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Do you ever want to just throw in the towel?

A number of years ago I was talking with a woman in the church I served who was going through a painful divorce. She said she was angry with her husband, angry with herself, and angry with God. At that last point, she stopped and said, “But I know I shouldn’t express my anger to God. That’s just wrong.” I told the woman to go ahead and let it out. God can handle it, and He already knows anyway.

Sometimes we wonder if God is okay with our rantings and ravings. Will He be upset with us if we really let Him know how we feel?

One of the beautiful characteristics of the Bible is its honesty in portraying human emotions, even when it recounts stories of frustrated followers and sorrowful saints. Moses cries out to God in desperation: “What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? . . . If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin” (Numbers 11:11, 15).

This is raw, real and unfiltered.

Centuries later, Elijah the prophet has a “mountain-top experience” as he calls for fire from heaven to consume the altar he built, and people shouted out, “The Lord, He is God!” Elijah then prays for rain, and God opens the floodgates of heaven to end a severe drought (1 Kings 18).

After such a display of God’s power and Elijah’s courageous faith, we would expect Elijah to extol God in grateful euphoria. But at this point, the story takes a dark turn. Elijah discovers Queen Jezebel’s plot to kill him, and this man of fearless faith crumbles emotionally.

We read that “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life… He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. `I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. `Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep” (1 Kings 19:3-5). Elijah falls fast and furious from a life of sacred power to the valley of despair.

As Jeff Manion writes, “[Elijah] was completely spent, emotionally drained, and feeling as if his life and leadership have been a colossal waste” (The Land Between, 72).

Have you ever been there? Maybe you’re there right now. If so, may the stories of Moses and Elijah reassure you that you are not alone. Remember, these are spiritual heavyweights—heroes of the faith, but they, too, hit the wall and wanted to throw in the towel.

It appears from these stories, and many others like them, that desperate prayers are a sign of spiritual health rather than spiritual deficiency. When we acknowledge our weakness and dependency on God, that’s when His power is made perfect within us (2 Corinthians 12:9).

God wants you to cry out to Him in your pain and anger. He won’t condemn you for your brutal honesty. In fact, when you are honest with Him about how you feel, He doesn’t bring a rebuke but a tender response, inviting you into His rest. Jesus offers this invitation, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Receive His invitation, and keep the communication lines open, even (and especially) if your words are a desperate cry for help.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

Detour Ahead!

A couple of years ago I was on a motorcycle ride with a good friend, and as we got close to our destination, we saw a big sign that read, “Bridge Closed Ahead. Detour.” Being the non-conformists that we are, we rode around the sign, thinking the detour would be further down the road well past our destination. But it wasn’t. The road was blocked about 100 yards before we could cross the bridge and come to our journey’s end. We could see where we wanted to go, but we couldn’t get there. And so we had to take a detour that cost us about thirty minutes (which we willingly endured only because of the joy of riding motorcycles).

Detours are like that. They take us the long way around. You can be so close and yet so far away.

In his book, The Land Between, Jeff Manion tells the story of Ted and Ashley, a couple in their late twenties that dated for about a year. They agreed to spend an upcoming holiday with her family, and Ashley believed that would be the time for Ted’s proposal. Before they left on their trip, Ted asked if he could talk with her. He seemed a little nervous, as though he was about to pop the question. He awkwardly asked, “What would you think if we dated other people?” Come to find out, he already had been.

Ashley was traveling down a road, believing her engagement was about 100 yards away, and then a roadblock appeared out of nowhere: “Road Closed. Detour.” So close and yet so far away. She felt like her last two years had been wasted. “How long do I have to take this road before I come to another road called Dating, then turn down a street of a significant relationship, and finally end up back at engagement?” (181).

There are many types of detours:

  • The detour of cancer.
  • The detour of divorce.
  • The detour of bankruptcy.
  • The detour of a runaway daughter.
  • The detour of job loss and extended unemployment.

Manion writes, “Some of us have been on detours for so long we wonder if we are still using the same map” (182). Detours are inconvenient, frustrating, time-consuming, and aggravating. But detours can also be opportunities for God’s blessing. Often is the case that God chooses to bless us in places we did not choose to be. He forges our character. He increases our patience. He opens our eyes to see things we may have otherwise missed.

The Apostle Paul encountered numerous detours of hardship, persecution and pain. In reflecting on some of those experiences, he wrote to the Corinthians how he was “utterly burdened” beyond his strength. He “despaired of life itself.” He felt like he had received “the sentence of death.” But in the detour, the blessing came. “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (2 Corinthians 1:10).

Detours are not dead ends, at least they don’t have to be. They will lead us to our ultimate destination, just not in the way we hoped to get there. If you’re on a detour right now, open your heart and eyes to see what God wants you to see, which you would have otherwise missed if you hadn’t taken the detour.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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