The “God is with us” cliche

I want to address something here that I’ve been feeling over the past few weeks, both internally and from others around Susan and this situation. About this whole idea of “God being with us” in the middle of this awful thing. I’m sensitive to both sides of this.

First, there are many people around who look at what this cancer did to Susan and our family and are mad. Righteously, I might add. Angry that something like cancer exists, and that it could take the life of someone so beautiful. Angry that it could leave such a gaping hole in both the Bailey and Law families. Even mad at God for allowing this to happen. Maybe questioning his goodness at all. Or even his existence. This is one side of things, and many of our friends have been, or maybe are still, here.

And I completely understand. Because I have been there myself.

I am under no illusion that I won’t have to walk through those questions again and again and again without a satisfactory answer. I am not in denial (at least, I don’t think I am). I am trying to be honest and let the emotions come and go, and let those of the kids come and go as well, not trying to explain this whole thing away or speak the empty, easy words of Christianity Lite.

Which is the other side of things. People who follow Christ often get accused, and sometimes rightly so, of explaining everything away. Of ignoring pain. Of not thinking logically. Of answering every question, no matter how serious, with a “hallelujah” and a “praise God” and a plastic smile.

I just want you to know that I – that we – are standing in the middle of those things somewhere. By talking about God in these posts, I’m very aware that this could turn some people off or cause them to shut down and say “Here we go again, another Christian living in la-la land”.

I have been mad at Him. I have gone longer than I should this last year without speaking to Him very much. Like a friend of mine says, “God and I are family. So sometimes we just sit in the same room and stare at each other without saying anything.” I have had many days like that. But I want you to know, and I mean this with all sincerity, that God is breaking through the walls that I have put up around my own heart. I’ve said this already, but His presence with Susan was undeniable. Only if I closed my eyes and covered my ears would I think otherwise.

To be a Christ-follower, I believe, is ultimately to be honest. Honest about how we feel, about what we see. About what we read in the Scriptures. About our lack of any ability or good thing without God. (Humility is a kindred spirit to honesty, by the way)

So when I say that God is with us right now (He is), what I mean is not in a Sunday-school-answer way. It’s not simply the right thing to say. It’s that He is proving His love to us, in many many ways. In spite of the fact that for whatever reason, He allowed the cancer to progress in Susan, He showed His love to her every step of the way. He is showing it now, and is melting the ice around my heart.

(And I’m aware that maybe I am writing these words as much for myself as anyone else. For the dark days which might be ahead of us, for a time when I need to remember that God is good, and that He does indeed love, more than we will ever know.)

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20 Responses to “The “God is with us” cliche”

  1. Misty Dove Says:

    Jerel,

    Again, beautifully written and honest. I know EXACTLY what you mean. I watched and experienced the same presence and grace of GOD like I have NEVER experienced before in my entire life during Alan’s illness and passing. I understand exactly what you mean! I think at this point, I have pretty much expressed every emotion and feeling that one possibly can. I have gone through fear, sadness, hopelessness, frustration, joy, peace, anger, all out RAGE, recklessness, denial, worry, and now to hope. I have literally thrown myself on the floor of my bathroom and screamed at GOD, WHY?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! No matter what the emotion I was experiencing at the time, I have always felt and continue to feel God around me and my kids. That gives me peace, comfort and strength. I still have very bad days, but now the good days are starting to outweigh the bad and that is a beautiful thing.

    You are doing great and please, please continue to post. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you or those sweet babies!

    Misty

  2. Catherine Warner Says:

    Just love this, Jerel. I just blogged about Job yesterday and the significance that through all the madness he endured, he remained in relationship with God. As your friend noted, sometimes in the same room not speaking. That is a way some of us express anger. That is purely human, and we are human on this side of the Kingdom. Again, as I’ve noted before, this has been so helpful walking back through some of our own grief…my Mom called me the other night and she had read through your thoughts and walked back through my dad’s death. Many similarities. So, very healing. Know that Warners are here standing with you in Spirit, wrestling with you in prayer and trusting that despite all the real and difficult feelings, ultimately, He is a Good God. love and blessings to you, the Baileys and the kids, Chris and Catherine

  3. Missy Says:

    I hang onto every word you write because there’s so much wisdom and insight. You are so honest and raw and I LOVE this posting!!

