Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Problem with Believing

OK - let me put a disclaimer on this that I am really feeling down, and life has not been easy here recently and doesn't look like it is getting better. So if you want to keep believing that missionaries are anywhere near close to perfect or even near the ball park, please don't read this.

I don't understand God at times, and that is hard on me. There are days that I really enjoy God and see what He is doing and am thrilled. Then there are days like the last few days. Rough ones.

And general rough days, I can take. Or rough days where we all suffer together and it just seems like God is short on answers. It is days like my ones recently that are hard and leave me staring up at God and asking what is wrong with me. It is the days that it seems like everyone else's prayers are being answered in wonderful ways, and you stand there with empty hands.

There are some great things happening. One of our coworkers got healed from a pretty scary sickness. Another may have just found the perfect house. We even got a stay of execution for a decision that looked impossible just last night. Yes, I'm thankful for all this. Really.

Even my prayers are being answered. A huge concern for me the last two years as I worked on a project was that I needed three women for this thing to work, and there were only two. And it is not something that we can just go out and "find" one. An impossible thing to find. Yet, I prayed, and felt it was best to write for three. And I wrote. Last week, we found one, and she is delighted. Tonight, I sat with her and started her on her first assignment. (Sorry, can't tell much more.) And it is amazing - nothing short of a miracle, and I am stunned by God's ability to answer prayer.

Yet it is that same ability to answer difficult prayers that has me sitting here tonight staring at my computer screen wishing for an answer. Because I have other difficult prayers tonight that are not being answered. And I am hurting and begging God to answer, but He is not.

That is hard for me.

I want Him to step in and save the day, to ride in on His white horse and be a hero. I want Him to stop the pain. And He isn't.

It hurts.

It hurts because I am hurting and I am not seeing Him respond to stop it. I want Him to. I want Him to tell me, "you are so valuable to me that I don't want this to keep happening to you." I want Him to protect me, to care for me, to stop the pain. And He doesn't.

I'm struggling with that right now.

I'm actually not doing so great with the struggling part. I would think it would be more accurate to say that I'm floundering, stuck in heavy mud. I'm tiring from it.

A month ago, my husband got really angry with me again. There was a brief statement from him of, "let's stop fighting", but no real solution. And last week, he was again angry and yelling at me. I'm really tired of being yelled at.

I married a man from a different culture. I really don't feel like telling everyone from where. I know half of you would jump on me. Besides I can't put that on my blog. And I don't want him judged as harshly as people might if they knew his culture. But, it is still true that it deeply affects our marriage. I feel so often like I am a second class citizen. I am not valued.

It hurts. And today, I am trashing myself for it. Telling myself that you made that decision, now live with it. It may just be my life. I am tired of fighting over it. I know that if I am just silent, don't ask questions, don't talk, don't do anything wrong, that there will be a measure of peace. But that peace feels strangely like a prison.

Tonight, I'm tired. I'm sad. I'm sort of stuck in the mud. And I'm so tired of being told I have no value that I am ready to agree with it only to get some peace. Especially when today I see God answering prayers for others, even for what I do, but not for who I am. Not the prayers that deeply affect me.

Do I still believe? Yes. Is that said with great feeling and enthusiasm? No. It is said with the sad resignation of knowing that I can't dictate to God, that I don't understand it all, and yet that there isn't anything better, no better hope than Him. He's not stepping in where I am begging Him to, and yet I have nothing better than Him. So I believe. Still. But I am sad.

So, I need you all praying for me. With me. I know that there are some of you out there who I know and whose names and blogs are familiar to me. I've found that there are a few quiet watchers, too. That's fine. Don't feel you have to stand up and identify yourselves. I understand the feeling of just wanting to stand back and watch at times. But pray.

Then... to complicate things... this weekend, I have a lady coming to visit me to ask me one thing - should she marry a guy she has been dating, if he asks, who is from a similar culture. Hmmm... I want to tell her what I think, and tell her strongly. But I haven't figured out how to tell the truth and not disrespect my husband. How to tell her the truth in a way she will listen. And when. Pray for that. It is really not helping my mood at all.

So - I began with a disclaimer, and I will end with one: I still believe God is alive and working in my life. I do, even though I am in tears in front of Him asing how much more. I do love my husband. I do, even though I am tired of being treated of less value. I do deeply love the country and people I am working for. I do, even though their pain is at times hard for me to carry since it hits a bit too close to home at times. I do thoroughly support the team and mission I am working in. I consider it an honor to work with them. I do, even though I am fully aware that my team leader and my husband talk about me behind my back and have said some pretty cruel things. I have a heart for women who are hurting. I do - I just wished I wasn't hurting, too. I wish I could be that nice leader on solid ground on the grassy edge of this mud pit saying, "come over here", and not the one struggling in the mud with people trying to say, "despite all that is happening, I know that there is a God, and I will keep crying out to Him."

