I Finally Found God

This was written at the request of The Relevant Christian magazine–I suspect it will form some of what I might say in one place or another… In the meantime, here it is.

found

My name is Les Ferguson, Jr.

That may not mean much to you and that’s ok. In fact, you may have no idea who I am or where I have been. Any news stories you might have seen have long left the airwaves…

And I am good with that.

There was a time not so long ago when my name didn’t mean much to me either. I longed to drown my memories, to forget my existence, and to somehow alleviate my all-encompassing pain.

At this point, frankly, I am somewhat weary of the notoriety of my story—I am weary of some of the things that have become an ingrained part of my new identity. I am weary of the heartache of the past that will always be a part of my present and future.

My name is Les Ferguson, Jr.
I am a preacher’s kid.
The world of church work has been a part of my life since almost as long as I can remember.
I grew up in church.
I came of age in church.
Much of my identity and self-worth has long been tied up in church and service to her. Even when I wanted to be far away, she was always close by, an ever-present attraction or irritant, depending on the circumstances.

My name is Les Ferguson, Jr.
I used to be a preacher and that is a story we are getting to.

In fact, I started preaching for a little country church at the age of 15. It was a predominately African-American church. I say predominately, because there was one skinny white kid who preached there on Sunday mornings. Yes, that was me.

I owe that little group of folks a lot, but that’s a part of my story we will not delve into today…

My name is Les Ferguson, Jr.
I went to Magnolia Bible College and studied to be a preacher. My time at school was divided by a six-year hitch in the US Navy. After the Navy, I began work as a youth minister in Vicksburg, MS and also went back to school. In time, I began a full-time preaching ministry in Laurel, MS and later in Gulfport, MS.

I’d like to think I did good work during some of those years. Certainly I grew as a speaker/ communicator. More importantly, I grew as a theologian and minister. And as compassionate as I’d like to think I was, I had lessons yet to learn that would prove to be the fight of my life…

My name is Les Ferguson, Jr.
I used to be a preacher and then I found myself being one again.

In some ways, it would be easier if I could tell you I suffered a moral lapse or made some huge mistake that necessitated a ministry time out. It would be easier to say I cheated with my time. Or maybe I swindled some sweet elderly lady out of her life’s savings or insurance. It would be so less painful to tell you I embezzled church funds or got caught up in some aspect of illegal drug use. It would be far simpler to just acknowledge some degree of depression or a mental breakdown.

It would be easier and I wish I could, but I can’t.

My name is Les Ferguson, Jr. and the time between having been a preacher and becoming one again was a long hard battle of lost and rediscovered faith.

Preachers are not supposed to lose their faith. Standing all alone atop our pedestal of supposed super spirituality, we are thought to be invincible to the failure of doubt. At least until we aren’t and by then, there is little you can say to stop it.

When faith departs, there isn’t a single religious cliché that will fix anything—not WWJD (What would Jesus Do) and not FROG (Fully Rely On God). And faking it till you make it isn’t a viable option either.

And then there was scripture.

Comparing my story to the story of Job wasn’t comforting; it was obscene. And Romans 8:28 enraged me—there was nothing good about the murder of a wife and son.

And so faith departed. It didn’t happen all at once, but I felt it trickle away and was powerless to stop it.

I am not sure I wanted to.

I suppose I should clarify what I mean by losing faith. In my case, I never quit believing in God. I never doubted His existence. I never doubted His presence in this world. In fact, that knowledge and belief in Him fueled my doubt like pouring gasoline on an already raging fire.

When I say I lost my faith, what I mean is losing my trust, hope, and belief in a God who loved and cared for me. I knew He cared for others. I saw the evidence in a thousand places in a thousand times. I heard the happy praise. I saw the exponential joy. I felt the faith of others as a living, breathing, tangible thing…

I get giving God credit for the good things we experience in life. I really do. But every time I heard someone speak of what God had done for them–curing their illness, getting them a new job, buying them a new house, or making their headache go away… I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs both literally and metaphorically the immortal words of Esau, “Do you only have one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” (Genesis 27:38 HCSB)

The next phrase in that verse says, “And Esau wept loudly.”

So did I.
So did I.

And in my tears, rage, and bitterness, I cried with an impotence hard to imagine…

What about me?
What about me, God?
Don’t I count too? 
Why doesn’t my family matter as much as his stupid toothache or her goofy issues?
Why God, why?
Why can’t I be blessed like all the rest around me?
What did I do wrong?
How did I fail you?
What about me?

