Certainty and Frustration

I went off with my mom to see Heaven’s For Real, because she really wanted to see it.  I’m not giving you a movie review, fear not.  And I don’t have anything to say about the theological accuracy of said movie.   But it sparked something.

The little kid in the movie was *so certain* of his experience of Heaven, so matter-of-fact about it, while everyone around him went nuts.  I feel like a grown-up version of the kid all the time, only I’m frustrated.   I know absolutely that Jesus lives.  I talk to Him all the time.  That’s the business of praying without ceasing, you know?  YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO.   I get guidance.  I feel communion.  Not as much as I’d like or as intimate as I’d like, but… probably exactly as much as I’m really prepared for.  I know it’s me shying away, not Him.

I know He is.  I … know it.  I know it like I know breath and bone and light and dark.  I know it more than those things.  And yet, I am frustrated – because this central truth is something I seem to be not-very-good at conveying.  I try, occasionally, to become better at apologetics, and learn to argue folks into the Kingdom.  I’m not any good at it.  I’m not sure too many folks are prepared to be argued in anyhow.  At least, those God puts in my path are not.

I feel like someone who has been entrusted with a beautiful jewel, and all I want to do is share it.  But the others can’t see it……. can’t see Jesus’ beauty and His power and His love.  This *grieves* me.  I feel selfish.  If I were only given the words… perhaps I could tell them….

And then I realized – for all I love my friends, Jesus loves them more.  For the dim shadow of His Truth that I can see and ache to share, He knows more perfectly.  Those broken and bruised places I can only guess at?  He knows them intimately.  How His heart must break.  How He must weep with the desire to comfort them, to make them His own, to welcome them Home.  And yet they persist in staying out in the cold.  And I weep.  And my tears are as nothing to His.

Unlike Him, I am tied to Time, and I get frustrated and impatient.  Will my friend ever see the Truth?  How can I get this through?  What must I do?

Jesus might become angry or sad – but I don’t think He gets frustrated.  He is perfectly patient.  Some of that is that He knows the outcome, but more of it is His nature.  As I desire to become more like Him, I must give over my frustration and accept His patience.  I can grieve, I can rage, but frustration isn’t where I should be.  Perfect hope, perfect patience – that’s my goal.

Persistence.  Perseverance.  Prayer.  The weapons of the surrendered heart.

31 thoughts on “Certainty and Frustration

  1. ballista74

    A lot of the times, all you can do is present the best witness you can and just let God take care of the rest. But you have to remember that everyone doesn’t respond, so all you can do is pray and hope for the best.

    1. hearthie Post author

      Yes. That’s where the patience comes in. I’ve mentioned I have a list, two columns front and back on typing paper of people I am praying conversion for?

      1. ballista74

        I don’t think I’ve heard you say that, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit. 🙂

      2. hearthie Post author

        Apparently Christian friends in bulk aren’t on God’s list for me. NON Christian friends? People I grow to love? Yeah. :/

      3. ballista74

        @hearthie I guess whatever and whoever God puts on your heart. Of course, my list is just family. The important one on my list passed, so all I can do is hope there. My thing is, though, that where my life is seems to be most constant that comes to mind, and then the concerns of the living that care about me. But I’m not that strong in prayer anyway.

      4. hearthie Post author

        I don’t know how strong in prayer I am, I just know there are a lot of folks who need praying for. I’m going to heed Elspeth’s advice and start praying for them higglety-pigglety, just to get them prayed for! The close ones get prayed for a lot, the not-so-close, not-so-much.

        I *don’t* think there’s anything special about me. That’s why I talk about this stuff. I figure we all have some version going on in our hearts/lives, and maybe it would help if we did talk about it and exhort one another in right action.

        ((soft hugs)) for the one who has passed.

  2. gmaali

    Your job is to shine – if that is attractive to people they will come around. If they are not attracted to the light – too bad for them – you can NOT argue a person into the kingdom. You can put their fears to rest if they are ready to lay them down – but other wise – it is a trap to steal your joy and waste your time.

  3. Jenny

    Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His stradfast love endures forever.
    –kind of discovering how important steadfast love is to those who are hurting right now, you’re full of it (love)

  4. Elspeth

    This is an important post Hearth. It touches something that Christians often forget. Namely, that Scripture says:

    The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.

