The older I get, the more I realize, life is messy. Nothing is simple. Nothing is easy.
When I was younger, I was very naïve. I thought the older you got in life, the easier it got. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The older you get; the messier life can become. When our three girls were younger, in diapers running around the house, I thought life was pretty hard. Looking back, I would love to have those days back. They were so much easier than today. Now that they are older, you think about their friends, their grades, their heart condition, their future, all of it.
As your family gets older, that means your parents get older. That means they will need you more and more. It can be a new stage of life for you because you always needed them and now they need you. Not only that, your siblings get older and you may or may not be in a relationship with them. That can make the holidays and vacations weird. Life can be messy.
As that is happening, your marriage can be stressed. You can be so busy with life that you ignore your marriage and spouse causing even bigger problems. Life can be messy.
Your friendships can change. Chances are, the people who were in your wedding, may not even be in your life today. Over time, life can become very messy. Life can change and be messy.
I think that many people think, life is messy, I need God or something spiritual to make it work. Maybe God will make everything perfect. What do we do? We try to make a contract with God. We do our part of the contract with banging out religious activity. We visit church, try not to cuss, do some good things in hopes that our attempts to be good will twist God’s arm into make our life better. God’s part of the contract is to make my life perfect.
I think that is why so many people like what we call ‘prosperity gospel.’ Do you know what that is? TV evangelists teach, if you do a few good things, if you believe, if you have more faith, if you give more, if you behave, God will bless you with money, comfort and joy. And if you buy their books on 7 easy steps to a better you, God will really bless you. Basically, God will bless you with the American dream; prosperity. It’s truly awful because so many people fall for it. A quick read of the bible and you realize that the prosperity gospel doesn’t add up. For example, John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, was said to be one of the greatest men who lived. Do you know what happened to John? He is a few miles from Jesus and he was beheaded.
The author of Hebrews wrote,
37 We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless – 38 the world didn’t deserve them! – making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world. 39 Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. MSG Hebrews 11:37-39
Did you read that? People who had excellent faith didn’t get was promised to them in their life time. You will never hear that verse read when a preacher teaches prosperity gospel.
What I am about to say can be alarming if you aren’t familiar with scripture. God didn’t come to make your life an American success story. He came to forgive you of your sins, heal you from the evil wounds of this life and walk with you as you walk through the mess of life.
If you believe that God came to make your life a success story, Christianity will never make sense to you. Following Christ will be a struggle for you. You will be busy trying to live out your part of the contract. You will be busy trying to be a good person, doing good religious activity. You will try to be noticed by the right people for a job. You will say all the right good Christian things. You will be striving in life for comfort, success and security.
The problem will be, as you are doing your part of the contract, what do you do when you face hard times, it won’t make sense to you. You will think you did all the right religious things, how could God allow bad things to happen to you? You might conclude you did something wrong or that God is angry with you. Christianity won’t make sense. The formula, the contract, didn’t work. God failed you somehow.
Please hear me, God didn’t come to make your life an American success story. He came to forgive you, heal you and walk with you as you walk through the mess of life. Here is what David wrote in Psalms,
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. NIV Psalms 23:1-4
What is David saying? Life is hard, it’s messy and as I walk through life, God is guiding me. God is walking with me through life. When David is facing terrifying moments, God is there comforting him.
I bring all this up because you need to know something. You are going to hit the wall someday. That means life is going to hammer you someday and you will feel shattered. It can come in many forms. A divorce, job loss, death of a loved one, sickness, hurt from church people, a difficult child, an accident, shattered dream, a suicide, a failing business, etc.
I am so sorry to tell you this but we must talk about what is happening when you hit the wall. Something will happen in life that will break you. It will be a dark time. People call it the ‘Dark Night of the Soul.’ Emotionally, you will feel completely defeated. You will question yourself, God and the church. You will feel like your faith in God doesn’t work anymore. You will feel a sense of failure and defeat. You will wonder where God is and what He is doing. Actually, your good feelings about God and the church will probably evaporate.