In those words are the pain of every hurting, broken, questioner who has wondered where God is and why He hasn’t made a difference so desperately wanted and needed.

In the dark despair of tragedy, in the grip of a destructive evil, those were my words.
They were given birth the day my family was ripped from me.
I angrily thought them the day I was forced to pick out two caskets.
I mouthed those words relentlessly as I stood in a day long receiving line.
I cried those words as the funeral message was preached.
I sobbed those words quietly at night as I tried to comfort a five-year demanding to see his grave-bound mother…

Eventually those words took on a life of their own. In my bitterness and despair–in a dry and weary land–there was no comfort, no solace, no balm of Gilead to soothe my spirit, to ease in even some small way the despair that had taken root in my soul.

In that fertile ground of pain and sorrow grew the sure knowledge that God—real and alive—cared nothing for me. I couldn’t trust Him. There were no bargains to be made; no deals to be had.

Hope was gone and I was alone.
Raw.
Bleeding.
And desperate for something to ease the pain…

In my heartache and anger, I eventually found God.
Not all at once.
But slowly and surely, as life became more than just my pain, God started showing up.

Here’s where the story gets real.

The former preacher, the guy with two theology degrees and a lifetime of ministry, finally found God.

Not the God who blesses America (even though He does).
Not the prosperity God who delivers wealth to those who contribute (to whatever cause or bank account needing funding).
Not the God we keep all locked up in a box (church, traditions, understanding) of our own making (although He can dwell there too if He so chooses).
Not the God we bargain with and cut deals for (even though I am sure He is interested).

Instead, I found God.
The God who created everything.
The God who wants nothing more than relationship with His creation.
The God who offers grace, mercy, and love.
The God who redeems our brokenness and changes our story.

For me, the redemption of my story was everything. To use my pain to bless others means my family did not die in vain.

And thus, the grace of God has proven to be overwhelming.

I am preaching again and this time I share a message of grace I have experienced; a message of grace I am compelled to share with others.

My faith is secure.

It took awhile, but I finally found God on His terms and not mine…

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Madison/ Ridgeland, MS.

Life is Good

Busy, busy, busy…

Just like you.

Next Tuesday I will be speaking/ teaching three classes at the 2014 Harding University Bible Lectures. If we haven’t met and you are there… well, come let me buy you a cop of joe!

Today I sent in my topic title for the 2015 Pepperdine University Lectures.

Won’t that be a funny sight? A Mississippi Redneck in Malibu, California!

I would have never imagined how much life could have turned in around in the past three years. We are fast approaching the three year anniversary of the day my family came unglued.

And while all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again… God has been mightily at work in the life of my family.

What was broken has been in many ways restored.

At any rate, I am thankful for so much that we have been given–new opportunities for ministry, speaking, writing…

I am so thankful for Becki and the way she has brought peace and love into our lives.

My parents, siblings, and close preacher friends have been rocks of stability!

And then there is my oldest son, Kyle. No man could have asked for and received better support and love from his oldest son (and his wife, Karissa)!

Indeed, all my children–whether birth, adopted, or step continue to give me great joy and more reasons to fight on!

And I cannot say enough about my new church family at the Lake Harbour Drive Church of Christ in Ridgeland… Your positive encouragement and patience mean everything!

So.

No theology or challenges from this blog tonight (Although you can read new material from me posted this evening at Wineskins.org–please feel free to check it out!)

Just thanks.
Thanks to all of you who have allowed me into your lives–who have helped give me a new voice!

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Hey Pimp!

Hey Pimp!

Yep. You read that correctly.

Hey Pimp!

My friend John Mark Hicks connected me with another writer by the name of Tim Brown. Tim is going to help me work through the process of getting a literary agent.

I called Tim the other day and got a voice mail prompt that made me think I had the wrong number. I tried again and got the same. The problem wasn’t my dialing.

So since I thought I had the number wrong, I sent Tim a short message through the FaceBook Messenger app on my phone. A couple of hours went by and no response. I checked my original message and was horrified at what I found.

Somehow Hey Tim was autocorrected to Hey Pimp!

Yep.
Hey Pimp!

Truthfully? I was mortified. Embarrassed. Horrified. Frustrated.
And apologetic.

Thankfully, Tim laughed. And I did too.
Eventually.

