For Those Asking Why? and How Long?

by | May 2, 2018 | Identity, Trust

While scouring emails, a letter slips into my inbox from a reader in response to this blog post. We’ve never met in person, yet her story reads eerily familiar and conjures emotion.

She tells me uncertainty looms. The threat of joblessness lurks like a villain in a horror movie, quietly creeping around her personal space. Waiting on details to unfold that determine next steps, her stomach is knotted by a bevy of what if’s.

In essence, my new friend is lamenting like a psalmist — Why? and How long? And then, without knowing it, she practices adoration. She remembers the truth about who God is and rehearses it back to Him.

“I am not alone. I have a Father who wants to reveal His glory to me (for my benefit) and through me (for the benefit of others) . . . God is already way ahead of this . . . He’s ready to carry me through.”

When you lament, God remembers you too.

“The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.” Exodus 2:23-25

Whining or Winning

Lament turns God’s face toward us and whining makes Him angry. (Numbers 11:1)

The dissonance between the way things are and the way they should be leads to lament. And the difference between lament and whining is the axis of trust being steadfast or missing.

Lament looks through the lens of remembrance and frames God’s faithfulness. It creates a beautiful picture of presence when we feel abandoned in the haze of uncertainty.

“In our present distress, we, like the psalmists, can remember God’s goodness. We can choose to answer the whys of doubt with ‘But God isn’t like that’. . .. The point is not that God can deliver or has delivered, but that this God in whom we have trusted is our Deliverer.” ~Howard Macy

If your current restlessness is caused by the grief of unwanted circumstances, where in your stream of thoughts might God be asking you to remember that He is not like that?

What do you need that God is not able to deliver?

Release Unknowns and Be Released to Be Known

Hemmed in by what you cannot control, remembering God’s goodness through adoration turns despair into hope. Adoration transforms what we fear into the truth about who God is.

Maybe you are lamenting like Moses, “Why have you brought this trouble on me? What have I done to displease you that you have put this burden on me. I cannot carry this _____ on my own, it’s too heavy for me.”

Find helpers to share the burden and lighten the heaviness caused by uncertainty. Because we need people who can hold our arms up when weary from fighting battles. We need people who can discern the voice of God from the voices we hear in our head.

God said to Moses, “Gather together seventy men from among the leaders of Israel, men whom you know to be respected and responsible. Take them to the Tent of Meeting. I’ll meet you there. I’ll come down and speak with you. I’ll take some of the Spirit that is on you and place it on them; they’ll then be able to take some of the load of this people—you won’t have to carry the whole thing alone.”

At the end of a string of back and forth emails, my new friend writes something I read often in correspondence but have been mulling with new curiosity.

“Why is it easier to be transparent to you, whom I have never met, than my neighbor?”

Honesty. It’s the posture that orients God’s face to shine upon us as we wander into the unknown. It’s a good place to begin when we are asking Why? and How long?.


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  1. Ann swatzell

    I think it’s easier to be honest with u because you listen. Our friends seem too hurried or make us feel like we are whining. Sometimes you just need to say it to someone else as well as the Lord. Thanks for your blog it is a lifesaver and blessing. Love u and your blog

    • shelly

      That’s lovely of you to say Ann, thank you. I also think it feels less vulnerable to speak about hard things to people who don’t know all our stuff. The slate of our history is wiped clean and that provides acceptance. So glad you left a comment!

      • Judy

        I really appreciate the humility in your response, Shelly. I have friends in real life who are good and true, and not just hurried, but have also found deep friendship through vulnerability with a blogger I’ve never met. I think one of the reasons it may be easier to go more directly to a ‘virtual’ friend is that one has probably choosing to be vulnerable with someone who has shown vulnerability in their blogging, whereas, sometimes, dear friends have, by God’s grace, perhaps not yet walked in hard places… Another possibility is that in sharing vulnerability, we do not fear that a virtual friend will feel responsible for providing practical aid to us in pain or sorrow. Maybe, it helps not to feel one is burdening a friend with that sense of responsibility (or false guilt for not providing it). The reasons aside, the gifts of empathy and a ‘listening ear’ which a ‘virtual friend’ can offer are, nonetheless, immeasurable gifts.

        • Shelly Miller

          I agree Judy. Sometimes more than needing someone to fix our uncertainty, we just need someone to listen, provide empathy and a little compassion. It’s easier to do that when you can’t judge someone’s history.

  2. Jo Rapps

    Thank you Shelly for another timely word. Bless you Jo

    • Shelly Miller

      Love seeing you here Jo! Thanks for reading, I’m honored.

  3. Sandy Burch

    Such a good “answer” to the doubts that try to capsize us…”my God is not like that”. Perfect! It is the truth and it brings us back to the love of God. Of COURSE God is going to come thru! He already has the perfect plan. All we do is re-focus and rest in Him.

    Thank you for, yet again, for being transparent, encouraging and practical! I really appreciate your insight!
    (PS- I have not idea why this font is so tiny. I really hope it doesn’t post this way! I can’t seem to change it! ugh)

    • Shelly Miller

      The font is just fine Sandy, no worries.. It’s lovely to see you here when we normally converse on IG. I think one of your spiritual gifts is encouragement. And I’m so honored to be a recipient of the gift. Thank you!

  4. Celeste

    Is it any wonder that I in similar circumstances looked you up the single time I traveled to the UK. You speak truth in a unassuming way. I remember our dinner together. I had so much more I wanted to ask you but was shy and fearful. You gave me a gift of tea. I seem to be on an ever present learning curve. I like the word lament. It carries with it the reason to hope and I am sure that God has big shoulders. I hope we will meet again one day…..maybe in Ontario this time.

    • Shelly Miller

      You are very kind Celeste. And I’m honored that you’ve been a loyal reader for so many years. I remember when your profile pic was Snoopy. You never know where we’ll meet again but I’m sure we will. Lots of love to you!!

  5. Christy

    This was such a good post, and (as always) you have such wonderful wisdom to impart, Shelly. 🙂
    Re: “Why is it easier to be transparent to you, whom I have never met, than my neighbor?”
    I feel this. I think it does have to do with vulnerability (i.e., it’s easier to be vulnerable behind a screen than face to face with people we will have to see again even if it’s hard). But also what is often the sad corollary from vulnerability, which is shame. And we know that is the work of the enemy. One of my hardest paths to walk has been trusting my vulnerability (and identity) in God, who has power to dispel my shame. This is fundamentally a process of repentance from my own pride. (it’s been hard work!) Blessings to you and this community, and happy anniversary!

    • Shelly Miller

      Shame is common to all of us, but once we learn to recognize the voice, it no longer keeps us stuck from moving forward. Vulnerability is a brave act that perhaps can be practiced with people virtually first and then translated to real-life, face-to-face relationships. When we are willing to be vulnerable with people we love, shame loses it’s power and we are free to be the people God created. Love that you are working on that. Thank you for being here!!

  6. Nancy Ruegg

    AMEN to: “Remembering God’s goodness through adoration turns despair into hope.” There IS power in praise! An important reminder for me right now as we begin my husband’s battle against liver cancer. Yesterday he received the first chemo treatment, but such therapy is just a stop gap measure. The goal is to qualify for a liver transplant. We know God our Deliverer will bring us through–no matter what, and we feel cocooned in his peace right now. Many friends are praying which also encourages and strengthens our spirits. P.S. You have my permission to remind me of the truths you’ve written here, Shelly, as events unfold. Such timely reading for me today!

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