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Faith, prayer, and difficult times – we can’t know everything.

As I admitted in a recent post, I’m a full-time church employee. Lest you jump to any conclusions about what that means, let me add this caveat: I’m generally the polar opposite of the sort of “religion” we so often see in daily media. Just wanted to clear that up off the bat.

My day job is to work with children and families in matters of faith, and that means I’ve learned over the years to look at most issues theologically. Politics, relationships, pop culture, families, business, justice – whatever the issue, I tend to see it through a theological lens. For me, what this means is that I apply what I personally have learned to be true about God – not what some learned person, higher-up in the organization, or even written text has to say about God. A simpler way to put this is that I think for myself in matters of faith.

A great deal of what I’ve learned about God I discovered through quite a few years of “doing the right things” – praying, reading the bible, attending bible study groups – throughout the time my husband suffered from uncontrollable depression, panic and anxiety. I spent these years trying to make sense of why God’s answer to my prayers for my husband’s (and consequently our family’s) healing from mental illness seemed to be “No” or “Wait.” To say this was a difficult time would be a laughable understatement. It was a time of darkness, despair, and hopelessness. It seemed to last forever. And in the end I concluded that God simply no longer cared about us. “Doing the right things” didn’t help me. It was only in hindsight, when healing finally did begin after a good twelve-year period, that I learned to see the ways in which God was with me – us – during this time.

Which brings me to something our congregation’s lead pastor said in his sermon last Sunday, walking through the questions so often asked by myself and others: “Why do bad things happen to good, faithful people” and “Where is God in the darkest of times?” I appreciated Mike’s honest answer to these questions. That answer was “I. Don’t. Know.” In fact, no one can ever know. We will never, in this life, know the all the answers or make sense of the darkness and despair that are always a part of life. What we do know however, and the answer we can safely give to those who are hurting, is that the God who loves and has created every one of us has promised to be with us. Maybe sometimes we’re not able to recognize that fact, but it doesn’t mean God has broken the promise or is not there. It simply means we don’t get it yet, and that’s okay. From my perspective, I’d say that anyone who claims they do have the answers to these questions is dabbling in the realm of playing God, and is more likely to further damage those her are hurting than those who admit they just do not know. I would also say that in dark times, in my experience, God is crying right along with us, hurting just as much as we are.

If you’re one of the millions of people out there who are asking these questions due to the mental illness of a loved one (or for any reason, for that matter), I hope these thoughts help you to hang on, even if only for today.


Want to hear the whole sermon? You’ll find it here: http://www.holycross-elca.org/audio/sermon020313.mp3

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