Yesterday I wrote about new things I had learnt about the story of Abraham and Isaac.
How excited I was to realise God isn't about testing people just to prove how much they love Him.
I decided I would focus not on the things God has asked me to give up in following him, but on the good things He has given me. Amazing Christian friends, parents who love and support me, a job that ticks all the boxes.
Growing up evangelical in Sydney I think there was often a backlash against the Pentecostal/prosperity gospel that was popular in Sydney during the 2000's. (It's still around, but I don't hear as much about it anymore). As a teenager I felt I was constantly told by youth leaders and teachers and people at church; following God isn't easy, don't just ask God for things - make sure you give up things for God, whenever there is a passage in the bible that says God will bless his people make sure you look at the context and don't actually expect anything from God, God gives spiritual blessings not physical ones, look at all the poor Christians around the world - God doesn't bless them why should He bless you, be happy when hard things happen because it means God is shaping your faith.
Okay I might be exaggerating it a bit, and I know that a lot of my own self-righteousness and reading of questionable theological websites during my formative years didn't help the matter either.
But the reason I write all this is to share why I struggle with the idea of believing in a God who might actually want good things for me, not just bad/hard things to shape my faith. Why I never believed God would actually answer any of my prayers for me. Why I disliked the story of Abraham and Isaac so much - it just seemed to confirm my idea of God too much. Because I always felt that while God provided the ram for Abraham I shouldn't expect God to stop me, just sit by while I gave up anything I held too dear.
And why I was interested in reading that maybe the story was also about believing in Gods promises not just that God demands sacrifices.
And I started to feel the cloud lift, just a little. Because most of my life I felt God gave me just enough to then be able to demand it back as sacrifice to Him. And I started to wonder if maybe, just maybe I was allowed to believe that God does want good for me.
But then several events happened (to me and to friends), and I felt myself saying "Well, You proved me right again God." The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised. (Job 1:21).
I spiralled down again, not being able to remember God's promises. And I wasn't able to praise God.
I found myself yelling at God again. "How could you do that?!"
Why did you bring me to this place only to let it fall apart? Why did you answer that prayer only to take it away before it really came about? Why lift my hopes up only to let them crash down again? What was the point? Can we have heaven already?
I wish I had a neat little answer to end this all with. But anything I would say would not be real.
I don't have answers. But I have faith in God even when I don't understand. And I believe in a God who is big enough to take my yelling's and not-understanding's, and not hate me. And I believe that one day He will reach out and wipe away my tears, and I won't ask 'why' anymore.