One Dangerous Question

Oct 23, 2014

Sometimes you can follow all the directions and still end up in the wrong place.

I left in plenty of time. I knew my destination, had directions, allowed extra time to park and find my spot along the course. It was my son’s cross country race, one of the last of his highschool career. I couldn’t miss it.

But I did. Miss it. Instead of cheering from a prime spot, I ended up wandering at the wrong end of the state park. For thirty minutes, I climbed hills and turned corners, certain I would find my son and his team “just around the next bend.” Instead, frustration. Worthless directions. And plenty of evidence that I was miles from where I wanted to be.

You can imagine my disappointment when I finally stepped up to the finish line minutes after my boy crossed it. The moment was gone, never to return. And I’d missed it.

{WARNING: uncomfortable honestly forthcoming}

So here’s the deal. This how-did-I-end-up-here feeling pretty much sums up the last several months for me. Standing in an unexpected place, holding worthless directions, missing out on the life I imagined.

It’s been one heckuva year (I’m keeping it PG, but you can guess the other descriptors that perch on the end of my tongue). Eight months ago I found out I had cancer for the second time. Five months ago, I found out my Dad’s cancer had come back. Two months ago we buried him. Not to mention the day-to-day upheaval of marriage, special needs children, blah blah blah.

I used to believe lightning didn’t strike the same place twice, and a person would only be required to endure so much suffering. But then I felt the sting of too many unexpected circumstances. And I discovered lightning is no respector of persons. And grief and suffering don’t care what you endured the month efore. It will come again anyway, and expect you to deal with it.

So I whip open my Bible to all those mountain-moving verses, find a nice, neat list of directions and follow them with precision. Because that’s how we end up where we want to be, right? If we just pray hard enough. Study hard enough. Believe hard enough. Right?

Right? 

But then the cancer comes back anyway. And my dad dies anyway. And my special needs child seems to unravel a bit more. And my marriage shows evidence of exhaustion. And the schedule doesn’t let up. And I wonder why we bother praying and hoping and believing when it doesn’t seem to change a darn thing.

{don’t say I didn’t warn you}

Can we just cut the charade for a minute and let all the ugly out? Faith is a beautiful thing. And I’m hanging on to it with both hands. But even those of us who bank on faith have moments of deep, dark doubt. Moments when the questions pile up far more than any answers.

This wasn’t supposed to happen! 

Seriously, God?! Can’t you give a girl a break? 

Why so much suffering? And why aren’t you doing something about it? 

Oh, I know you’ve said the same. At the least, you’ve thought it, too afraid to give it voice. So let me go first.

Oh, my friend, I understand! I’ve lost track of my questions and rants, the doubts without answers. Because when life turns upside down, when the unexpected and impossible show up fierce on your front step, grief and doubt are part of the fallout.

I Want God, by Lisa Whittle

I Want God, by Lisa Whittle

Over the past month, I’ve been reading I Want God, by my friend Lisa Whittle. It’s not an easy read, and I mean that in the best possible way. It dives into the wandering places and dares you to wrestle with what you find there. To begin, Lisa dares us to ask one dangerous question:

What do I want?

My easy-peasy, sunday-school answer, is “I want God.” I need Him. I love Him. I want to live for Him.

Hear, hear! Three cheers!

But when faced with illness and death and grief and pain—all the less-neat spaces and places—what do I really want?

  • Do I want the Sovereign One who sometimes doesn’t answer prayers as I expect?
  • Do I want the Mysterious One who listens to my rantings, but doesn’t feel pressure to respond with explanations?
  • Do I want the Omnipotent One who, although capable of curing and delivering, sometimes chooses not to?

Do I really want God? No.

I want cancer to go away. I want my dad to come back. I want my children to be whole, my marriage to be easy and my future to be painted with blue skies and yellow daisies. I want God, yes, but as a means to wave His magic wand and make my wishes come true. But if my want of God requires the fire of affliction and a shattering brokenness, then perhaps I don’t really want God after all.

After deep suffering of his own, C. S. Lewis finally relinquished:

I need Christ, not something that resembles Him.

