So…what about disillusionment? If it is a place where profound intimacy can be built, why are we so hesitant to go to Jesus with it?
One word: fear.
Most of us have been taught overtly or indirectly that if things are not working in our lives, it is because we are messing up. It is our fault. We either didn’t do it right, or we didn’t do enough right stuff. Either way, we are some way, some how, guilty, so who would go running to the judge for comfort?
The reality is that some of our failures absolutely are our fault, in which case, the sooner we deal with the confession, the sooner He will be on our side helping us clean up the mess.
But the rest of the reality is that a lot of the things that are very painful for us, and are seen by us as failures, are not seen that way by Him.
Let’s take two Biblical examples.
When the disciples came back from their second evangelistic tour, they were pretty excited about how well things worked. Jesus agreed that they had executed well.
However, on the first trip, there is no record of their having done anything right. In fact, Jesus was overt in saying he wanted to get them out of Capernaum and away from the crowd so He could debrief and help them process the mess.
It looked so easy when Jesus did it, but somehow the sermons did not sparkle the same when they preached them, and personal ministry wasn’t quite as compelling when they tried it.
And Jesus knew that was going to happen when He sent them out. He knew they would pretty much wobble their way around, and that was why He wanted to spend time with them apart, so He could help them fail forward. That is what a mentor does. He was not angry at them. This was just spring training — not the World Series. No big deal. A learning time.
Here is another one. Elijah was a one-dimensional man. He hated Baal. He wanted Israel to worship Yahweh with the intensity and reverence He is worthy of. This is not a bad goal, but I feel it became Elijah’s cause and not God’s calling.
When the event on Mount Carmel was over, Elijah had not succeeded in bringing about a national revival. Yes, fire fell. Yes, people were awed. Yes, they killed 850 priests. But it fell short of the tsunami of passion to return to God that Elijah expected as the ROI on the trifecta of miracles he had done.
And I think his disappointment in not achieving the goal he set, brought about the suicidal depression that night.
Frankly, I think God’s goal was a bit more modest and was achieved. Prior to the Mt. Carmel event, there was no freedom of religion in Israel. The 100 prophets who had survived the huntress were hiding in two caves.
After that event, we see schools of prophets being established in the open and expanding without government intervention. Clearly there was a shift. I think God’s objective for that event was to shift the culture and the government enough for the 7,000 righteous men and women to come out of hiding and go public with their faith.
What if God’s plan was a process, not an event? What if Elijah accomplished what God wanted for that particular day?
Is he the only one who set out on a grand adventure, assuming he knew what God’s goal was, and he was wrong? I doubt it. So when we are deeply shattered and mired in disillusionment over our failure to execute, it is a good thing to go to the King and find out if He is using the same measuring stick we are.
Here are three situations from my life where going to God in my pain proved very positive.
I was in Scotland on December 23rd one year, sitting in a hotel eating dinner alone, listening to the bar fill up behind me with Scots drinking as Scots are known to do. I had come there under the radar at great sacrifice, and the ministry I had attempted was a real bust. I was deeply grieved at the financial cost and the loss of time so I poured out my frustration to the King over my inability to hear Him correctly and make wise decisions.
At the end of the conversation, He showed me that I had heard Him. He had brought me there. The people I had come to see were just a smoke screen and He actually wanted me to deal with a land issue, which I had done effectively. He was pleased with me.
I left that discussion hugely comforted and with a deeper level of intimacy because I had gone to God, instead of processing my grief, frustration and false guilt alone.
Another time I reached out to help a friend in what was going to be a fairly basic life-giving situation. It blew up in my face and I ended up picking up the tab for the mess someone else caused. I was horrified at how such a simple situation could have escalated into a monster mess with a price tag I didn’t know whether I could pay.
I went to Father in my dismay and despair and poured out my shock about the mess and my concerns about the future. His response was succinct: “Trust me, Son.”
Apparently it was rigged. Apparently God was in this from the beginning and He had a good outcome in mind, and had just failed to mention it to me along the way.
Father was confident that the good He had planned for me, in the midst of the mess, was greater than the cost I would have to pay. I still was not excited about the price I got stuck with, but it gave me courage to go forward with what had to be done, knowing God had my back.
In the end, there was indeed a treasure in the swamp and my intimacy spiked.
Here is a third one. I took on a project no one else was willing to deal with. It was hard. It was big. I knew it going in, and felt it was right for me to do it. It was in line with my design and my calling. I was confident of success, although I knew it would be a long, complicated process.
So I played hard and I played long. I suffered setback after setback for years. I stayed in the game. Several times it looked like the whole project was going to go up in smoke but God allowed me to pull it back from the edge on three occasions.
Then we finally turned the corner and started to rebuild. I was thrilled and in awe of what God was doing.
Then it fell apart. Awfully. And in the midst of the mess, God asked me to stand down and walk away from it.
I was horrified and humiliated. After all I had invested . . .
For several days I was too numb to go near the issue. Then I went to Father and shared my pain. This landed hard on my childhood issue of “my best is never good enough.” Being benched so abruptly and with such finality left me feeling emasculated. It stripped me of any sense of manhood. I was reduced to being the naughty kid, sitting in the corner. The sense of powerlessness was cascading through a garbage bag of other emotions.
When I was quite done sharing how crushing the blow was, He said, “I know.”
And that is all He has ever said about that one.
Frankly, I am still not feelin’ the intimacy here. Not even a little bit.
But I know one thing for sure: if I had not moved toward God on this one, the devil would be yanking me around unbelievably right now with every toxic emotion in the book. As it is, I am still a bit wobbly, but because there is no condemnation from Father, and He is walking closely with me on other issues, I can hold the devil at bay.
And that is a good thing.
Copyright January 2011, by Arthur Burk
From home in Fullerton, CA