  4. Charlotte Lennartz Says:

    Jerel,

    You are an inspiration to me daily – please keep the post coming.

    Charlotte

  5. buttermilk80 Says:

    Which one of us would have desired to suffer so that we might find beauty? Yet, as you point out, beauty is solid in God’s ways. We are only man. And, in His Majesty, He does not consult our mind in forming His great wisdom. I applaud you in allowing Him to be God. We rest in our thrashing with the knowledge that He is More.

    By His Grace.

  6. Chris Osborn Says:

    At the risk (which I take very seriously) of sounding too “Christianity Lite,” I can only say “Amen” to your thoughtful and winsome post of today. Jesus has indeed promised that he would be with us, even unto the ends of the earth; and yet one of the very places that He walks with His people is in the valley of the shadow of death. Strangely, and amazingly, we can indeed get to know him quite well there, even in those conversations tinged with rage, in the cries of agony and the floods of tears that seem like they may never end, and in the awkward silences you so aptly describe. Perhaps that is because He knows that very territory so well (indeed, he has conquered it, ultimately). And maybe because it is one place where we can be alone with Him with much less possibility of his voice being drowned out by anything or anyone else. The loss of those we love is of such weight, such consequence, that a lot of the stuff that occupies our daily schedules loses its hold on our hearts, and that in a strange way makes more room for Him.

    Now it sure ain’t how I would have designed things (as far as I can say, without the benefit of omniscience, of course), and yet I cannot deny the correlation between my intimacy with God and the ways that it has been wrought thru suffering and loss. And I am grateful for the hope that He has wrought in me as we have walked in those kinds of places; hearing you describe much the same experience (in the midst of an even more devastating loss than any I have suffered) is an encouragement to me and confirmation of His great love.

    Thanks so much for your brutal honesty, joined inextricably with a steadfast and enduring faith–as expressed so eloquently in these posts, and as displayed most poignantly at the celebration service on Tuesday. It bears great witness to our great God, and the hope that we have. Keep doing what you are doing, brother, and know that God is not only with you, but displaying His power mightily through you.

    I know you are surrounded with community now, not to mention flooded with much to do and feel, but I do hope as time goes on that we will get to hang out and reconnect. I admire your faith, your minsitry, and your gifting, and would love to hear about how God has wrought all that since our days in Chapel Hill.

    Grace & peace,

    Chris

  7. shannon ball Says:

    Thank you for posting….after losing my mom 9 years ago, and each day forward in other “storms”, I question similar things of God. I get mad, and I tell Him….as I read this, all I can think of is Romans 8:26-27… 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God…..when I have those “droughts”…this gets me through…….

  8. Ruth Winn Says:

    Jerel,
    I certainly appreciate your attempts to continue to write on this blog. I know it is difficult as you face life without Susan, but it is refreshing to know how you are depending on your faith and trust in God and His goodness to be with you and sustain you all the way. We continue to pray for you, your children, as well as Dana, Brian, Martha, and Bill.
    Love,
    Ruth

  9. John Teeling Says:

    Jerel,
    Your words may be for yourself but you are writing for me too. Your posts are extraordinarily real about Susan, and the journey you’ve been on. I know it is not easy for you. Thanks for being courageous in the struggle of life. Thanks for sharing your love for Susan with me and with all who have read your posts and journeyed and prayed with you. Keep writing. Your words are soothing in the midst of pain (yours and ours). God is with you, as you write – and I don’t mean it in a sunday school sorta way ☺. I mean it in a 1 Peter 4:11 sorta way. Thanks for who you are. Thanks for what you do. You are an inspirational servant of our King.
    – John

  10. Sheryl Says:

    Thank you for these words today!!

