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When God? How Long?

Sermon Series on Brian McClaren’s book Naked Spirituality

Preached: March 10, 2013
Scripture: Psalm 42

Have you had moments when you were totally exasperated with God and cried out:

“When God?!” or “How long God?!”
Have you ever been afraid that you would lose your faith?

There are times in our spiritual lives when we are stuck between a sense of frustration and helplessness between the reality of what life is and our ideal of what we think life ought to be.  When things didn’t turn out the way you planned?  It may be a time of personal crisis, or it may be a time of hopelessness and helplessness like when natural disasters strike – earthquake in Haiti, tsunami in Japan, and Indonesia, or through the violence of others – Sandy Hook shooting.

Sometimes it’s a time of doubting our faith or even abandoning it for awhile.  We don’t know who or what to trust anymore.  We may become disillusioned in our faith.

And usually we don’t like to talk about it with anybody, including, especially God.  In fact, some times it’s precisely the people closest to us who are the hardest ones to talk to.

Lord Grantham from Downton Abbey tells his butler Carson when it is discovered that Carson had previously worked for the carnival: My dear fellow, we all have chapters we would like to keep unpublished.

Share personal story of waiting and frustration, the chapter in my life I would have rather kept unpublished.  General Board of Global Missions….

Brian McLaren writes in Naked Spirituality:  What happens when we’re praying, but wisdom is not forthcoming?  What happens when the death toll keeps doubling, or the oil spill keeps gushing, when the suffering seems too great? What happens when we do all in our power to help, yet God seems distant or nonexistent?

Psalms of Lament:  Psalm 13o:   I wait for the Lord, my soul waits.  How long, O Lord?

How much longer? How long can I last?  How long till hope comes?

Feelings of unfulfilled longing, abandonment, and confusion.  You hope it won’t go on forever.  You pray for  a sense of peace and fullness will come again someday.

McLaren begins by calling these prayers of fear or frustration, but ultimately lands on another set of words – desperation, exasperation, & ultimately aspiration in seeking God.

McLaren explains “aspiration” as the act of seeking God with our whole being as in Psalm 42:  “a breathless, gasping, longing, a life and death thirst, a deep and passionate—even desperate desire to survive and thrive as a person of authentic faith.”

Psalm 42- The psalmist’s thirst answered at first, not by flowing streams, but by the flow of salty tears.  “My tears have been my food day and night. while people say to me, where is your God?”

What do you do when things don’t work out the way you hoped?  When questions or prayers go unanswered?

After we’ve done everything we know and it doesn’t work – what then???

Understand that others have been this way before:  Job, David, Jesus, Paul

We would rather have our pain unpublished, and the desire is to isolate or become depressed.

Instead of allowing these emotions to bubble under the surface un-acknowledged, un-expressed, this spiritual practice of Aspiration invites us to express our pain and our helplessness to God! Otherwise they stay inward and plunge us into depression.

Spiritual practice of Aspiration:   any abiding hunger or thirst–the intense, persistent desire to receive something you don’t have, to become something you are not yet.

Continue to hold your when or how long or where before God.  Make space for disappointment, frustration, and un-fullfillment to come out of hiding.  And know that the peace of God surrounds you even in the midst even where, especially where you don’t sense God’s presence at all.