Why Does God Allow Trials? (pt. 1)

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

The first time I really, honestly questioned God’s existence was when I was 18 and facing a rough spot in life, a trial. My trial was mostly internal and invisible. At the time, I wished I had been crippled or had cancer or something, anything that someone else might be able to see from the outside. I hated the fact that people could look at me and think, “She has it pretty good!”

I went through a long trial, and I was a Christian, so I prayed. I prayed things like, “God, I know you’re there, so please help me,” and like, “God, I’m not asking you to change my circumstance. Just help me through it. Please. I need you.”

But I felt nothing as I prayed. And I felt nothing after I prayed. And I saw no sign of any supernatural help from God.

I thought I wasn’t believing hard enough or wasn’t living perfectly enough, so I put more effort into doing the right things and praying the right way and believing harder because that’s what was supposed to help. Eventually, though, I crossed a line and allowed myself to consider something else.

My rationality became: If God exists, I believe He has to be the God of the Bible. I believe He is everything the Bible says He is. Therefore, God must be holy, just, omniscient, omnipotent, merciful, and loving – all these things I’ve always believed Him to be. I don’t doubt that He is those things. But a loving God wouldn’t do this to me. If God exists and loves me, He would be helping me, not ignoring me. I’ve been pleading for a year, and nothing has happened. There’s no chance that God is simply not those things; therefore I have to conclude that maybe God doesn’t exist at all.

After I figured that out, I started calling myself agnostic. I stopped going to church. Stopped praying. Let down my guard and my standards. Went about my life as best as I could without God. (For a time.)

Separation and Healthy Marriage

If you follow my vlogs on YouTube, you are aware that my husband and I have been separated a while. Since late August, actually, when I left Missouri and went to Arizona to stay with my parents. Soon, this separation is ending, and I’m going back to Ft. Leonard Wood with Tumbles to reunite our little family.

Before I left, I thought and prayed a lot about even the idea of separation. I read about it a lot online, and I came across very mixed messages. I don’t know if anyone will end up coming across my website sometime when they’re looking for answers, but, just in case, I want to throw my opinion into the mix. Take it for what it’s worth. I’m a young, married, Christian woman with some life experience under her belt, but I’m no psychologist, clergy member, or anything like that.

Is Separation a Good Option?michy rose

After going through marriage and separation, I have to say that I do not believe separation is a good option for any marriage. I can understand why it seems appealing, I can understand feeling you need space, and I can even understand feeling that the space and time apart could do you and your marriage good. In spite of understanding these things, however, I have to say that my advice is to do your very best to avoid separation if reuniting is your end goal. (If you are aiming toward divorce for whatever reason and do not wish to reunite, that’s sort of a separate issue.)

Before I left, I read on both sides of the issue. Even within the Christian community there were conflicting messages about whether it had any possibility to be helpful to a marriage or not. I believe the ultimate answer is that it is not helpful, but rather it is harmful to a marriage to go through a separation when the goal is ultimately to keep the marriage going and reunite.

What Happens When You Separate

There may already be emotional distance between a husband and wife, but, upon separating, that emotional distance is increased as well as the physical distance. Without the ability to touch and see your partner, you lose a sense of intimacy. Without that physical intimacy (even if it’s just a hand on the arm now and then or a hug) and without the exchange of words you get when living together, the emotional distance becomes even greater. You go from feeling a little disconnected to being extremely disconnected.

Is that bad? Isn’t that sometimes what we hope to gain from separation? Maybe you feel like you need that space because you’ve been fighting so much that resentment is building up and building up and you’re worried you’re going to hate each other or head straight toward divorce if you don’t create that distance!

To that, I would say that’s exactly what the world and the devil want you to think. That’s just my honest opinion because that’s exactly where I was! There was fighting, resentment, and serious issues that needed to be worked through, and I believed whole-heartedly that things were not going to change – could not even be worked on – until we’d had some time apart. I believed that staying together with our relationship in that state would only cause the hurt feelings and bitterness and resentment to grow to a point beyond repair. This is, I would guess, the main reason Christians who don’t want to divorce would end up separating.

Why the Distance is Bad

You think you want that distance, and you think that distance could help, and you think that if it doesn’t help, well, you were doomed anyway — something like that, right? But the truth is that the distance itself rips things even further apart. You can’t work on your issues when you’re apart. Maybe you can wait until the hurt feelings subside, but once you see your partner again, everything is going to resurface. And in the meantime, while you’re physically and emotionally distant, it’s easy – it’s so easy to allow yourself to behave towards your spouse without the love and/or respect that they need to be treated with, and it’s so easy to be tempted into indulging in various vices (cheating, drinking, flirting, squandering money, etc) because there’s no one there to call you on it and (so it seems) no one there to get hurt by it.