  11. Steve Says:

    Thanks for being so real and authentic. For me it shows that God truly is with you and your family and that you’re not just being plastic. Continue to lean on God and those so close to your family. We think about you often and pray for you daily.

  12. amy dodson Says:

    Thank you for posting this. I have a great friend struggling with understand where God is and why he allows things like this to happen etc. I am going to share your words with him.

  13. Cathie Bowers Says:

    Jerel, your postings are so very honest and real. How I appreciate that. Also very inspiring and encouraging and God is honored in each one. Please, please, please continue them.

  14. Eileen Simon Says:

    Your blog and your strength is amazing. I had the pleasure
    of meeting Susan 2 years ago when my son Patrick was in Luke’s
    class at DUMC. Sadly, I did not have the good fortune to get to
    know her well…but I was always struck by how friendly and happy
    she seemed. And it was so obvious what a wonderful mother she was.
    I am so very sorry for your family’s loss. Your family will be in
    my prayers.

  15. Beverly Richardson Says:

    Amen and Amen!!!

  16. Corinne Farmer Says:

    Jerel, I’m thankful that you and Susan have allowed us all to walk alongside your family, at least in a small way, through sharing this blog. I’ve been smiling, crying, praying, and thinking my way through your posts over the past week. God is real and relevant and valuable; thanks for encouraging and convicting us to ‘hold out the word of life’ in the midst of grief, uncertainty, and unrealized dreams as well as in the sweet moments of life.

    All of the verses in this old hymn are beautiful, but the ending of this one has always made it my favorite:
    “Be still, my soul, thy God doth undertake
    To guide the future as He has the past.
    Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake,
    All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
    Be still, my soul, the winds and waves still know
    His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.”

  17. Shayla Says:

    I think you are handling the grief process extraordinarily well. And it is a process and there are stages that you will still go through but you have an advantage to those that do not know God in an intimate way because you have Him to lean on. And as you said, it is ok to be mad even at Him. He knows that we have real and honest emotions because He gave them to us when he made us. Just like the wonderful Father that He is, He has unconditional love for all of His children.

  18. Kip Says:

    God is righteous & just in ALL His ways — whether
    we can understand his mysterious providence or not. It’s just
    enough for us to believe that He knows what’s best for us, and
    there is never any shadow of turning (toward evil) in Him. A good
    musing over the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty (a la C.H. Spurgeon)
    would go a long way toward providing comfort when trite condolences
    don’t seem to cut it during nights of loneliness. He’s not left
    you, Jerel — just pruning you in order for greater
    fruitfulness.

  19. Chrisy Hatcher Says:

    Jerel,
    I just want to encourage you to continue to be honest with yourself and with God about what you are going through. I think your blogs have been great! I love what you said about you & God sitting in the same room and not talking to each other! That is so true sometimes and I have totally been there! I want to encourage you as a fellow person in the ministry not to feel pressure to keep up the “perfect” testimony at all times. You and Susan both have been a remarkable testimony through your journey, but that doesn’t mean there are not going to be times when you just say “This sucks!” And you need to be able to do that! I love the Psalms because I think David was the best example of honest communication with God! I know you are going to have some dark days ahead, and we will be lifting you up in prayer!

  20. Paulette Says:

    Your words are so real and I appreciate you sharing them.
    Two and a half years ago, I had an ectopic pregnancy. After trying
    to conceive for 4 years, I had come to accept that we wouldn’t have
    another child and was content. Then came the ectopic. During the
    time of struggle, anger, fear, grief and questions, it all came
    down to did I trust God or not. I had to choose to trust Him daily.
    Through your writings, I can tell that you are trusting Him too.
    Thanks for reminding people that God is big enough for ALL of our
    emotions, even the darkest ones. Prayers are going up for you and
    your family!

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