Have you had an experience in your life where after the event, you wondered about God’s goodness + sovereignty? Many of us spend time questioning God in the midst of such evil + suffering in the world. Maybe this is something that keeps you from praying or believing – I get that!
Recently, I was stopped in my tracks, breathless, when I realized God had allowed a specific trauma in my life. He could have intervened. Yet, He let it happen, even while I was pleading my will. I’ve been stuck right there for a while. I can’t wrap my mind around how God could allow me to go through this pain? He knew my dreams and He knew I did not deserve this. Processing this has taken me to the garden.
I’ve deeply related to Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus didn’t do anything wrong, even so, He was about to go on trial and be crucified, unjustly. He was in such agony He cried blood. I do not notice any joy in this picture. Jesus begged His father, “please let this cup pass.” As you may know how the story goes, Jesus also said, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42).
I’ve been here in the garden with Jesus for some time now. Relating so deeply to Him and the suffering found there. Stuck.
As a human, it’s hard, wait, impossible, to understand the thoughts and ways of God. I realized I felt very close to Jesus because I know he understood my suffering and was gentle + kind as I stumbled through it. But I have been detaching God the Father from Jesus, also fully God. My perception of God in my experience is that Jesus is with me and our Father is torturing us with pain and suffering. Allowing it. Willing it.
As I wrestled through this with the Lord, here is what I’ve learned:
Jesus surrendered to the hand of the Father because He trusted Him. Jesus knew God’s love and wisdom so He went to the cross. We get to see the other side of that story with the resurrection + redemption of all people who receive that rescue. But me… my story… I don’t know the other side yet. It’s a battle to pray that prayer, “not my will but yours be done.” It’s hard to trust God, and I’m squeezing more than surrendering.
Have you been there?
Does anyone else project their experiences/perceptions of their earthly father onto their heavenly Father?
My dad loved me so much. But he also had more trauma he was trying to survive than most of us can imagine. He didn’t have the love, support, or resources he needed, so he self-medicated with alcohol, starting when he was a young boy. And even though it felt like he chose a bottle over me, his daughter, my entire life, I know now that the story is more complicated than that.
On earth – we have to live in the tension of already but not yet. We have to live with the paradox that our earthly fathers love us, but they may not have any capacity to show it through parenting. My dad was a good dad, yet he was the source of much of my trauma.
God is my Heavenly Father. It’s been hard for me to understand His love + my belovedness as his child because truthfully, I didn’t feel very loved by my earthly dad. What I remember is alcohol. And fear. And shame. Not being seen. Or loved. My brain developed and was wired in toxic stress.
Now as a grown woman, I’m trying to better understand God’s love. As I’ve been doing my own work in therapy, I realize that God feels distant. I don’t picture a Father in the garden with me and Jesus. Because I’m projecting my earthly father on to my Heavenly Father. I know God loves me in my head, but I’m not experiencing the deep love the Father has for me. I didn’t receive or experience that kind of love by my parents or any other human, so it is hard to recognize it from the Father.
In January I received a few pictures from my grandma I had never seen before. Pictures of me and my dad. Pictures of him looking at me, noticing me, nurturing me, + loving me.
I love finding pictures like these: ones that show me — that prove — that my dad loved me so much. He was so proud of me. He looked at me with love in his eyes + heart, and my face says that I knew I was adored. When I look at these pics I’m reminded that his gentle touch made me feel so safe. He died over six years ago. Six years and grief is still here. Some grief due to the relational trauma I experienced from him, but most of it now is the grief of missing him, missing fishing together, betting on long shots at the horse track, and sitting in church together.
God the Father loves us exactly like these pictures I found. He sees us. Knows us. Holds us + our hands. The difference is… God loves us perfectly. God doesn’t struggle with sin or trauma. God does not have unhealthy coping/survival skills. God never leaves. He doesn’t get drunk. He doesn’t abuse. He doesn’t shame or condemn. He doesn’t get cancer. He doesn’t die (exception of Jesus – but He is risen!).
This is the important thing I know now in the garden. God, my Father, looked away from Jesus so that He would never have to look away from me (us). The new thing standing out in this Gethsemane story is that after Jesus submitted His will, an angel from heaven came to strengthen Him.
Question: Who sent the angel?
Answer: His Father. God is a good Father!
But what is even more interesting to me… AFTER that, is when Jesus started sweating blood. Jesus was in agony AFTER the Father had sent an angel to minister to Him. The Goodness of God the Father is that He is with us in the suffering. He may not take away the pain of the suffering, but He will join us in it so we can move THROUGH it. God the Father sent an angel to minister to Jesus in the garden, and God is the one who gave me Jesus in my garden. Jesus sent me the Holy Spirit to be my friend, comfort, + ever present helper. God is the giver of every good thing. I don’t know the reason why God is allowing your specific suffering. But I do know…
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And He who was seated on the throne said, ”Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:3-5
I believe my Dad was saved during the very last year of his life. I’m certain He is with Jesus in paradise, worshipping with the whales and all of creation. Today on Father’s Day, the root of my joy is that one day I get to be with my earthly dad again. That’s only possible through the blood of Jesus. And I invite you to take a risk of knowing and surrendering to Jesus… you just might gain eternity + lose the sting of grieving with no hope. You might not be fatherless.
The truest truth about God is when we are far away, He comes running with open arms. He leaves the 99 for one. He gave up his own son to bring us into his family. This is why God sets the lonely in families. The church.
Today on Father’s Day I may not have my earthly dad with me. But I have a Heavenly Father and I have my family. And today, in the midst of grief… My Father is giving me very good things. His greatest gift being His presence + adoption as His child and into His family. And may it be so for you as well.
If you enjoyed these thoughts, pretty much all of my (published) blogs are about my dad. So feel free to check them out. 💙