Basically, distance brings more distance. You can’t get close by being distant. When two marry, they become one flesh, and they need to be together and foster that togetherness, growing closer. Distance, for whatever reason, tends to be unhealthy. Being apart lets you each be pulled in different directions, and the longer you are apart, the further you get from each other. For my husband and me, the distance hurt us tremendously: emotionally, financially, relationally. It was harder to communicate, and we couldn’t get counseling. We got used to being independent again and making decisions solo. And as we got used to being apart, we seemed to pull away from each other even more until there was almost no closeness or intimacy left.

Divorce, at a point like that, becomes almost inevitable. You left angry, you didn’t resolve anything, you grew apart, and now there’s nothing left of that closeness you once felt. Even worse, if trust has been broken at some point there may be literally nothing pushing you to reunite.

roseStick it Out

I have to just encourage everyone to please stick it out. It sounds crazy some times that staying together could be the right thing to do even when it hurts, even when you’re unhappy, even when you can’t seem to get along with each other. Obviously, things aren’t going to get better without change taking place, but don’t choose the route of separation. I believe it is almost always going to do more damage than good and will more often than not lead to divorce!

Get back to being friends. Maybe split up your finances, if you’ve been pooling resources. Maybe sleep in different rooms. Maybe redefine things in your marriage (chores, responsibilities, duties, expectations). Definitely get some good counsel, preferably from a good Christian therapist or a pastor. Keep telling your spouse that you love them, and keep trying to act out that love. Keep praying. Pray HARD. Pray seriously and whole-heartedly. Pray face-down on the ground, pray in your car, pray in bed, pray over your meals, pray for your marriage constantly.

If things are going to get better – if your marriage is going to flourish and begin to be repaired – it’s going to be while you are together and working jointly toward the same goal.

What If.

No two people, situations, or marriages are alike. I understand that some people may think, "That doesn’t apply to me because my situation is ____." I understand that. There are so many problems that could be taking place. All I can say is that I encourage you to stick it out if possible and if you want and hope to keep your marriage alive.

The exceptions are when you either want a divorce or when there is ongoing unsafe behavior taking place (any form of abuse). If you must separate but still hope to reuinte, I cannot stress enough how important I believe it to be to have a pre-determined time limit, rules, and goals, and it is also really important to remain close to each other so you can get counseling! I would say a 2 hour drive, max! If you plan to divorce anyway, that’s a totally different issue. Separate and do what you must.

But if you plan to reunite, and if you want your marriage to last, stick it out. Stay together. Get in counseling. Maybe crash on a friend’s couch for a few nights, but don’t leave. I left, and I thought it was necessary, but it ended up creating so much distance between us that we almost went past the point of no return. I can only attribute it to God that he worked things out in a way that brought us to a point of trying to reconcile.

I just wanted to express these things. Feel free to
contact me privately or leave a comment if you want to talk about this further
(either my situation or your own). I’ll do my best to answer.

More Than Just Surviving

dedI think this is one of my biggest struggles: to not only trust God with the direction of my life, but to be content and to thrive where he places me rather than just survive. It’s a struggle at all times, but it’s especially difficult during trials. Of course, most recently it has been difficult due to deployment.

I hate deployment! That’s understandable, right? My husband is gone, and not only absent from my every day life but placed in a dangerous situation! I have to miss him and fear for his safety, and most of the time I just want to go to sleep and wake up when it’s all over. I don’t want to live through this year of deployment, but I have to, so many times I have this mentality of needing to simply survive. Do what is necessary to make it through another day, and eventually it will all be over.

That’s okay. I mean, eventually I will have survived the year, Hubby will be back, and things can go back to normal. But I don’t think it’s what God wants from me.

Jeremiah 29: A Letter to the Exiles

God’s people had been carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon and were going to remain there in exile for 70 years. Of all the times to justify that survival mentality, you would think this would be a prime example. But God isn’t satisfied with that… God asks for more. I found this passage really speaks to me and where I am with this deployment… Here’s my paraphrasing:

This is what the Lord Almighty says to those He carried into deployment: “Make homes and settle down; plant gardens and work on other projects. Care for your family and friends. Don’t let yourself whither away. Seek peace and prosperity where I’ve placed you… When your time is completed, I will come to you and fulfill my good promises. For I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. You will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me with your whole heart and find me, and I will gather you from the places where I have banished you, and bring you back.”

God wants his people to know that he can be worshipped outside of the holy land just as well as inside. He is God over Babylon (deployment) just as much as he is God over Jerusalem. As one commentary says, “Real hope for the people, according to Jeremiah, lay not in some immediate relief from social and communal death, but in living through that experience as faithful people, awaiting the Lord’s ‘future with hope’."

Biblical Encouragement

People are watching us, so let’s follow Jesus’ perfect example:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)

Thrive, don’t just survive. Think on God and his goodness and all the good gifts he gives. Run with endurance, don’t let yourself whither. Keep praying and pursuing God. This is how you should live, regardless of where he’s placed you and whether or not you want to be there. This is how you get the most out of life and bring God the most pleasure.

Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
Phillipians 4:4-9 (The Message)

Thriving

I’m still working on it, but I’m getting better at ridding myself of that survival mentality. It’s about time, since we’re almost five months into this deployment! God is really trying to pound some lessons into me, I think…lol. And I feel like I’m finally ready to start learning rather than burying my head in the ground and waiting for it all to be over. I’m finally ready to hold up my chin and start facing things head-on, with His help. I don’t know if I’m really thriving yet, but I’m doing a little more than just surviving, so I guess that’s good.

Anyway, that’s what I’m working towards, and that’s how I want to go through the rest of this deployment. I want to do more than just survive. So there are my disjointed thoughts for the day.

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A Good Weekend and Some Bad News

Two soldiers from Hubby’s division, who were deployed to the same location as my hubby, were killed Saturday during a training exercise with US soldiers and Iraqi soldiers. It was only one Iraqi soldier who was out for blood, apparently, and the man’s own commanding officer also died trying to take him down… But still, just one soldier with a plan to use live rounds instead of blanks, and we’ve lost two of our men. I pray that God comforts their families…. I can’t even imagine the pain.

I know that a lot of us wives are finding that this is a wake-up call. Iraq, right now, is still unsafe. Yeah, it’s better than it was a couple years ago, and it’s better than Afghanistan. But there are still so many dangers there, from the vehicles breaking down or catching fire during mission to the people who make stupid choices and put others in danger, to the Iraqis who still hate us and don’t care whether they survive their attempt to take as many down as possible.

I’m reminding myself, however, that it’s not a wake-up call to worry. It’s a call to pray more and trust more. The God who loves us and gave his Son for us has all things well in hand, and I know he wants for me to lay my anxieties at his feet and allow him to comfort me.

Thankfully, when I heard the news this weekend I was occupied by a visit from one of my best friends! It was good to have a distraction. I think without Erika here, I might have spent the whole weekend saying to myself, “I know he’s fine, but….” and “what if….” and “…but if he’s okay, why hasn’t he been online?” I watched four movies this weekend with Erika…

  1. 1. Knight and Day – Funny movie, but oh, so corny. The dialog was pretty bad, the stunts were pretty outrageous, and…I just expected more from Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise.
  2. 2. Easy A – Liked this one fairly well. It was a cute movie and a decent story. My complaint is with the girl playing the main character. I’ve seen Emma Stone in several other movies without complaint, but I did not like her in this role. It didn’t seem like a good fit. She was annoying and kind of awkward, in my opinion.
  3. 3. The Dilemma – Liked this one pretty well, too. It was funny – definitely has its moments… But it’s the kind of movie that kind of makes you cringe for the main character. He seems to always make bad decisions.
  4. 4. The Social Network – Good movie! Although, it did make me kind of hate Mark Zuckerburg. The movie kept me interested all the way through and was just…very captivating and entertaining. And I liked how it neither spoke as to who was right and who was wrong, nor did it gloss over everything as if it was all just a little unnecessary drama. The characters seemed very real – in the sense that sometimes people just don’t THINK and sometimes geniuses are stupid jerks and sometimes friendships aren’t very deep… I guess I can’t really explain it.

I hope that y’all will help me pray for the families of those soldiers who died in Iraq on Saturday. And pray for the rest of the soldiers that are still there in Iraq and in other dangerous countries, such as my Hubby (who, by the way, is fine 🙂 He was able to get back online last night and reassure me).

Evil Looming Deployment

Deployment is looming! It is a giant shadow standing somewhere nearby with arms upraised and claws extended, creeping closer, silently, on its tiptoes.

It’s not so distant anymore. No Siree!

When Hubby got back from JRTC, it was just the beginning. Now the topic of deployment comes up not just every day but multiple times a day! It’s inescapable! The truth is, it’s almost here.

First Married Deployment

Hubby has deployed twice already. (Have I mentioned how much that bugs me? It’s ridiculous that there are people who have been in the Army for over a decade already that haven’t deployed more than once, and yet my husband has been in for four years and is already on his third deployment.) Twice deployed, but never as a married man. I’m still new to the Army! Having a friend deploy is one thing; having a husband deploy is going to be a different matter altogether!

I didn’t need the other Army wives telling me it would be different for me to know that it would be different. I knew before we married that deployment would be coming and that it would be different than it was before, for both of us. But I think that only now, as we’ve been married for nine months and the deployment is looming, am I really beginning to understand just how different it will be.

Outside of marriage, it’s hard to understand just how close you really get once you’re husband and wife. Maybe simply living together would bring you as close, but I don’t think so. The bond in marriage is more than just living together, and it’s more than having physical intimacy while living together. Being pulled apart from each other for a year is going to be painful. Putting one of us in a constantly life-threatening setting will make it all the harder.