That’ll teach me to put faith in technology.

Faith is a funny thing.
We claim it.
We proclaim it.
We compare it.
We share it.
We shame it.

Shame it? Yes. It may not be what you are shooting for, but people often get shamed by others from their point of faith. I can tell you that from my experience–on both sides of the coin.

“You just have to be strong in your faith. Just be strong and have faith that everything will work out.”

How many times have you said or heard or thought something along those lines?

Sounds powerful and true, does it not?
That is, until it doesn’t work out.

The truth is sometimes very brutal no matter how much you don’t want to see, hear, or otherwise experience it.

Finding out you are paralyzed from the neck down–and it’s permanent –does not work out.
Realizing your child is mentally and physically handicapped does not work out.
Losing a parent, spouse, child, or sibling does not work out.

As a result though, you may adapt.
You may learn.
You may grow.
You may accept.
Life changes.
Life becomes very different.
But those things do not work out, no matter how strong your faith.

“Faith and doubt are opposite sides of the same coin.”

How different ministry and service to those who grieve and suffer might be if the acknowledgement of this simple truth could’ve made.

Truly, faith and doubt are inherently wrapped up in our relationship with God.

Having faith doesn’t insure against the absence of at least an occasional twinge of wondering/ questioning where God is or what his nature might be. And sometimes it even means examining and wrestling with the reasons why we believe in the first place.

Instead of being afraid, condescending or judgmental when doubt is expressed by others, we should instead recognize it as a valid thought or emotion. Doubt is usually expressed in the aftermath of crisis, in pain, and with great fear of the future.

It is easy to tell someone “it will all work out.” It is quite another to walk alongside–allowing them to give voice to their heartache and frustration–particularly where God is concerned.

This Christmas, the best authentic gift you might ever give is the gift of presence, compassion, and understanding. Faith and doubt go hand in hand, especially when you lend your faith and strength to those who wrestle with it.

Thank you to all who have walked with me through deep and dark emotions. Yours is the gift of life to one who has struggled.

Merry Christmas to all! (But don’t tell my mama I called you a pimp…)

🙂

Les Ferguson, Jr.

The Twins

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:24-29

Poor old Thomas.

He gets ridiculed for his doubt. How in the world could he not believe Jesus had risen from the dead?

But back in Thomas’ day and in mine as well, people died, they got buried, and short of divine intervention, that’s how they stayed, dead as a doorknob–at least in this present world.

And yet at the same time, we know Thomas was privy to the fact that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. He was aware of all the particulars on that spectacularly amazing day.

Still, how many other folks had managed to drag themselves back from the grave? How many other people took an abbreviated dirt nap before awakening themselves and arising to walk in this world again?

Zip.

Nada.

Zilch.

None.

Not a singe one.

Can you cut Thomas a little slack? Can you give him a little bit of wiggle room? I mean, all he had to go on was the testimony of his fellow disciples. And when you get down too it, they weren’t necessarily a stellar crowd.

Among them were poor fisherman, a political zealot, a betrayer, and a denier. None of them were scholars. Their qualifications, behaviors and attitudes sometimes left a lot to be desired. So before we jump on old Thomas, maybe we ought to ask ourselves if we would have believed under the same circumstances…

I suspect I would have been a twin to Thomas. I suspect that though I would have wanted to believe, I would have wrestled with confusion, stress, frustration, and well, whatever meager evidence my eyes could have seen.

The truth is, I am a lot like Thomas to this very day and what I would have wrestled with then, applies now.

Please don’t get me wrong. I believe in God. I believe in the Holy Spirit. I believe in Jesus. I believe in what Jesus did. I believe in what He is still doing in the lives of people everywhere. I believe Jesus is coming back to take home those who belong to Him.

I have faith.

But I also have doubt.

Some days it is hard to really believe God cares for me.

Some days I really struggle with the the idea God has my best interests at heart.

And almost every day I wonder if God’s timing will ever be on time for me.

I am a twin to Thomas the Doubter.

Or maybe his clone.

But even as I doubt, I believe.

I believe.

“Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.” (Khalil Gibran)

Come See Me This Weekend at Discover Rally!

Les Ferguson, Jr.

From My Perspective: What Real Faith Looks Like!

Faith.

We sing about it.
We talk about it.
We pray about it.
We throw it around as if it was somehow easy to have or easy to grasp.