After months of wandering myself, I have come to the same conclusion. In spite of my not understanding Him, I want Him. But I can also tell you that I have come point blank with my untried intentions and my comfort addiction. And the way I have made God to be so very small and containable and a means to an end.

And I desperately need a God who is so much more than a means to an end.

I need a God who shows up at the wrong end of the park and hangs with me there. For as long as it takes to get me home.

What do YOU really want? 

47 Comments

  1. Brad

    Very redemptive words Michele. It’s kind of like these times become times when you want your ‘wanter’ to want Him more…and you realize even your unction for wanting Him must rely on Him. That really puts Him in the God-seat…and becomes a desperate place of dependence. Thanks for your honest reflections.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      “…and you realize even your unction for wanting Him must rely on Him.”

      Whoa. Powerful words, Brad. And true. Thank you.

      Reply
  2. Stacey Thureen

    Michele,
    We had a guest pastor speak at our church this past Sunday. His message was about faith, risk and failure. He said that when all of these things happen it’s not because we aren’t in the center of God’s will, it’s because we are. Take a listen if you have the chance: http://mhcc.sermon.net/main/main/20222742
    God is up to something really really really good!!
    Hugs,
    Stacey

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Hmmm. I like that. I’ve had similar thoughts. An encouragement, Stacey!

      Reply
  3. Tracy L

    Love this. It’s what I’ve been thinking in this year where I too, have had so many challenges, but I could not articulate what I was thinking. Thanks for putting my feelings into words. I am still overwhelmed by the thought that if dark times are hard for those of us with faith, how hard are they for those without? I cannot imagine.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Oh, I agree, Tracy. My family and I have talked about this several times over the past several months. I can’t imagine how we’d endure without faith!

      Reply
  4. Deanna

    Oh, Michele… right to my heart!

    My places do look like one. lost. place. after. another. And yet, I still have that deep-seated-you-can’t-fake-it-peace that (I think) comes from knowing that He is so much in them — and that we are so tenderly loved by Him.

    Yes, I want more (deep breath!) of Him, even here in these difficult places.
    Thank you for this beautiful reminder.

    Reply
  5. Vicki Molinari

    Michelle, your transparency and raw expression of your heart stirs my heart and causes me to examine my life and walk with God. Thank you so much and keep writing. You are a true blessing, full of the “real deal” faith and “mirror-looking” honesty – I have had the pleasure of being at the Women of Faith conference and Prov 31 She Speaks, seeing and hearing you share…. Always true to your deepest passion for God. I look forward to more from you… keep posting! :). Vicki

    Reply
  6. Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

    When I became a Christian in the 1970’s my circumstances were hard and I was suffering. I kept hearing that as a Christian I didn’t need to suffer. All I had to do was “name it, claim it” and it was mine. When that didn’t work for me I thought God was letting me know, in no uncertain terms, that I was not wanted in His kingdom.

    Life went on, and I understood more, but still I thought there was only so much suffering allotted to each of us and I have had my share. Nope.

    But then, as I read His Word, as I understood more about affliction, and more about His Sovereignty, I came to understand that the whole point of anything is to make me more like Him, and that anything that happened to me was for His glory and my ultimate good.

    Still…I hold back my own descriptors on many an occasion. And I pray, “Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief!”

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      If you only knew how many times I’ve prayed those exact words this year alone … “Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief!”

      Reply
  7. Jeanne

    I have so thought all this and more…the questions, the unresolved interruptions, the wishful thinking…and in the end, I just want Jesus…thanks for sharing the honest words…

    Reply
  8. Wayne Stiles

    Great thoughts here, Michele. I appreciate your honesty. I’ve discovered when we pray for God to bring relief, or change, or a certain result from a challenging situation, we have to remember that what we’re asking God to do—even though it may be completely within the bounds of Scripture—comes from a limited perspective. He sees the whole show. We see Act I. Thanks again.

    Reply
  9. Rob

    Michele, every time I see a post by you in feedly, I get excited. I’ve had a stretch similar to yours, with similar questions, and your honesty, transparency, and commitment to pointing us to Jesus always encourages my heart. Thanks for writing.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Thank you for that, Rob. It helps so much to know we’re not alone. Thanks for sharing a piece of your struggle as well.

