Cursing God and Finding Faith…My Story

The following is excerpted from my book, “Out of the Depths: A Songwriter’s Journey Throught The Psalms“. If Lent is a time of sharing, praying, and fasting then I guess this is my way of sharing. It’s a story of a lost follower of Jesus, it’s my story. I hope it’s a help on your Lenten Journey toward the cross.

It was the darkest time of my life so far, and I hope ever. It was my own dark night of the
soul. The brilliant theologian Frederick Buechner once wrote “Doubts are the
ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.” With that thought in
mind then I guess you could say that at this point of crisis in my life I had ants
in my pants.

In my experience, God honors our doubts about Him. The mystery is that
somehow God’s presence becomes clearer in His absence. If in our moments
of darkness, we will acknowledge that we are indeed in a time of doubt, God will honor that. Our doubts, failures, and hurts are to be embraced, for
ultimately they drive us to our Lord.

I’m about to describe to you a time in my life when I felt like God was an
absentee father. I felt like a child desperately trying to find Him, but He
seemed conspicuously nowhere to be found. It’s important for us to be honest
with ourselves in these times. It was during this dark period of my life that I
completely renounced my Christian faith. Granted, it was only for a couple of
days and I never made it known to anyone but God, but it happened, and here’s
why.

My marriage had fallen apart and no matter how hard I prayed I couldn’t
piece it back together. I was broken through and through. I was angry at my
wife, I was angry at the world, and I was angry at myself. The only one whom I
felt safe directing my anger at was God since He was the only one with
shoulders big enough to take the beating I needed to give.

At one point I stood alone in the sanctuary of my church pointing at the
cross angrily shouting something like this at God:
“I gave you everything, I did everything like I was supposed to, and
still she’s gone. I didn’t want to be a pastor. I hate being a pastor, and I would never have done it if You hadn’t called me. I did everything they said
to do. I prayed, read my Bible, waited until I was married to have sex,
married a Christian and none of that mattered. Following You has ruined my
marriage and my life. All these stupid rules that You and your church inflict
on us are crazy. That’s why she left you know, couldn’t stand life in the gold
fish bowl. You’ve ruined everything in my life, God. If you were here right
now I would crucify you myself. I did everything like you wanted and what
did you do? NOTHING! I don’t believe in You, and I will not follow You, and
I am not Yours anymore. I don’t care if I go to Hell, I’m done with You”.
I went back and sat in my office at church after praying that prayer.

It’s weird to call it prayer but it was indeed prayer. It was a strange mixture of
agonized sweat, tears, and numb ambivalence. Imagine my secret conundrum: I
was a pastor and I didn’t want to follow God anymore. When my wife left, it
broke me all the way down. There was such a feeling of uncertainty and mental
conflict in my life. I guess that’s what a crisis of faith is, an uncertainty about
things that are supposed to be certain.

The odd thing was that a couple of days later I again found myself alone
in that same sanctuary, crawling on my hands and knees toward the altar. I told
God how sorry I was, how wrong I knew I was to say all those things to Him. I
still didn’t like where I was, but I was glad to do it if He had called me there. I told Him that I knew He didn’t cause my life to crumble or my marriage to fail.
I just cried and sat with Him in the silence for a while.

I know it wasn’t a physical presence, but while I knelt there praying, I
felt in my spirit like God was holding me tightly to his chest whispering in my
ear, “It’s okay. No one else could have taken the beating you gave me. It didn’t
hurt. I know you love me. I love You.” Ironically, in those few days when I
“renounced” my faith, I experienced His closeness in the most real and
profound way I ever had. What I really needed was to be honest with a God
big enough to absorb my frustration, hurt, anger, and my sin.

During that time of life, I was at an in-between place of uncertainty. I
didn’t know how the story was going to end. That seems to be the place the
Psalmist finds himself in too. Psalm 89 is a community lament written for a
time when, in spite of the promise God had made, the future of the Davidic
dynasty was in doubt. The Psalmist was the representative of the community,
voicing its urgent prayer for help.

James L. Mays, in the Interpretation
Commentary makes the following helpful observation about this Psalm:
“The future of the community was at stake in the fate of its king. In a way,
the psalm locates the people of God where the books of Kings leave them–
with their king and their future in the power of their enemies. In the
arrangement of the Book of Psalms, this lament is placed at the conclusion of book III…It stands as the counterpart to Psalm 2 with its divine decree that the
anointed is God’s answer to the hostile turmoil of the nations, and it voices the
anguish and disparity between the reign of God and the destiny of the
Messiah.”

I believe Psalm 89 is one of those in-between places similar to the one I
personally described above. It’s not very satisfying to end on a note of
unresolved tension, but that’s how real life goes. It works the same with
unresolved music actually. There’s nothing that will unnerve a crowd more at a
concert that to leave the final chord of a song unresolved. I’ve had audience
members that wanted to come up on stage and strum the tonic key for me just
because they can’t handle the unresolved music. How much worse is an
unresolved life?

Pastor of Entertainment

Originally posted on Led To Lead:

There’s one thing I can count on nearly every Sunday following one of our worship services at Decatur First.  As I’m putting things away, sharing in conversation, or headed to the car someone will stop me to offer a handshake or a pat on the back and tell me, “You really sounded great out there today.  I love your music!”  It’s a wonderful thing to hear.  I put in a lot of time practicing, honing my craft to make sure that I’m a good steward of the talent God has given to me, so knowing it is well-received puts a smile on my face.  But sounding good is just a tiny sliver of what I really, truly desire for our worship time.