One of Many

This is but one of many deployments, and we are but one of many couples facing it. The life inside the Army is so different from life outside that many of my friends can’t really comprehend it, but there are so many others that can. How many hundreds of wives are missing their husbands at this very moment? How many hundreds are anticipating that loss? How many thousands are cherishing the time they have with the knowledge that it can only last so long? I must take what comfort I can from the fact that I’m not alone in this.

Facing It

The most important thing to remember is that God is with us, even now. I must continue to leave my worries at God’s feet and let him help me through. Prayer is powerful. Prayer is powerful. Must remember that…

Deployment is before us, and we can’t stop it from coming ever closer, but it’s best for us to face it head on. So, I can see it there, looming right ahead of me. Rather than seeing a big, giant, scary cloud of blackness, maybe I can remind myself that it has a form. It’s about yea high… only about 12 feet tall instead of 12 stories. It’s not really black so much as tan, like the sand in the desert. And it’s really just strolling past, not coming directly at us as though to eat us.

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Why I Pray

Why should I sing in the choir? Can’t I sing just as well from the congregation?

Why should I go to church? I can read the Bible and pray at home.

Why should I pray? I mean, God already knows my thoughts, right? He knows what I would ask for.

Do you wonder about those things, too?

Once Upon A Time…

There you are, sitting at Bible study/church/youth group. You’re not close friends with the everyone there, but you see them twice a week, every week. You’ve even spent some time alone hanging out with a couple of them. You sit together before the lesson and chat about how your week has been going, and you laugh about things that have happened at work. Afterwards, you eat a meal together and chat some more. You go home feeling good about the experience.

Next week, Bible study time comes, and when you arrive, everyone else from the group is already there. You find out by piecing together pieces of their conversations that they have spent the day hanging out. Elsewhere. You weren’t ever invited.

Sure, you get to hear about how much fun they had, but you weren’t included. And no one singled you out to tell you about it.

Aren’t you hurt? Don’t you feel disappointed? Excluded?

Wouldn’t God feel the same?

Including Him

What I consider real friendships – deep, close, meaningful friendships – are those in which I can sit and talk about what’s going on with me. Here’s what I’m excited about, here’s what I’m worried about, here’s what I could use a second opinion on. I can laugh with my real friends and sometimes even cry with them. We can seethe together over some injustice. We can put on silly hats at Walmart.

This is why we pray.

God knows what happens in our day-to-day lives. He know which parts we liked and disliked, what we’re excited about, and what we’re nervous about. He knows what parts we tell our best friends about and what we write in our journals. But he doesn’t want to hear it through the grapevine or overhear us telling someone else. He wants the intimacy that comes from sharing a relationship with us.

He wants to cry with you and seethe over that injustice; that stupid event that happened at work. He wants to nod in understanding and remind you that it will be okay. He wants to share your joy in triumphs and be included in your life!

And, of course, he wants to hear more than “Please bless Bobby and please give the Grants safe travel. Oh and please bless this food. Amen.” When that was the only praying I was doing, it was no wonder I had a hard time understanding its importance.

Drift Happens

However, even I, though I feel I understand the importance of prayer, find it hard to keep up the habit. A few days of skipping prayer is sometimes all it takes to break the habit, a few days of being too tired or too busy to get around to it. I figure, well God knew how I felt about that. He understands I was too tired. I’ll catch him tomorrow. Before I know it, sometimes it’s weeks or months down the road and I haven’t had any real sit-down time with him, and I’m wondering why I don’t feel as close.

I have to remind myself of the importance, and then I have to sometimes just force myself to do it. Then, at the end of a long conversation I can sit back and say ,“Wow! That was great! Man, I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed talking to him. Why did we ever drift apart?”

It’s natural to go through phases of feeling more distant from God, but it’s important to remember why and how we stay close. So, here I am, reminding you – and myself. 🙂

Independence Day

I wish I had taken pictures or videos of the fireworks I saw this year! Hubby and I went to the carnival here at Hood Stadium to eat junk food, wade through trillions of sweaty people, and watch fireworks. It was probably the best fireworks display that I’ve had the chance to see in person – especially the finale! Wow!

This year made one of only about 5 or 6 years in my life that I haven’t spent the evening watching fireworks at Duncanville or at Flagler Beach. Is that strange? Does anyone else have any Fourth of July traditions like that? It feels weird to have been in a different place, so far from family, watching fireworks alone with my husband. Nice, but strange.

I’m so glad that the bombs bursting in air on Sunday night were not the sound of attacks being made against my husband. Next year, though, he’ll be back on the battlefield when this time of year rolls around. I pray that God continues to bless and protect our troops worldwide, fighting continually for our country!

July 4th