    Good to know I’m not the only one who writes lists of people I need to pray for. I’m not spiritual enough nor of sharp enough mind to remember otherwise.

    The other thing (that used to surprise people but they’ve gotten used to it) is when someone calls and says “Pray for me that…” I figure it best to just stop and pray right then. No chance of my forgetting, you know?

    Unbelievers don’t usually do that, but then most of the unbelievers I come into contact with regularly are family members. I think there is a special something about you that the Father trusts you to pour into the lives of these unbelieving souls without damaging them the way so many unloving, dogmatic believers tend to do with unbelievers.

    1. hearthie Post author

      I have freaked non-believers out by praying right then and there! A good freakout. 😉

      You’ve struck something in your comment (well, two things – reminding me to just PRAY and not worry about a system, I’m not good at systems) about drawing folks to God with lovingkindness. I didn’t remember that verse, but that’s what I figure I’m supposed to do. Just love on folks. Not like I have a choice. :p

  5. ballista74

    @Elspeth Great attitude on praying right then and there. A lot more impactful I guess than most that just have prayers and well wishes and don’t follow out in faith like 1 John. Perhaps, one of my more annoying personal things about the church is exactly that. I get people saying that and then with most of them, I know by various fruit-type things that they don’t consider prayer as that important. Oddly enough, the ones that do consider prayer as important tend to stick out too by their fruits, but such are things.

  6. Maeve

    You know, Hearthie, it would not surprise me if many of the folks you are praying for did not once have faith. Sometimes we do have it – it’s something we’re raised with and maybe don’t think much about. And then something awful happens to us and it smashes that comfortable faith to bits and then we wander around in a sort of ferocious faith – but it’s an “I believe in you but I hate you for what you let happen to me” kind of belief – and that’s heavy, so it becomes easier to just allow ourselves to believe that it’s gone.
    And then we go along for a while like that. But the roots are still there – and there are people in our lives, like you, who are praying for us, for our conversion of hearts back to Him. And so we start to think that maybe, maybe we can trust Him again. So we make the effort. We go back to Mass, we begin with simple prayers we’ve always know. We tiptoe. And we experience new blessings in our lives – we meet our love, and there’s a marriage – a sacrament; we have our baby – and there’s a baptism – another sacrament. We feel healed and loved. Still we have our friends praying for us, because we’re going to be tested again.
    And the test comes. Horrible and final. And we come to the point where we must get off that fence once and for all. We either believe that HE IS, or we do not. It can’t be both. And that’s when the power of all those prayers comes in to play, because finally, finally we can say, “I do believe. No matter what happens next, I do believe.” That’s what prayer does – it tips the balance. The people on your list are truly blessed; they may not know it yet, but they are.

    1. hearthie Post author

      Yes, most of my list has been exposed to the gospel at some point, many are ex-Christians. Or people who have Christmas and Easter faiths.

      This piece started out to be an argument for the beauty of certainty. I’ve heard more than once how being uncertain is more comfortable/attractive than being certain. I wonder how much that stems from bad experiences with certainty?

      We have sandstone cliffs here, that inexplicably people build large homes on. Right at the edge of the beach. Soft sandstone, that a child can carve into with a stick. They’re lovely right now, with sunshine and small waves. But when the winter storms come and the waves hit those soft cliffs, bits of the cliffs crumble into the sea. Houses fall down sometimes. Happens every time we get a rainy year. But people still live in those houses… I don’t know why.

      1. ballista74

        @hearthie I can’t say I really read the original piece that way. The only real certain thing in life is Jesus Himself. The problem really isn’t one of comfort in certainty, but one of faith. I know I’m seeing that in my life time and time again. It’s easy to say “the Lord will make it all work out”, but much harder when you look at your health, and all the work before you, and the money going out more than it’s coming in and when those desires for a helpmate come, not seeing one, or even the possibility of one.