      Reply
  10. Sheree DeCouto

    Michele,

    Thanks for being real and honest! I’ve been there myself and you described it perfectly. Hang in there girl!
    It’s interesting to me that we assume when we say yes to God’s plan of leading others to Him we think others will see all of our victories and want God for themselves. Instead God puts us on a platform – strips us of all pride- let’s us fall… and in the process many see our refusal to let go of God in the midst of our pain and that’s really when hearts are moved to want God.

    Let God Shine Through Your Pain!
    Sheree

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Isn’t that the truth?!?! Stripped of everything. Then God says, “Now I can use you.”

      Reply
  11. Lily Kreitinger

    I can completely relate to being lost and with no direction because I get lost driving very often. With a GPS. And a map. My life resembles that sometimes too. I have the choice to turn the GPS on, but I choose to keep driving around in circles trying to find something that looks familiar. Cancer stinks, death stinks, parenting and marriage challenges stink. And in that time, all we need is someone to come along and say “Me too”. Your struggles and your transparency help the rest of us know that we are not alone. I so loved watching you this past week, teaching, coaching, encouraging, listening, praising God on stage and asking others to stand and realize that we are not the only one who wonders how to get home.

    Reply
  12. Becky

    Thank you for your honesty, Michele. Thank you for putting into words what I have been thinking & feeling. In these dark places, even though my mind tells me God is with me, often my heart still can’t feel Him through the pain and sadness. It’s reassuring to know that others are going through the same thing.

    Reply
  13. Cassie Rajewich

    One of my favorite post you have written, Michele. I think that being an American we can become colorblind to what it truly is like to be a Christian. Many, many, many!! times, being a Christian is just about this, hanging on when the tide is too high. Sometimes in the drought and fire we have moments of support, but often it seems we are walking it alone, with only His word, and yet that is a list of so many all. too. familiar. verses. Which one do I hold tight to during this battle!?! Lord knows it is often ONLY our deep seeded faith that keeps us going. And to be honest, I have dropped mine a time or two only to look back and see he gave me his supernatural faith and power for endurance. What I have become to know for those who truly surrender all to Christ: the pain in this world is real, even for Christians, my God never said I wouldn’t experience it, when I lose it all the ONLY thing I have is the cross to hang on to.

    “In darkness God’s light shines most clear” — Corrie Tin Boone, The Hiding Place

    Reply
  14. Lisa Whittle

    This? Epic.

    “Do I want God? No.” Honesty! Truth! Thank you.

    “I desperately need a God who is so much more than a means to an end.” YES, YES, YES.

    I love you, Michelle, and this post reminds me of the why.

    Reply
  15. Susie Klein

    I can so relate to this post! Wow, good, honest and refreshing words here. I’ve been touching (lightly) on the same questions and wonderings recently. I look forward to going along with you on this journey. Susie

    Reply
  16. Merri Dennis

    Thank you! True words I have spoken to myself many times.

    Reply
  17. Rick Theule

    Oh, Michele. You have speared me right at the heart of my current struggle. I’ve been pondering and wrestling for weeks (maybe months) over the idea of “What is my TRUE desire when I’m praying?” I’m struggling with getting to the root of my requests. I continue to remain stuck on believing my desires are selfish. That I’m asking for a life of ease. For example: Why do I want God to heal me of my depression? Why do I want him to bless my writing?
    I desire ALL of him, but wow, it can be complicated.
    Thanks for sharing your true heart and struggle.

    Reply
  18. Christy Largent

    I just want to keep clinging. As we cling he holds and enfolds and protects. Even when it doesn’t feel like we are being held or enfolded or protected. He is. So we keep clinging.

