have I not trusted and followed (stepped out in faith)?”
This reminds me of almost 10 years ago when I attempted to climb Mt Rainer in Washington State as part of a group from the church I attended. I trained hard for a good 6-8 months and when it came time to summit, at 12,300 ft. I was utterly exhausted. There was only 2,000 more feet to go, but mountain sickness walloped me. I couldn’t control it; it didn’t matter how hard I had trained, my body wasn’t made to endure it well enough. Others in the group that didn’t train nearly as hard as I did made it to the top, while I laid on the ground in the cold, gasping and exhausted and had to turn around. That stung… The mountain air conquered me… It wasn’t fair!… A couple years ago near Halloween I gave a message entitled “Trick or Training” where I compared how God trains us to how Daniel in the movie “The Karate Kid” was trained by Mr. Miyagi (watch clip here). When God is involved in our training there’s no trickery on his part at all. We’ll be surprised at just how well we are masterfully prepared for his will in our lives.
Late last week, at a moment when I was a bit distraught by things and I desperately wanted a pick me up from God, I was reminded of the passage of Scripture from Lamentations 3:18-33. I was encouraged by this a little, but I also wanted something more. I looked down at a book I’ve been reading called “Let Hope In” by Pete Wilson, and knowing the next chapter was about “The Healer”, what can that say about Lamentations 3? Low and behold though, as I sat down to read and reached the very end of the chapter, there was Lamentations 3:21-23 mentioned in a story to conclude the chapter. Once again God showed himself to be with me and know exactly what I was thinking. It was no surprise to him. He had planned that exact, small, and intricate moment long ago and came through impeccably.
How can I question his work or any events in my life? Truthfully, I really can’t, however, I am sure I still will into the future (it’s human nature). God does not give or perform run-arounds in peoples’ lives. Rather he patiently with masterful craftsmanship takes the crooked paths of our lives and proves them to be entirely straight with impeccable precision.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all of your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” ~ Proverbs 3:5-6