It is just that today, my cries are getting weak, my heart is sore, and I am tired. I need others today to come and cry with me for an answer.


Karis said...

Oh Ellie! I hear ya. I also have a situation that I'm praying about that hasn't been answered yet even while I see God doing so many other things.

And while I know that you already know this, I want to reassure you that you aren't alone in being a missionary who isn't close to perfection -- and that I am right there with you as a missionary far from having it all together... and I haven't even been through the valleys you have.

I will continue to pray for you.

I hesitate to add this part, but I've gone back and forth and have decided to do it. I don't know what kind of music you prefer, and I don't know if this will be helpful to you but this song came to mind as I read your blog and thought about my own prayer that has not been answered in the way I'm praying. I haven't gotten to the place where I can praise God in every "storm" so I'm not preaching at you that you need to do this -- at all. I am sending it as an encouragement as it puts into words the way I've felt before, and I really hope it feels that way to you even though you don't know me except through blogs to get my sense of care behind it.

"Praise You in This Storm"

I was sure by now,God, that You would have reached down
and wiped our tears away,
stepped in and saved the day.
But once again, I say amen
and it's still raining
as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain,
"I'm with you"
and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away.

And I'll praise you in this storm
and I will lift my hands
for You are who You are
no matter where I am
and every tear I've cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
and though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I remember when I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry to You
and raised me up again
my strength is almost gone how can I carry on
if I can't find You
and as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away


I lift my eyes onto the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth
I lift my eyes onto the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth

Ellie said...

This is one of my favorite songs. I heard it first about two years ago. I can hear it in my head even reading it.

I'm not sure I'm at the praising Him place yet either. Not right now. But even to listen to other people being in that place gives me hope.


Becky Aguirre said...

Oh, Ellie, what a difficult place you are in. I was reading this morning in Romans and came across Romans 12:15...rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. So I am mourning this with you. Obviously I cannot feel all your pain, but I feel pain as you describe your pain. And I can tell that it makes you feel badly that you feel this way at all, as if you are not grateful for the things that God has done. Isn't it nice to know, though, that voicing these things doesn't threaten God? That he allows us to say "I believe, and yet help me in my areas of unbelief"? I think God would rather have us express ourselves honestly about where we're at than pretend that everything is fine when it's not.

You know I will be praying over you.

Cindy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ellie said...

Cindy - your comment disappeared. I liked it, though, and was sitting down to respond to it.

You are very right, we are told to praise God even when we don't feel like it, and it is that very act of obedience that somehow messes with our feelings - in a good way, and makes us feel more like doing it.

So, today, I started to praise God that the ice and snow melted... yeah, who wanted that around in April anyway!

I'm feeling a little better. I also cleaned house. That usually helps, and got some rest. And, the decisions that had to be made were made today. I'm not happy about them all, but the uncertainty is gone.

But, it was a good reminder. I don't mind you telling me how to act. I did, after all, put it out there in public to be prayed for, and yes, to be accountable to others - even if you are new here on this blog... I think you are older than me and have experience, and I will listen. Hey, I'd listen even if you were younger and less experienced than me. We need each other. That is accountability.

So, I'm thankful today that the ice melted and that two people were brave enough to tell me something I needed to hear and one person encouraged me. Actually, even telling me things I needed to hear was encouraging. Thanks Karis and Becky.

Still praying. Still little answer. But I'm hanging on better.

Cindy said...

well, Ellie the truth is, I deleted my comment because I thought it might be offensive. In the past I have been called a goody two shoes and been teased about always doing the right thing...even by some of my friends...but the result was frustration on my part because I know I'm not good. I guess I was afraid that you would just see my comments as self rightous and maybe be offended. So, if you don't mind I might comment again sometime with a little more confidence :)

I have been reading a devotional book this year called Streams in the Desert. It is a pretty old book but has seen a revival in interest. Anyway, it has spoken to some of my issues in a very direct way. It is almost shocking how a book written way before my time is so relevant to my life
at this moment.

I can really relate to what you said about praying and praying and praying for some answers and not getting any. I have actually felt at times as though I am on the outside looking in at all the people I know who are receiving wondrous answers to prayer while I am alone waiting and wondering why God is not hearing me. But, I know that this is a lie...because the word says He does hear me and He does care about me. So I am faced with another choice...choosing to believe God's word and choosing not to believe the lies that keep running through my head.
ok I guess that's my sermon for the day :)