        I don’t think it’s bad experiences with certainty more than how hard faith is, or how stupid false faith can be. So many of us want to hold onto everything we can see. Church buildings, priests, people in general, money in the bank account, blogs, family, and all of that. It’s hard to hold onto someone that we can’t hear, feel, touch, or see. But this is what Jesus calls us to do. Your last paragraph reminds me of this:

        Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. (Matthew 7:24-27)

        (and if you’ll indulge me)

        But to bring it back to the topic of praying for people’s salvation, I know people who have prayed for that for others for years. It’s hard to say that patient, that dedicated, for something that may never happen, or may never happen where you can see it and know (i.e. you move away or die). There’s people I’ve had contact with that probably prayed for my salvation, and really never know that I finally accepted Christ.

        The fact is, there really isn’t anything that’s certain in this life or the life to come except for God Himself.

      2. hearthie Post author

        It wasn’t meant to be a diatribe on certainty. *That* post-in-my-head got squashed. But I’ve been thinking about it, and some bits came out.

        For your encouragement, for whatever small bit it is worth to you… I went through the place where my idol had to burn, and I felt very much like Eustace from The Dawn Treader – I didn’t know it could hurt so much without dying. God took me to the very edge of what I could stand… and then I got a two month nap on the couch with percocet every six hours on the dot. And then, THEN, things slowly started to change. Sometimes now (six years later) I look around and am gobsmacked by how wonderous the change has been and how much I am blessed.

        I want to share, but … it seems impossible to share wonder.

  7. Elspeth

    But to bring it back to the topic of praying for people’s salvation, I know people who have prayed for that for others for years.

    This made me think of a woman I know. The church the husband and I attend is in the town I grew up in- 25 minutes away, and we drive over there every week.

    When I was a child, the couple behind us had the same routine. The husband would get up drive his wife to that church, drop her off, go home and sit under the tree in the yard with some guys from the neighborhood and have a couple of beers until church got out when he would get up, drive over there, and bring her home.

    I know that this woman was praying for her husband to come to faith and bring her to church rather than just drop her off. She’d told my parents on more than one occasion.

    It’s well over 30 years later now. Our family attends that much larger church now and this couple is very old. They have children my age. And every Sunday as we pull up we see the husband drop her off. And as we leave, we see his pickup truck come in as he arrives to pick her up.

    They still live and breathe, so it’s certainly not too late. But she has been waiting a very long time. In the years since I stumbled into this sphere I wonder how many women in her position would have ditched their husband years ago and found a *good Christian man*. I marvel at her faith and faithfulness. But what if her prayer is never answered?

    By the same token, what if some of the things we pray for never come to fruition? There are a couple of things I’m praying for right now that I can’t bear the thought of not receiving a satisfactory answer to, so frankly I don’t entertain the notion. However as I read Ballista’s comments I thought about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego:

    If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; [p]and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

    I suppose that faith that is focused only getting an affirmative answer to what we pray for is incomplete. We have to have faith that whatever the outcome, it is in the hands of the One who made all, sees all, knows all. And that isn’t me.

    1. hearthie Post author

      I can only comfort myself by knowing that however much I love someone – it is nothing to God’s love.

      If there was a formula for making others convert, there wouldn’t be any non-Christians left. It’d be the happiest pyramid scheme ever – as soon as you converted, they’d hand you a list of people to pray for. And so on. We’d be praying for newborns and no one else in 100 years. or less. (Depending on the formula).

      It’s faith and HOPE that drive us to keep going, I ‘spect.

  8. Pingback: For Your Edification. | Loving in the Ruins

  9. Elspeth

    I have freaked non-believers out by praying right then and there!

    I just remembered when a few months ago one of SAM’s subordinates called him about scheduling time off for a medical procedure and before he hung up, my husband asked him, “Can I pray for you man?” I think the man thought he meant like later, after they hung up, and SAM started praying for him right there on the phone first thing in the morning.

    I don’t know that I could have done that when I worked a job, frankly. SAM wasn’t phased or deterred in the least. Man had health problem and he knew about it? He prayed.Rather than create an awkwardness, that particular man (older, more life experience) appreciated it a great deal.

    We often underestimate the impact we can make, whether or not the person comes to faith right then or not.

  10. Maeve

    “We often underestimate the impact we can make, whether or not the person comes to faith right then or not.”