In the church (or anywhere, really) great music can be a powerful tool to help connect the heart and the mind, which is fantastic for evoking an emotional swell in the midst of…

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Episode #135: Oscar Winners We’ve Never Seen with Guest John Wilkerson

Episode #135: Oscar Winners We’ve Never Seen with Guest John WilkersonPOdcast Logo 2015 with web site

This is a very different episode than we usually have on Voices In My Head. Two busy dad, John Wilkerson and Rick Lee James get together to discuss the Oscar winning movies in 2015. However, they’ve never seen any of them so their discussion is based solely on the film titles, hearsay, and just plain silliness. we hope you enjoy this comedy filled episode of Voices In My Head.

Praying, Cursing, And Heading For Lent

Sometimes I really wish people wouldn’t read their Bibles. That sounds blasphemous I know, but it’s true. The Bible contains all that is essential for life and salvation, it tells us repeatedly that God is love, it gives us the narrative of our faith story, and yet there is no other book I can think of that causes more damage than the Bible. For instance, what are we to do with passages like these from the book of Psalms?

15 Let death take my enemies by surprise; let them go down alive to the realm of the dead, for evil finds lodging among them. (Psalm 55:15)

Break the teeth in their mouths, O God; (Psalm 58:6)

28 May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous. (Psalm 69:28)

May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. (Psalm 109:9)

Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks. (Psalm 137:9)

The Psalms have a unique place in the Bible in that they are prayers and songs prayed to God. Where other parts of the Bible are filled with messages from God to us, the Psalms are our prayers and songs of praise to Him. The Psalms were not only the hymnbook of ancient Israel, they were the main prayer book and songbook of Jesus and his disciples, the early church, and most of Christendom until fairly recently in church history. The Psalms have been teaching believers how to pray and praise God for literally thousands of years.

About a year ago I released a book called, Out of the Depths: A Songwriter’s Journey Through the Psalms. In it I told readers that I just wasn’t sure what to do with certain scriptures like the imprecatory (cursing) Psalms, quoted above. I’ve gone as far as wondering if there are some parts of the Bible that Jesus would forbid us to pray. We would never see Jesus joyfully dashing infants on rocks and I don’t believe for a second that he would ever condone such unspeakable acts. Yet, here in the prayer book that we know Jesus used, we have unconscionable prayers like these.

How can the Christ who told his followers to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them have anything to do with cursing prayers like the imprecatory Psalms? Does Jesus really want us to pray for the damnation of others, to pray that innocent women and children be widowed and orphaned, wandering desperately in the street with no help to be found? How does God answer our prayers of cursing upon others? I believe He answers them with the cross.

All the hateful things that we prayed about our enemies, Jesus took upon himself on the cross. When mankind prayed for God to humiliate, starve, and destroy the enemy, God answered those prayers by coming to earth as Jesus to be humiliated, starved, and destroyed in their place. When our weapons were aimed at our enemies, Jesus turned our weapons and aimed them at himself. Jesus died from the shots we fired. Jesus was killed in answer to our prayers against others. Jesus didn’t only die for our sins, Jesus died for the sins of the enemy.

Jesus on the cross is God’s response to the cursing prayers we pray. All the wrath that mankind could muster was aimed at Jesus on the cross. Jesus did not bear the wrath of God on Calvary, Jesus was God on the cross bearing the wrath of man. Jesus died at the hands of devout, Bible believing, religious people. When Jesus taught us to love our enemies, he also showed us how to do it. To love an enemy, you might have to step in front of a bullet for them. When we rage against others, Jesus steps in to bear that rage because no one else has shoulders big enough to bear it.

All that being said, the imprecatory Psalms ,and many unsavory passages like them, are still in our Bible and they aren’t going anywhere. What should we do with these passages as followers of Jesus?

When traumatic events happen in our lives, we often suffer from what is diagnosed at Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Veteran’s Affairs requires soldiers who are victims of PTSD to write a stressor statement describing the stressful experience they had that led them to developing the disorder. This statement consists of three parts:

  1. Life before military service
  2. Life during military service (including traumatic event(s)
  3. Life after traumatic event(s)

Often, after traumatic life events, victims are filled with rage. They have trouble being around people and their temper gets the best of them. Victims often have trouble sustaining employment due to their condition, many times costing them their marriages, their homes and even their sanity. It is important that PTSD victims find a healthy outlet for their afflictions and that often comes in the form of therapeutic letter writing, chronicling their anger, grief, and need.

I believe that the imprecatory Psalms serve a similar function for us in our liturgy. Praying curses down on our enemies may not seem like a holy endeavor until we realize that we are praying them in all honesty to a God big enough to bear them upon Himself. When we pray for our enemies to be cursed it is an honest expression of what we feel, but God’s answer to us in Jesus will always be, “no”.

When God answers prayers of cursing, He does so by bearing the curse upon Himself.

Even so, we should still find the freedom to be completely honest with God in our prayers. Our God prefers an honest curse to a dishonest blessing. May God help us to see that Jesus is to answer to our prayers, even our prayers of cursing. He not only tells us how to love our enemies, He shows us. When we pray for our enemies to suffer and die, Jesus suffers and dies for them.

As we enter into this Lenten season, may God grant us courage to walk the road to the cross with Him, helping us learn what it means to truly be Christian. We will encounter scripture that makes us uneasy along the way so may Jesus be the living Word for us, showing us where we’ve gotten it wrong. When the crowd cries crucify, may God help us have the honesty to hear our own voices in the crowd.

A Prayer for Lent O gracious Master, infuse in our hearts the spotless light of Your Divine Wisdom and open the eyes of our mind that we may understand the teachings of Your Gospel. Instill in us also the fear of Your blessed commandments, so that having curbed all carnal desires, we may lead a spiritual life, both thinking and doing everything to please You. For You, O Christ, our God, are the enlightenment of our souls and bodies; and to You we render glory, together with Your eternal Father, and with Your all holy, life-creating Spirit, now and ever, and forever. Out of the depths Postcard