Unfortunately, many Christians hit the wall and they want to avoid the pain. They quickly gloss over the pain an act like we have it all together. We say things like, “It’s all good” or we quickly fast forward to the other side of the wall and tell people, “God will turn this into something good.” If we don’t walk with God through the wall, if we ignore the pain, our hearts will be untouched by God, unchanged. On the other side of the wall, because our hearts are untouched by God, that wound will make us a little more bitter, a little more angry, a little more sarcastic, a little more judgmental. We are still Christians going to church but with wounded hearts. That’s why you can go to church all your life and slowly become more bitter, angry, sarcastic or more judgmental.
Sometimes when people hit the wall, they quit on God. God isn’t their Lord and Savior. God isn’t someone who is walking with them through the mess. God is their genie, someone they try to control, someone who serve them. They can think, ‘I have a contract with God.’ I do my part by doing some good things and attending church a few times. God’s part is to give me the American Dream. If He doesn’t, He is a bad God. He broke the contract so I will quit on Him.
Paul wrote this,
8 We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, 9 but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. 10 What they did to Jesus, they do to us – trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us – he lives! MSG 2 Corinthians 4:8-11
Paul is saying, life is hard, it’s messy. As I follow God through life, God is allowing me to be smashed with problems.
The reality of scripture, the reality of our lives, is that we will hit the wall sometime. Life will break you at some point. We must ask; what is God up to? He is allowing you to see your need of Him. It will either drive you into His arms or you will reject the opportunity and walk away. Jesus taught,
You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. The Message Version
God blesses those who realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them. The New Living Translation Matthew 5:3
Jesus taught that we are blessed when we are at the end of our rope, when we see our need of God. That’s different than prosperity gospel isn’t? Jesus didn’t say He came to give us the American dream of success and comfort. Actually, we are at our best moment when we see our need of God. I wonder if the opposite is true too; we are at our worst when we don’t think we need God?
The wall allows us to see our need of God. It will either drive us to God or drive us away from God. If you want to walk through the wall with God you need to know a couple things. First, we have to say it; it’s awful and nothing will make sense. It’s okay, it’s normal and healthy to feel all the emotions. Hear me, you must feel the full range of those emotions, you can’t stuff them. It’s okay. It’s not a lack of faith to be honest and say, “I am a mess, I am depressed, I need God.”
As you begin to experience the pain and struggle, you can let go of control and put your trust in God. You can make the choice that says, God can do what He wants, and I am okay with that.
As you experience the emotions, as you give control to God, it will take time. We will need to be patient and wait for God. It’s okay to wait. While we wait on God, God will put things in us that we can’t get any other way. Not kidding, God will infuse things into us as we run to Him. As we walk through the wall with God, things can be broken off of us and injected into our souls.
Some of the most graceful, beautiful, soft hearted wise people I know, have walked through intense pain. They felt the emotions, they gave up control, they were patient. Because of that, they have qualities in their lives that others don’t have.
What can happen?
A sin, or sin pattern will be crushed. Maybe your sin will bring you to the end of your life as you know it. It may come out and that exposure, if you allow it, will end it.
Your ego might be smashed. You won’t have to be well known or a success. You will know, the hero of the story is Jesus, not you. You will find yourself in a spot where all you want, is for Jesus to get all the glory of your life.
You won’t be judgmentally critical of others. It will be hard to look down on others because when you hit the wall, your pride and arrogance was smashed. When you see people who are messy, you will love them because you will realize you are a mess like them.
You won’t be easily offended anymore. You will be less concerned about the opinion of others. You will give control of your life over to God.
Your Christianity won’t be about do’s and don’ts. It won’t be about deeper teaching. It won’t be about Christian activity to fill a void in your life. Christianity will be about you just wanting to be close with God, to spend time in His presence.
Please hear me, I’m sorry to tell you this, you will hit the wall. God is allowing you to see your desperate need of Him. It will be so painful. You will feel so exposed. People call it the ‘Dark Night of the Soul.’ But, if you allow yourself to feel all the emotions, if you run to God, if you are patient in this awful period of time, God will infuse your life with things that you can’t get any other way.
Let me ask you, “When hard times hit, do you run to God, ignore God or reject God?” When you walk through the wall with God, God can do amazing things in your soul.