I have to admit, that on opening to this chapter, I thought, “Oh great. This is going to be a heavy-issue, things-I’ve-never-experienced kind of chapter.” But I quickly found that I’ve experienced the kind of hurt and disappointment that Dudley talks about in this chapter. This post will be a little raw, a little honest.
The examples Dudley uses to break the ice in the chapter are: his own son turning away from the Christian faith he was raised on, and Absalom, David’s son, who intended to dethrone David.
So many questions come up when something like this happens.
Am I a bad parent?
What does this say about my leadership?
Will he ever come back and serve the Lord?
What did I do wrong?
How am I going to deal with this?
In situations like these, comfort seems to be gone. The world is completely different. Everything you’ve known seems to come into question. You question yourself, God, and others. But the question, Dudley says, is this:
“Is it possible to find something through our pain that is more valuable than comfort? Could it be that God moves us from those comfortable places of fellowship to introduce us to deeper levels of grace? Is there a different aspect of His character we could never know during what we would call the ‘good times?'”
Let me share the example the Lord reminded me of. Recently, a few of my friends have made the decision to leave our church. Not leave the faith, but they say they’ve been called elsewhere. In some cases, it was a shock, in some cases it was not. The hardest part was the shock of the last instance.
I know it seems small, and it wasn’t aimed at anyone, and it wasn’t just me who was affected, but it did make me think.
Is there something we’re doing wrong as a church?
Was my friendship not enough to keep them around?
What do other churches have that we don’t?
It’s easy to get defensive. To start saying, “well, there’s nothing wrong with our church. where else would you be called?”
But, Dudley reminds us, God has a bigger plan.
David talked about his agony in the Bible. You can find it all through the Psalms. And every time David discussed his agony, he decided he would remember God in that moment. He decided to remember His faithfulness through the years. David knew he was part of a bigger plan.
God has used the failures of men to show Himself strong over the ages. He used Adam’s sin to show His mercy, Dudley writes. Abraham’s faithless to show His faithfulness. He’s not hindered by our choices. Not mine, not yours, and not anyone else’s.
Dudley gives three good strategies to deal with our pain:
1. Have a talk with our souls. It’s ok to vent, just like David did. God isn’t offended or shocked by our frustration.
2. Realize that we’ll laugh again. This pain’s not going to last forever. Personally, I can testify to that–I used to faithfully keep a journal, and I would write down all of my issues and everything that was wrong with me. That was in 2009. These days, I look at it and I laugh because God has brought me so far and done so much in me.
3. get back to work. The example Dudley uses here is of the prodigal son. The father could have stopped working the farm to mourn his son running away. But because he kept working that farm, there was a party to be had when the son returned. They had the resources, and they still had a home to come back to.
I’ll leave you with this last great point Dudley makes: God does not enjoy watching us suffer in our circumstances. “He brings pain only when there is something greater for us to embrace.”