We tell people they need to have faith.
We tell others they need to keep the faith.
Or maybe we ask them, Where’s your faith?

We describe faith as pure. Or simple. Maybe basic. Or even elementary.

And sometimes we describe those who might be struggling as losing or having already lost their faith.

I know
Believe me, I know.

I have been accused of not having enough faith.
I have been pigeonholed as one who has lost his faith.
I have heard how he’s (that’s me) lost his way, bless, his heart.

Or better yet, what kind of a preacher gets mad at God?

As it turns out, this kind.

And the truth is? My faith has suffered some hard, hard days.
Try having your family ripped asunder.
Try seeing your whole world unglued.
Try losing a whole circle of friends.
I bet you’d also find it hard to sing about having an awesome God…

Not that He isn’t. Not at all.

But when people are hurting and wanting answers, it’s not a simple matter of just having faith.

I never once stopped believing in God.
Not once.
Never.

But if you reframe the question, then I had trouble seeing his goodness. I had a difficult time finding His mercy. I struggle even now with seeing His purpose for my life. Lots of things are still topsy turvy upside down. With no end in sight.

Still want me to have faith that everything is going to work out alright?

Let’s be real. Somethings will never be made right. Not on this side of eternity.

But in a funny way, I have found strong hope in the strangest place.

My hope is wrapped up in faith.
A faith I wrestle with.
A faith that has left me without near enough answers to satisfy my anger, fear, and frustration.

You see, I think we have the concept of faith all messed up. We see faith as something concrete, fixed, unmovable. But that’s not necessarily true.

The very idea of having faith means also having doubts, fears, worries, and questions to go along with it. Without those things, faith wouldn’t really be faith, would it?

Honest and pure faith is full of unanswered questions. It is a wrestling with God and the answers we crave.

I confess: I don’t always understand. But my hope is in a God of faith who recognizes the validity of struggle, who acknowledges the doubt, who understands the heart behind the questions, and who helps me take a step forward, even when it seems so counterintuitive to do so…

Faith.
It’s hard.
It’s difficult.
And sometimes it seems like the last thing we ought to hold on to.
But it gives me hope.
And I am glad.

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Abraham, The Father of Faith?

I don’t know if this is wise or not, but…

As I write, the new material for my book tends to become the next lesson I preach. Or vice versa.

At any rate, to keep up interest, I thought I’d share a snippet written ultimately I hope for publication…

Though I walk through the valley of darkness

I am not afraid

Cause I know I’m not alone

And if the wind blows east, would you follow me

And if the wind blows north, would ya stay your course

And if the wind blows west, would ya second guess

And if it blows to the south, would you count me out

And if the sun don’t shine, would you still be mine

And if the sky turns grey, would you walk away

Would you say I do, if I say I’ll be

And walk this road through life with me

You know I love youuuuuu

On this lonely road of faith

On this lonely road of faith

(Kid Rock)

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God. It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed[a] that God would keep his promise. And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them… It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead. (Hebrews 11:8-12, 17-19 NLT)

Abraham.

The father of faith.

But what exactly is faith?

In my blog Desperately Wanting to Believe Again, some might have been tempted to think I wanted to learn how to believe in God again. That would be the wrong temptation to embrace. When I use the word believe I don’t mean acknowledge God’s existence. To the contrary, I believed then and believe now fervently.

What I have wrestled with is faith.

The belief and trust that God has my best interests at heart. That God really does care. That God loves me.

Like many of you, I know the scriptural definition of faith: Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1, NLT)

I believe that verse. And yet, it is problematic for me.

The first part I am extremely cool with. I have great confidence that God has given me salvation. I eagerly await the day when Jesus comes back to take us home. I didn’t say if, I said when.

But the second part of the verse in question? Faith gives us assurance about things we cannot see…

I said it was problematic. That’s really understating the case.

I have found it hugely hard to believe God really wants the best for me. I have struggled significantly with the idea God was protecting me or taking care of my family.

Even now, when I see His providence, I still wonder about the past. I still question where we are going.

Whether I wanted it or not, I long ago left my home for a far country. I once wrote on my blog that I mourned the loss of me. If we had experienced only a double murder, that would be massively bad enough. But the loss of wife and son, mother and brother, brought on more changes than we could have ever imagined.

Yes, I have mourned the loss of me.

The connections, the location, the friends, the life once had… It all went away. And faster than you might believe.

I am also appreciative of the faith of Abraham.