    This is so true. In fact, I think many times we never clearly see for ourselves the effects of our prayers, because we can’t truly see inside another person. And this should not deter us in the least.

  11. Deep Strength

    1. I’ve heard it said that apologetics are for Christians. Not for non-believers.

    2. You can’t argue someone into the kingdom. God always presents a choice and there is no coersion.

    3. Our witness is typically displayed most in our actions and not our words. In fact, usually the strongest witness is from those who are truly changed and transformed to be like Jesus.

    4. That shouldn’t dissuade us from using words, but understand that words are often just the seed and God uses our actions as water to grow that seed.

    1. hearthie Post author

      But aren’t there some nice sharp rocks I could kneel on while begging people to convert that would *make* them love Jesus? -sighs- I’m a big girl, I know that’s not how it works. .. but surely it’s not only my heart that so yearns?

      I truly feel selfish, like I have the most delicious meal in the world, and I can’t get anyone else to believe I’m eating something other than mud pies. If I could only get them to try just a mouthful… but instead, here I sit, feasting while they starve.

      1. Deep Strength

        Take the gold, burn away the dross. It’s good to yearn for salvation for all, but it’s bad to be discouraged because of the yearning.

        One of the best lessons in life is that you can’t change people who don’t want to change.

        The real key, however, is spotting the people who you can make an impact on with your words or actions. Pray for God everyday to reveal to you those situations in which you can make an impact, and He will provide them.

        This is similar to my everyday prayer for God to put me in challenging situations where I will be forced to grow and adapt and become a stronger Christian whether it will be for myself, with others, and in relationships.

  12. hearthie Post author

    So I’m in my room praying about some homework I’m doing for Bible Study and this convo is what’s really on my mind. (I will be writing about it after I digest it, trying to integrate intellectual knowledge with heart-knowledge is … not working at the moment. We have a traffic jam).

    And I think, maybe we use the wrong word for this whole thing, and maybe my evangelical upbringing has a down side… maybe we shouldn’t talk about “winning” souls or tell stories about how we won the arguments with the non-believers, like these interactions are a way to keep score.

    I obviously DO care about soulwinning. It’s a lot more than “winning” to me. But I think I have to take me out of the equation. As DS was saying, it’s time to just ask God to use me as He pleases and not worry about what He’s going to do with the words He puts in my mouth. I did that today, actually (for anyone who read the “don’t brace for impact” blog) and I know I got used. If nothing else, I got a bit of peace for my own heart.

    It’s hard for me to STOP. To not pursue the conversation and sit on people’s chests and stare at them ’til they come around. When I care, I really care.

    -takes a deep breath-

    It’s time to learn to trust and let GO. It’s not my business to steer someone else’s ship, even if they are headed for the rocks. It’s my job to … do whatever it is that I do, when God tells me to do it.

  13. ballista74

    Your comment, as well as some of the others here, makes me wish I had a like button for comments.

    Actually you can set the blog to do that…most don’t for obvious reasons.

    And I think, maybe we use the wrong word for this whole thing, and maybe my evangelical upbringing has a down side… maybe we shouldn’t talk about “winning” souls or tell stories about how we won the arguments with the non-believers, like these interactions are a way to keep score.

    This actually points to the problem of individualism in the institutionalized church (in other words, that thing men created). When you create an organization, and start worshipping it, the only things that begin to matter are numbers and nickels. So you end up getting a 100% emphasis on evangelization, with the only way of truly serving the kingdom being how many people you got to say some words and get wet.

    Remember it’s not about starting the race, it’s finishing it. I can start a marathon anytime I want, hey I can start one right after I make this post…I’ll go to the chair in my living room and sit down…but you get it. Of course, the only thing people meet when they get in is utter garbage, so it’s pretty unappealing. Especially when their only concern then becomes extracting the evangelical association dues (aka tithes and offerings) out of you. This is especially marked by an offering time that exists co-equally (or moreso) with the communion rite.

    It’s a topic I never got to before (the individualized institutionalized church, where church is that place you go to and not what you are with others in true community), but there it is in a nutshell.

    1. hearthie Post author

      I attend a good church* with a lot of love, but I see what you’re saying. In – quite a lot of ways. (*small c – not large C for the Church as the body of Christ).


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