    Praying for you during this VERY full season of your life. Thank you for sharing. Looking forward to giving you a hug in person at Platform. Hugs via internet…Christy

    Reply
  19. Vincent

    I had a chat with my wife before reading your blog and I told her, “I’m tired and I want to go home”. She said, “Don’t you have work to do in the office?”. I repeated to her gently and slowly, “I am tired and I want to go home”. She asked, “Heaven home?”. I said, “Yes…”.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Oh, Vincent. How I understand your words, your ache to go home …

      Reply
  20. Diane Doddek

    Thanks for the honesty and for giving my thoughts a voice. While we wait on God, I know he has us in his grip. Doesn’t mean we can’t feel exhausted, frightened, and disillusioned with what is going on. We are aliens and strangers here. I for one, am looking forward to our eternal home. Prayers for you and your family, Michele, as you persevere and “fight the good fight.”

    Reply
  21. Bruce Cross

    Michele – I read your post three times today as I asked God to “speak” to me today specifically. Although I have not experienced the many things you have gone through this year (and THAT is a lot!) there has been plenty on my list as well.

    Thanks for being “REAL” and vulnerable and allowing those of us who read this post to ENTER IN. And yes…..I NEED CHRIST AND NOT SOMETHING THAT RESEMBLES HIM in the midst of my own journey.

    Thanks for allowing His voice to speak through you!

    Reply
  22. Melissa Chambers

    That was an incredible, vulnerable, and in your face honest blog post! I am encouraged and convicted which is usually the start of God working in me something I may have been keeping hidden in the darkest corners of my heart. Thank you!

    Reply
  23. Colleen

    Michele–you have been such an encouragement to me as I have followed your God-story these past couple of years. Thanks for your honesty and vulnerability. This little writing has helped me many times to turn back to my Sovereign God and lay everything at His feet AGAIN… I hope it will encourage you as well…
    There is nothing – no circumstances, no trouble, no testing – that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose, which I may not understand at the moment. But as I refuse to become panicky, as I lift up my eyes to Him and accept it as coming from the throne of God for some great purpose of blessing to my own heart, no sorrow will ever disturb me, no trial will ever disarm me, no circumstance will cause me to fret – for I shall rest in the joy of what my Lord is! – “That is the rest of victory!”.
    Alan Redpath

    Reply
  24. Rhonda

    I agree with you, and with C.S. Lewis, and with your friend, Lisa. At the same, I wonder our “wants” need to be seen as mutually exclusive from our God? With human heart and emotion that He created, why can’t we want both omnipotence and restoration? Is it wrong to want our all powerful Father to intervene in painful situations? Is it wrong to seek answers or clarification when we feel were on an impossible path? Is it wrong to ask for a gulp of water when the soul is parched? To me, this seems like asking God to be Omnipotent, but not Omniscient. Why one or the other?

    I’m not child and hope that I’ve matured in my faith past some of expecting “blue skies and yellow daisies”. I understand that the Bible tells us that we will have troubles here on this temporary home; that His ways are not our ways. And yet, it also tells us that He wants us to have life. And not just life, abundant life. Full and overflowing.

    So do our asks for healing, or relief or restoration really represent not wanting God for who God really is? Can we not ask these questions of our Father without having our faith being examined? Can we not cry out from our deepest hurts when it feels like He has forsaken us without losing our belief that He is sovereign? Is wrong to seek an umbrella when it’s pouring down rain?

    I don’t mean to sound as if I’m on a rant; I truly ponder these issues. I want more of God. And yet at times, my heart is so full of pain and sorrow that I simply can’t absorb more than simply knowing He is there.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Rhonda, these are such valid and worthy thoughts. And, I imagine, hard earned. You don’t arrive at the depth of these wrestlings without enduring significant pain. For that, my heart aches with yours. I understand.

      Yes, I think both our want of God and our want for his rescue can co-exist. If Jesus could pour out his heart in the garden, begging God to “take this cup from me,” then we can certainly do the same. We can want God and want him to deliver us at the same time.

      I just want to get to a place where I want him more than merely wanting what he can do for me.

      Reply
  25. Susan Shipe

    You have given voice to words the majority of us have silently screamed. I cannot help but think of the words the disciples said to Jesus when He asked them “if they too were going to leave Him.” I believe it was Peter who said, “Where else would we go, Lord? You speak the words of Life.”
    On my own journey I have asked this question numerous times and the answer is always the same, “No where or no one else – just give me Jesus.”
    Beautiful post. Visiting from 31-days.