God said go and he did.

And for whatever reason, we don’t quite get the questions he might have had. The worries. The fears. And even the loss that came with leaving one life and embarking on another.

Abraham, the Father of faith is presented as a man who unquestioningly trusted God.

It’s a beautiful picture even if it is not quite true.

Before you level a charge of heresy or sacrilege, try to remember some stories from his life of faith. It wasn’t an all cheerful Forest Gump life is a box of chocolates existence.

There were struggles. There were hard times. There was disbelief. There was uncertainty. Remember Sarai? Was she wife or sister? And what about the promise of having a son? Sarai laughed. They played pregnancy games. Poor Ishmael was nothing more than a faithless attempt to make God’s word true.

And then there was the whole deal of sacrificing Isaac. Do you really think Abraham made the trip up the mountain with a light heart unburdened by questions, worries, fears, and doubts?

But if none of this is enough to help you see Abraham as man for whom faith wasn’t always easy, then let me remind you of Sodom and Gomorra. Remember when God was going to destroy those two wicked cities? And Abraham was cheering God on? Right? Except, there was no cheering. Instead there were questions, doubts, fears and disbelief.

Remember what Abraham asked the Lord? What if there fifty righteous people living there in the city? Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?

I don’t know about you, but I hear the questions of Abraham’s heart. I see a man of faith who was also a man unafraid to say to the God of the universe, hey, wait a minute. I am not sure about all of this. I see how things aren’t working the way I imagined. Sometimes it doesn’t look like you have my best interests at heart. And yet, I believe even as I doubt.

In a book about zombies and survivors at the end of life as we know it, the author gives vibrancy to an ex-catholic priest turned warrior with these words that resonate still: Faith isn’t the absence of doubt, it’s the decision to believe in something contrary to what you observe. (The Remaining: Refugees, D.J. Molles)

And like the man once told Jesus, I believe; help me with my unbelief.

I Don’t Want Anything To Do With Your Plan!

C’mon.
Really?

Are you serious?
Is that how you want to reconcile your questions and faith?

Ok. So maybe you’re scratching your head wondering if good old Les has finally lost his mind. Probably, but that’s not really up for discussion. At least not in this post.

Try this premise on for size: I am seriously confident in believing there are very few who don’t have a God created in their own image.

Yesterday’s post was just two examples of how we create God in our image. We have expectations of God. We expect Him to perform as we think He should. We expect Him to provide answers that completely satisfy our questions.

Good luck with that. At the same time, I am confident you also have had an occasion or two in which your expectations have not been met.

So here’s my rant, difficulty, and frustration–not with God, He gets a break today…

When God did not fit in your god box, when God did not do what you think He should have, and when God did not and doesn’t yet answer your questions, please, please quit ascribing your lack of understanding to some mysterious plan!

I could scream every time somebody suggests that all the bad stuff that has happened is a part of God’s plan. Think about what you are saying!

When the horrific occurs and people are scrambling to get a handle on it–to understand how and why such things happen… When you have a million questions for God–when you are striving to comprehend where God was… Quit giving Him and yourself a pass and ask the hard questions! Sure, you may never get a satisfactory answer, but ask the questions anyway.

When you credit the unanswerable to some vague plan of God, you are not comforting the hurting, you are trying to give yourself false comfort and hope.

News Flash! News Flash! News Flash!

Bad things happen to good people. Hearts are broken. Lives are shattered. Blood is spilled that can never be put back. And to say rape, murder, suicide, divorce, cancer, and any other horror is God’s plan? That is tantamount to blasphemy. God does not work that way.

Care to repeat that with me?
God does not work that way!

But Satan certainly does.

The thief comes only to steal and kill. (John 10:10a, NIV)

I don’t understand why God doesn’t intervene. I confess my struggle to reconcile God’s presence in my life with those times He is so conspicuously absent.

Surely, if I thought for a minute God was behind the loathsome events that shattered my family and whose ripples are still being felt and will continue throughout our lives…

I would curse Him and beg to die.

That’s not my God.
That’s not His plan.

It doesn’t mean I am letting Him off the hook with the hard questions. It doesn’t mean I don’t still want answers. To the contrary, I do so want them.

Even as I recognize answers may never come this side of eternity, I’d rather go through life wrestling, struggling, and limping with God than to live in blissful ignorance. No matter how many times you say it, I will not pretend to find some lame comfort in a non-existent plan.

