Being honest about my feelings of loss last summer wasn’t the end of the story. As I’ve continued to reflect on those events and experiences, God has been highlighting for me that this kind of honesty is something He calls each of us to continually. This call requires us to be honest with ourselves, even when it isn’t easy. In today’s lingo, we need to know “our truth.”
It’s become somewhat cliché in recent years to talk about our individual “truths.” Friends tell us to “own your truth” or “live your truth.” They say “my truth” is just fine, no matter what God has to say about the matter. These ideas are part of a culture where we hear over and over that “everything is relative,” and truth seems to be just another one of those relative things.
As a Christ follower, though, these conversations always make me uncomfortable. We serve an infinite God who is all-knowing and all-seeing. He is just. He is love. And, He is truth.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.John 14:6 NIV
If we accept Jesus’ claim here, then truth is not simply a relative concept, even if it feels like that might make life easier.
By contrast, we are human. We are finite. We are limited. Our ability to understand God, ourselves, and the world around us is limited. What we know in these limitations can be influenced not only by what Scripture teaches us, but it is also inevitably shaped by our personal experiences and our surrounding cultures. To that extent, our understanding of truth is relative—it is shaped by our situatedness in time and space. It is shaped by our cultures, our families, our life experiences, our churches, and yes, by our reading of Scripture and walk with Jesus.
If you don’t believe me or if this makes you uncomfortable, think back over your lifetime. Has your understanding about God, His ways, and His work in the world ever grown to greater depths? Have you ever been falsely accused and had your eyes opened to the reality that human authorities don’t always get it right? Have you lost a loved one and experienced the love of God and His people in your grief? Have you been angry with God and questioned His goodness? (Job was and did.) Has an experience of divine silence brought greater compassion for those walking in their own darkness? I’m not trying to say that our knowledge and beliefs are entirely wrong, only that we don’t have the full picture.
So why do I bring all of this up? How does this fit with what we’ve been talking about? For me, the honesty I talked about last week led to a place of comfort in that moment, but that was just the start. I’d like to tell you that I took leaps and bounds ahead in my faith or ability to handle my circumstances, but I didn’t. The challenges I face daily continue. I have to keep taking my exhaustion, frustration, and yes, sometimes even anger, to God over and over.
In the midst of the challenges I face, though, I keep seeing God’s fingerprints and hearing echoes of His whispers. I have seen those fingerprints in unexpected financial provision that has enabled us to get some extra help. I have heard those echoes in friends with whom we can spend time and laugh or talk about God instead of trying to “solve” problems that don’t really have a solution.
When I deny the pain, difficulties, or problems, though, the load gets heavier and the burden becomes unbearable. I have to own “my truth”—that I can’t do this alone—even when I don’t like it. And I have to embrace God’s truth: I was never supposed to. God doesn’t call His people to rugged individualism, however much my culture might prize it. No. He calls us to dependence and interdependence.
I need the Spirit to transform me into the image of Jesus, who poured Himself out for others. I need God’s people to help me see where my understanding of God falls short. I need them to encourage me to keep going. Sometimes I need them to come alongside and help carry the load. But just as importantly, I need to see their needs and take my eyes of myself, trusting that God will provide what our family needs when we help meet the needs of others.
How about you? Are you struggling right now with either your circumstances or your relationship with God? Is there an aspect of that struggle where God might be calling you to a radical honesty in His presence, even if it’s not pretty? Even if it’s not gracious or doesn’t seem “Christian”?
Job’s honesty in Job 3, while not addressed directly to God, is brutal. God doesn’t answer him immediately and when He does, He doesn’t provide the answers that any of us want. Instead, what God gave Job was an encounter with His complete “otherness” that reframed Job’s entire understanding of God, His ways, and His world. So, I’m not promising that our honesty will always be met with the comfort I experienced that day. But I do believe that God will give us what He knows we need. He isn’t situated and finite. He’ll get it right.
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All Scripture citations are from the NIV unless otherwise noted. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.