    Reply
  26. Faith Bogdan

    I’ve always felt God is more glorified by a right response to suffering than by blessing and prosperity. You have glorified Him well, sister. There’s a “great cloud of witnesses” cheering you on from above, and another company of witnesses holding up your arms in battle today.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Thank you for that, Faith. P.S. Hebrews 12:1 is one of my favorites.

      Reply
  27. Beth Kinder

    RAW. REAL. & REFLECTIVE! Thank you Michele for writing what I’ve been thinking. I, too, have had my life turned upside down and not certain I can see a single tree in the forest just the murky fog which lingers all around me.

    I have come to whisper these scriptures as I’m walking through the the fog of the unknown
    Psalm 138:8 The Lord will perfect that which concerns me.
    Psalm 23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil.
    Psalm 25:3 No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame.

    I’ve been praying for you and your family for some time now. May the Lord lift your eyes above the storm to see the beauty of the hour.

    xoxo
    Beth

    Reply
  28. Becky

    Michele, I just read your blog for the first time – the most recent four posts – and cried through them all. Thanks for your vulnerability and openness to say what (surely) we all feel. I’ve been a long-time follower of Michael Hyatt and love you being part of the podcast now. That’s where I met you :). I’m excited to follow you and be encouraged in this adventure-filled, unpredictable walk of faith.

    Reply
  29. Joyce Holness

    When all is said and done, and the death of our love ones becomes a reality, we need the comfort and peace, which only God in his goodness and mercy can give. We need the peace which allows us to live each day in peace.

    Reply
  30. Pauline Casas

    Thank you for posting. I really enjoy reading words of life n encouragement. I’m @ the point of so much suffering that all it makes me want is God! And all you said makes a lot if sense and because of where I’m v@ it helps me to understand it.

    Reply
  31. Holly

    Michele- And.. this is why you are one of my favorite writers. You are the real deal girl. And I bet that’s one of the things the Father loves most about you. You aren’t about wearing a mask, you’re like “ok so this is where I am at God, let’s talk about it.” And He honors that when we keep it real with Him. He also knows our very human side and He gives us grace for all of it! Praise you Lord..thank you friend for your heart, your writing, your willingness to share with all of us. I’m on a similar journey with my dad right now and you keep me inspired and encouraged.

    Blessings,
    Holly

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Thank you, dear Holly. So glad we’re in this together.

      Reply
  32. Barbara Ruglio

    What you have experienced is hard. Hard. Hard beyond words. But my life confesses that the hard things make us stronger, more compassionate, more credible, more humble and more beautiful.

    How beautiful you are, dear Michele. Though we rant at Him, He never lets us go.

    Thank you for the honest sharing and returning us back to the truth that we must trust Him. We can trust Him.

    Reply
  33. Another Special Needs Mom

    Michele, I’m late catching up with your blog. I can relate to so much of your post, in slightly different ways. As I read I thought I wanted a chance to fix almost 35 years of marriage to my late husband. He turned out to be so different than the man I thought I married. I thought I wanted my son’s bipolar disorder taken away. I thought I wanted him off the autism spectrum. He deserves a chance for a normal life, doesn’t he? I thought I wanted relief from our financial stresses. Come to think of it, why couldn’t DH die while he had half a million in life insurance instead of not enough to bury him. But would I trade God, and His steadfast love for all of these wants? Would I throw away Jesus’ sacrifice? Would I say goodbye to the Holy Spirit? After living with the hope of eternity, I could not step off into an empty void. Thank you for challenging my thinking, Michele. Praying for rest for you tonight, and your surgery tomorrow. And peace for your family.

    Reply
  34. Ray Ciervo

    Excellent perspective, Michelle. It reaches deep into our hearts. We love Jesus as our Savior, but not always as our Lord.
    Thanks for your candidness.

    blessings,

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Holes in the Force Field | - […] with Jenny this week, and after a day spent reading these two posts (For a Faith that Wanders  and…
  2. Why We Need To Want God | Lisa Whittle - […] Sidenote: I wrote this post before my friend, Michele Cushatt, wrote THIS ONE. After you read mine, take a…

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