If nothing else, that’s a plan I have to live with.

Aren’t you glad faith is not one size fits all?

Les, Jr.

PS. Thanks to all who read. Today the blog went over 50,000 views. And thanks as well to all who have subscribed and liked the Facebook page!

When God Isn’t

God.

How do you cope, what do you say when God isn’t?

Isn’t what?
Yes, that’s the question, what then when God isn’t God?

I am getting ready to celebrate the two year anniversary of my 49th birthday.
If you can’t figure that out, it means I’m almost 51.

I don’t feel old, act old, or look old. In fact, I am one good looking man. Right Becki? Becki?

Smiling with you before we go a bit deeper.

The point isn’t my age or what I look like…
The point is the culture in which I live.

I am a Burger King guy in a Burger King world. Not so much the actual burgers themselves, but I have grown up and matured in a culture that has told me I could have it my own way. Every time. All the time.

Like most people in the American context, we want what we want and we demand it our way… or else.

And in our thinking, that’s the way it works in a God context as well. Man is made in the image of God–and we turn around and make God in ours.

In my mind, God is like my Father. He is my protector, fixer, helper, and validater (ok, validater is not a word, but I needed the tense and couldn’t say validates). I have meaning because God says it and proves it doing the things a father does.

Until He doesn’t.
What then?

My expectations of God are not that difficult. Not for an all powerful, ever present God. Especially considering we had a deal.

I serve Him. He protects me and mine.

Until He didn’t.
What now?

I never knew until I did how many other people have such questions. Such pain. Such anger. Such doubt about how He choses to work or not in our lives.

Since I started writing Desperately Wanting To Believe Again, my email is dinged daily from people who struggle just like I do.

People who are bitterly disappointed in God. People who cannot understand how a loving Father God sits idly by and does nothing. People who are on the ragged edge of ever believing and trusting in Him again.

If it were you, could you really blame us? If you had to walk in our shoes, would your faith take a hit?

Please, please quit telling us how God has a plan. Really? God’s plan was a brutal double homicide? Or cancer? Or suicide?

This isn’t really about how disappointed we are in God. I am. We are. And He knows it.
He would have to be deaf and blind or zoned out to not know.

But that’s not the only way we have made God in our image. We have this expectation of answers here. Answers now. Answers that make sense and give us hope.

Sadly, those answers are not always forthcoming–and we are not completely capable of understanding.

It is hard when God isn’t God. At least the God we have come to demand and expect.

So what then when God isn’t?

That’s the conundrum of faith.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1Corinthians 13:12, NIV)

Faith is a journey some of us limp on…

Where are your faith struggles?

Les, Jr.

How Faith Survived?

The following is an attempt to answer a question posed by a reader in response to this post. The question: How could I still believe at all?

I love being able to take pen to paper or pound on a key board. I love using words to communicate feelings, describe emotions, and work out meaning and understanding.

That I am not alone in seeking something better and more complete makes the process that much sweeter.

For the longest time I felt all alone. I was the only person I knew who had experienced the murder of spouse and child by somebody known, trusted, and invited into our home. The fact that he was a member of our church family made the horror of it all so much greater.

I felt physically and emotionally alone everywhere I went.
I was damaged goods.
The world was dark and dim.
And no matter how many times somebody said I understand your struggle and feel your pain, the truth was this: you had no idea.

I couldn’t begin yet to quantify the depth, height, and width of anguish, sorrow, and hurt. I am still discovering those dimensions–in some ways, we will not ever know how big the hurt will be. In fact, my children have a lifetime of painful moments ahead of them. Every significant event, holiday, achievement, success or failure will be a moment in time in which they will be reminded of their loss–and the brutal horror of it.

I have teased my oldest son and his wife that they are not allowed to become parents–because I am not old enough to be a grandfather. So far it is working.

But there is going to come a day when that first grandchild makes an appearance. And in the midst of happiness, I will know my son’s bitter hurt and disappointment because his mother and brother will not be there to share…

So if we can’t know yet the dimensions of our pain, how can you?

Please don’t misunderstand and think we are a family burdened by an overwrought misery. To be expected, we all have our moments. I had one last night–it was a brief time of guilt because I had such a good day. Some of you will comprehend the guilt inherent in having a day not weighed down by sorrow.

But the truth is we are all trying to live good, happy, and adjusted lives–far different than what we imagined, but good nonetheless.

