Day 30 – Joy in the Deconstruction
In our season of distress, questions can be our downfall, but they can also be what leads us to a joyful acceptance of all that is happening in our lives. With the people of Israel, a recurring question came from their hearts as they experienced the dismantling of the wilderness: “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7)
When things are not going the way we’d prefer or expect, “where is God?” is the question we can find coming from our lips. It can be an accusatory query: “God, You are clearly not involved or You obviously don’t care if You would allow things like this to occur.” These kinds of questions also can come from those around us as well. We find this pattern throughout the Psalms and especially in Psalm 42:
“My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” (vs. 3)
As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” (vs. 10)
Connecting our difficulties to the absence of God can become an automatic response because of the way we may have been formed to think about God and the way that other people talk about Him. The assumption is that God is not involved. Or perhaps even worse, we assume that God has withdrawn from us or is punishing us. It can be subtle or it can be quite direct, but the result is the same: we lose any sense of joy because we are believing and trusting in things that are not accurate. Further, the question can devolve into asking: what did I do wrong that I am being treated like this? Or, what do I have to do to get God back on my “good side?”
“Where is God?” is a great question when it is asked with the assumption that God is involved and we desire to discern His presence. Joy in the difficult season of wilderness is discovered as we view things through the lens of His presence in our lives.
Writer Paula D’Arcy stated it beautifully: “God comes to us disguised as our life.” We don’t “find” God in spite of our circumstances or on the “other side” of our circumstances, but in the midst of where we are. When we look at life through the lens of good things/bad things or through the eyes of others, God becomes hidden in plain sight and joy seems illusive.
What we may have missed or never been taught is that God will graciously and reliably walk us through a process of dismantling and deconstruction at some point in our journey of faith. This deconstruction often hits us in areas that we were sure we had figured out, and without the discernment that God deconstructs so He can reconstruct, we may come to the conclusion that God has abandoned us, that it is just not worth it, or that none of this “God stuff” really works. Or, we may be tempted to think that living a trusting, surrendered life is for other people but not us.
A curious, hard to understand verse in the letter to the Philippians helps tremendously as we consider the possibility of joy and its juxtaposition with suffering. “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ … and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.” (1:27–29) The wording is a bit awkward in its English translation, but the wording in Greek is “This is a clear sign to them of destruction, but to you of salvation.” For many people, our suffering looks like destruction or obliteration, but for a follower of Jesus we can see it as our salvation. Paul is referring to a broader definition of salvation than being saved from hell. The salvation described is being saved from all the things we’ve been exploring in these weeks of Lent … being saved or delivered from expectations, independence, striving, isolation, certainty, idolatry, and the false self.
As we trust that God does these kinds of things in the wilderness, we can smile. We rejoice in our sufferings (Romans 5:3) and count it joy when we encounter trials (James 1:2). We might even say “of course, I’m in a wilderness because God loves me that much!” Indeed, hallelujah is the song of the desert. We take on a perspective that says “I’m in for whatever it takes to experience the deliverance of God.” (note: hallelujah means praise (halle) to (lu) Yahweh (yah))
So, the question “where is God?” is transformed into “where is God in this?” As we move out of discontentment to joy, we expectantly look for the ways that God is with us and how He is at work in us, and as the wilderness does it’s work, we may find ourselves saying, “is there anything more joyful than knowing God is at work in your life?”
“By virtue of Creation, and still more the Incarnation, nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Question for reflection: where is God in this? Sit with that question. Listen for the Spirit’s answer.
Prayer: Lord, hallelujah. I rejoice in the wilderness because I know You are at work and You are good. Amen.