Beyond the Point isn't a Christian book per se, but its inscription is of one of my favorite prayers in the Bible:
"Pardon me, my lord," Gideon replied, "but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us?—Judges 6:13
Gah. Isn't that the question?
I love this prayer of Gideon's. In fact, I love it so much, I started mining the Bible for more prayers just like it. I'm obsessed with prayers that show our real humanity before a holy God.
All too often, my prayers look like journal entries — recounting my life, fears, dreams and concerns to him. I rarely tell Him what I feel about Him, and more, tell him what I feel about my life.
I don't want to do that anymore. I want to talk spend more time talking to God about how I feel about Him. I want my time with him to be about US. Not about me.
The difficulty in making that shift is that it requires me to assess my relationship with God—and that's a nebulous, invisible thing. It requires me to be honest about my faithlessness. It requires me to be honest about my doubt. It requires me to admit that most of the time, even when I'm desperate to hear from Him, I can't hear anything at all.
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he told them to do it with gratitude, humility, and faith. (Here's the Lord's prayer, in case you haven't read it lately.) But the Lord's prayer wasn't the only prayer Jesus ever spoke. And throughout the Bible, we can witness people who express their faith muddled with faithlessness to a God who can handle it.
Gideon: "Pardon me, my lord," Gideon replied, "but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, 'Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?' But now the LORD has abandoned us... —Judges 6:13
Gideon was a train wreck of a human, but so am I! And his prayer asks the one question that keeps so many people from a relationship with God. (If there is a God, why do so many bad things happen?) He's asking a question that is full of hope and desperation: Okay God -- I've heard how powerful you are for other people, but I want to believe that you're powerful for me.
Gideon is saying: God, we feel abandoned.
David says those sorts of things throughout the Psalms. How long oh Lord? Do you hear me?
Here's another example:
Martha to Jesus: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn't have died." —John 11:21
This is a prayer that tangles belief with unbelief — and I love it. Martha is saying that she believes Jesus is powerful, after all, she's saying he could have saved her brother, Lazarus. Yet, at the same moment, she's asking a heart wrenching question: WHY WEREN'T YOU? She's believing Jesus and questioning him all at the same time. She's saying she trusts him, but doesn't understand him.
None of these people sugar-coat their honest feelings toward God. They brings it wholeheartedly forward. Not with haughtiness, but with humility. I want to understand who you are. I want to understand where you are.
And as much as I love those prayers — I love God's responses even more. In the face of these prayers, Jesus doesn't turn away from Martha, offended by her questions. God doesn't smite Gideon for his questions. No. In every case, God responds with patience, love and mercy.
Jesus wept with Martha. He promised her that though the sorrow was deep, the pain wouldn't last forever. In fact, Martha's honesty led Jesus to reveal more of who he was to her, her sister Mary, and to the rest of the people gathered. "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; Whoever lives by believing in me will never die," he told them. "Do you believe this?"
The Lord delivered Gideon, too, despite his doubt. With great patience, God proved himself over and over in Gideon's life. Because even though Gideon had doubt, he didn't let that get in the way of his obedience. Though he didn't understand God, he moved forward, taking the risk of letting God prove himself faithful to a new generation. And that obedience led to more faith.
Here's another of my favorite prayers. This one, from Jesus.
Jesus: "Daddy... father... if it is possible, take this cup from me..." —Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42, Matthew 26:42
This one is the Mack Daddy. In less than 24 hours, Jesus will be hanging dead on a cross. Jesus is begging God to do something different. It's too heavy. It's too burdensome. Our Lord — in his perfection — prayed to God for there to be a different plan. But Jesus's prayer—if it is possible, take this cup from me—didn't end there. He finished that prayer by saying "Not my will, but yours be done."
God loved his Son enough to hear his prayer, but He loved us enough to deny the request. And because Jesus drank the cup—we don't have to.
“See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger; from that cup, the goblet of my wrath, you will never drink again." Isaiah 51:22
I'm so grateful to worship a God that can handle my questions.
So follow the example of these prayers. Take your questions about the Lord to the Lord. Take your belief right next to your disbelief. Take your requests. And know that he weeps with you. He will honor your obedience, despite your doubt. He will answer you in good time, and his answers are always full of love.