Did I mention how alone I felt?

Surrounded by family and friends, you can still be the loneliest person in the world.
Especially when the most lonesome aspect is perceived abandonment by God.

Whether He was there or not, it is hard to feel Him in the grips of such grief and anger.

Initially I was bolstered by my faith. But in the next month or so as the new reality of tragic loss began to take hold, faith turned into anger.

How could a loving God let such a thing happen? Where was He when Cole was being systematically raped and abused.

That was my precious son and God stood by and did nothing.

Where was He when Cole and Karen were fighting for their lives?

Yes.
I.
Was.
Angry!

Wouldn’t you have been?

Those were the times when the platitudes and sappy hope of an effortless faith meant nothing at all.

My faith loss wasn’t about disbelief in God. My loss of faith was about my understanding of God’s nature. Who was He, really? What was he really like? How could He really let such evil thrive?

No, I never quit believing in God. There is a sense in which I never quit believing He loved me.

I just didn’t understand. I can’t yet claim to understand a God who is so far beyond human comprehension.

The truth is this simple: I never realized how much hard work faith requires. Faith requires a belief and trust that God really does have your best interests at heart. I struggle with that. At the same time, I am not ready to jettison the idea of God caring for me.

So here is my conundrum…

Either I go through life empty with no hope.
Or, I try to do the hard work necessary to trust the God I don’t understand.

It is easy to be peeved and angry–it is hard to trust.

So I wrestle and limp and wrestle some more.
And have faith that one day, my limping gimpy self will trust the God I chose to serve…

Les Ferguson, Jr.

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Horatio Spafford & Me

Oops. I accidentally posted this a bit ago with the wrong Horatio. Thanks to RW for alerting me. I knew when I did it something was off–how I got the name wrong, I will never know! Grace, I need grace!

I appreciate much the reading, comments, sharing, and subscribing so many of you have done. You have helped give me voice again. Those of you who have already subscribed (see the subscription link to the right of where you are reading now), are helping me get ready for the next opportunity–whatever that might be.

This faith journey is taking me somewhere–and from what you are saying, I have struck a nerve. I am not alone in wrestling, fighting, and struggling with God. My faith is not the only faith with deep questions. My life is not the only life that has faced, is still facing, and will face that dark night of the soul…

Thank you…

We went to worship yesterday.

That is nothing unusual. I normally enjoy being with God’s people when they gather together. I have long appreciated David’s words,

I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1 NIV)

For the longest time, being inside a church building was just utter torment. Being in worship was just a reminder of what God didn’t do.

Praying? I will not claim to have ever had the kind of praying relationship I would have liked. So much of my prayers over the years have been wordless appeals to God. And now? Most of the time I start to pray, but it just drifts away because I have no idea what to pray for and expect in return. I believe God still hears me, but if He is waiting for me to have a clearer picture, we might be awhile…

I do try to say bedtime prayers with Casey. He doesn’t much want to do it, but on the nights he wants to, I end up angry at God all over again. It’s kind of hard not to get upset when a now seven year old asks God to tell his mom and brother hello. And God help me, he sent a letter to each of them in January by helium balloon–and he has asked God to have them send a letter back to him.

What do you do with that?

Singing? I have found little if any peace in worship music of any kind. Which is really saying something when you know how much I like bands and artists such as Mercy Me, Newsboys, Jeremy Camp, Chris Tomlin, and David Crowder. Over the last six months or so, they have largely been absent from my life.

And giving? I have tried in the past to be a generous giver–there was a time when I had a bit too much pride in that regard. But now? Maybe you might think I am being overly dramatic, but it feels like I have already given too much of me…

But those are my problems, not yours–and for me, I am striving to work through them.

At any rate, we went to church yesterday and heard a great sermon about children honoring their parents (Thanks TW). But I almost missed it

At some point before the preacher took the stage, we sang an updated version of an old hymn by Horatio Spaffordr. I sang it as hard as I could with tears streaming down my face.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul, It is well, with my soul, It is well, it is well, with my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well, with my soul, It is well, with my soul,It is well, it is well, with my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well, with my soul, It is well, with my soul, It is well, it is well, with my soul.

I wish it was.

I want it to be.

It is well… And though it isn’t always, I hope and trust, one day it will…

Thanks to a new friend and blog reader, I leave you with this prayer from Thomas Merton:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.

And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road although I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

I want to believe.

How about you?