For four years I was an Assemblies of God monk with the Brothers and Sisters of Charity. This is an excerpt from my yet-to-be-published book Taking Off My Comfortable Clothes. The chapter is called When God Alone Is Enough (Isolation). It was originally posted Nov. 6, 2008.
There were times at the community when I felt so alone I could hardly express it. I would often go to the chapel, find a dark corner to sit in, pull my hood over my head and mutter over and over, “It’s just You and me, Jesus. Just You and me.” I felt so very lonely, isolated, and separated from all that was familiar.
These were also times of questioning God–big, loud, bodacious, tear-filled questions that seemed to bounce off the ceiling of the chapel and slap me in the face. “Are You still with me? Did I miss Your will? Whose idea was this monk’s life, anyway? Does anybody care? Will I always feel so alone and without a friend? Do You hear me?” If you are interested, the answers to those questions were: yes, no, mine (I think), yes, sometimes, and always.
There will come a time in your life, if it hasn’t already, that you will sense all you have in the universe is God, and then you’ll wonder if even He is big enough to deliver you from your pain and the soul-wrenching questions no human being can answer. You may even begin to doubt God’s ability to give you answers, but in desperation you pray with Job, “Though he slay me, yet I will hope in him” (13:15).
Welcome to the new WWF, Wrestling With Faith. You may think you’re wrestling with God, and you are, but you are also wrestling with everything you’ve held dear, substantial and true over the course of your Christian walk. Your faith is in a crisis, because for years you’ve expected the Christian life to be different from the one you are experiencing.
You came to Jesus expecting all your worries would be over, that joy would fill your life and the Church would be a place of love, laughter and unconditional acceptance. But it isn’t. It is filled with people who are struggling, sick, selfish, transitory, naïve, hypocritical, angry and judgmental. Then you spend some time with God and realize that is a fair summation of your own life. You’ve met the enemy and he is within your own heart. And that is not a bad thing, because now you know where that battle will take place.
Do I have the answers to all your burning questions? No, not really. I’m writing this to tell you that you are not alone. For those of you who will want to write me and tell me that if I just had more faith I wouldn’t be asking these questions, I will respond it is because I have this much faith that I feel comfortable asking these questions. A college professor of mine said, “If you have never seriously doubted you have never seriously believed.” God is big enough to take my emotional outbursts in stride. I am so comfortable and assured of His complete and unconditional love for James Daniel Thornber that I will not hide from Him everything that I am. I’ve read Psalm 139 and I know that He already knows. I only hurt myself when think I can withhold from God even my smallest thoughts. He already knows I’m thinking them, and He already knows the thoughts I will have tomorrow, even when I don’t know them today. I’m giving you permission to speak to God from the miry pits of your heart’s deepest anxieties and questions. As of this writing, God has not struck me dead yet, and I don’t think He’ll annihilate you for asking the same questions.
Cool piece. One of the things I have enjoyed most about the forum and now the blogging world, is seeing and meeting people who have a passion for God. I am inspired by many of the thoughts they share.
The excerpt from your book sounds like it would be a good read. I have just finished my first called ‘Finding God In The Storms of Life’. I feel as if I wrote ten books to end up with the one. I’m sure you can relate.
Anyway, I enjoyed your post and good luck with the book and your future writing.
All for now,
I just discovered your blog tonight, and after a quick look around I just want to say thank you.
I look forward to reading more, but the problem is that you remind me that what little free time I use to read blogs is actually better spent praying!
Yes, that is always the tug and pull of the Christian. How to balance study, prayer, service, jobs, etc. The Shakers had a saying, “Hands to work, hearts to God.” Maybe this is how Paul was able to pray without ceasing!
Thanks for the comment. I’ll keep you informed on the publishing. It is so very hard to break into publishing at this moment, but I’m exploring a number of options.
Ah, yes… we do such a disservice when we lead people to believe that if they will give their lives to Jesus, all their troubles will be over. In reality, they will be attacked by the enemy more than ever before as Satan tries to render them ineffective for kingdom work and make them question their calling and even their salvation. I love that the Lord INTENDED for us to have questions. He knows that we have to work the thing out for ourselves.
Oswald Chambers wrote: “Faith must be tested, because it can only become your intimate possession through conflict.” I love that.
Great post, Jim!
excellent string … Bless you (all) for your openness xxx