As I’ve mentioned before, the last months have been challenging for me on several fronts. In the midst of this, I’ve discovered I don’t want to face the pain and discouragement I’m feeling. I want to close my eyes, click my ruby red shoes three times, and be magically transported to safety as all my difficulties disappear.
The problem with this approach is that it can turn me into a whitewashed tomb. Jesus talked about the Pharisees who looked righteous on the outside but inside were hypocrites. When I’m struggling, I’m not worried about appearing righteous but I do want to be seen as strong and competent–even to myself.
So I ignore the unpleasant feelings in me, hoping they will get the message and slink away. But pain is a signal that something is wrong. It’s like a flashing red light along the road that warns us there is danger ahead.
When I pretend everything is fine, I soon become like a whitewashed tomb. I hide the sorry state of my heart with a coat of happy whitewash to mask the cracks and the mold. I spend time with God but I’m only skating on the surface. I’ll read scripture and pray but since my heart is closed off, it becomes just a mental exercise.
The Lord says:
“These people come near to Me with their mouth
and honor Me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from Me.
Keeping my distance
So instead of coming closer to God [which is exactly what I need during hard times], I keep Him at a distance. The same dynamic works in our human relationships too. The easiest way to put someone at arm’s length is to avoid telling them what is really going on in my life. And that’s how I become like a whitewashed tomb: pretty on the outside, dead on the inside.
Of course when I keep quiet about what I’m feeling, I’m not keeping anything from God. He knows the state of my heart better than I do. He is intimately aware of the turmoil I try to ignore.
O Lord, You have examined my heart and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.
Honest to me
This means that telling God what I feel isn’t for His benefit. It’s to help me. Because even though God knows what’s going on in my life until I admit it I keep Him shut out. But as I share where I am and what I am feeling, my heart opens up to God. Then He can respond with His love and power. He can begin to bring healing.
God’s Word is filled with examples of this. Over and over in the psalms, a person will cry out to God honestly and without any filters. The person pours out anger, fear, disappointment, rage. But eventually, he is reminded of who God is and what He can do, how He remains faithful to us all the time.
Often the psalm will conclude with a burst of praise, but it’s not a superficial or intellectual act of worship. The psalmist is speaking from the depths of his heart. In the process of being honest with God, he has drawn near to Him. For sharing our innermost struggles with another person is the quickest way we become close to them.**
The seeking One
“Where are you?” God asked Adam and Eve as they hid from Him in the garden.
“Where are you?” He asks each of us. “Trust Me. Bring your fears to Me. Talk to Me about your disappointments and your pain. Don’t keep it locked away where it will fester. Honor Me with your confidence and confide in Me. Draw near to Me and I will draw near to you** I want you to experience My perfect love which will push your fears aside.” **
It’s true. For all my dread of facing painful feelings, I can’t remember one time when I’ve felt worse after honestly pouring out my heart to God.
I think it may be like The Velveteen Rabbit, the story of how a stuffed rabbit becomes real through the love of a boy.
It seems the reverse can happen between us and God. He is real and vibrant but my relationship with Him can turn into a lifeless velveteen faith that I keep out of the way on a shelf. Pretty to look at but not part of my nitty-gritty life.
That’s why it’s so vital that I admit what is going on with me. Being honest is the lifeblood of a real, honest-to-God relationship.
What about you? What secrets are you hiding from yourself? Where do you need to be honest with God?
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them… There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
I John 4:16,18