Of questions and the nearness of God – Nate Pyle


Nate Pyle is someone who combines a love for scripture, razor-sharp analysis and vivid storytelling. I love his intelligence and authenticity as he writes out his life as a pastor in Indiana, and I am thrilled to bits that he is here today. 
 
(Trigger Warning: baby loss).
 

Photo credit: Bilal Kamoon

Photo credit: Bilal Kamoon


 
When we stopped at the stoplight I looked over at my wife. Fear and pain ran down your face in the form of tears. Her arms were wrapped around her abdomen because of the pain. Or maybe it was a passionate attempt to hold what we knew we would lose.
 
The doctors had warned us days before that the pregnancy might be ectopic. Because they weren’t sure, we gingerly held on to hope. We talked softly about how she felt, but never about the future. We needed something more concrete. We needed freedom from pain. We needed stability. For a few days we held on to the silence. But when the pain came, our hope went.
 
We were going to the hospital to end a pregnancy we had longed and hoped for.
 
A week later I found myself in the woods. I wandered aimlessly trying to get lost. Trying to find a place far enough away from everyone so I could ask the questions I needed to ask.
 
“Where were you? You said you knit us together in our mother’s womb but you didn’t even make sure this child got there? That’s on you!”
 
I was suffering under the questions, and yelling them into the quiet woods brought some release.
 
You see, when we suffer, we suffer twice.
 
There is always the cause of our suffering. The failed marriage, the unexpected illness, death, loss of job – these circumstances are painful and difficult. They remind us that life isn’t the way that it’s supposed to be. They ruin the wholeness of life, and make us cry out for a world that is both foreign and near to us. A world where every thing is the way that it should be. We don’t know this world, but we know it should be.
 
But the circumstance is not the only source of our suffering. Once the circumstance rears its ugly head we begin to suffer under the weight of the questions.
 
“What did I do to deserve this?”
“Why me?”
“Where is God in all of this?”
 
It’s easy to think we’re alone in our suffering. The truth of the matter is that while our circumstances may be unique, our questions are not. The questions are what unify us. The questions are what’s common to everyone everywhere who has ever suffered.
 
I’ve learned there is freedom in the questions. Once I got over the shame I felt surrounding the fact that I was a pastor who asked questions such as these of God, I found an incredible amount of freedom in actually asking the questions. The questions, I found, were the most honest, gut-wrenching prayers I’ve ever prayed. The questions I brought before God broke the routine of my acronym-based prayers and, in a rare moment of honesty, I didn’t dress in my Sunday best for God. I brought all of who I am to all of who God is and let that be enough.
 
And it was. It is.
 
Unfortunately, far too many of us suffer because we think the questions mean we are not true believers. That if we had a real faith then even in the most tragic of situations we wouldn’t have any questions. That our faith would be unshakeable. Unbreakable. That’s the lie. I can’t help but wonder if the opposite is actually true. What if our questions actually reveal the strength of our faith rather than its weakness? What if our questions about why God would allow us to suffer actually reveal our hope?
 
I believe God is good. I believe God heals, restores, redeems, and saves. I believe God suffered because of his good, divine choice and that because God suffered in Jesus he not only meets us in our suffering, but can make the ashes of our suffering into something beautiful. Questions about our suffering do not reveal cracks in our belief, but actually reveal that we are yearning for that reality. They reveal we truly believe God can ease our suffering, and we are crying out for God to act in only the way that God can. Our questions reveal our belief in a God who can restore our broken circumstances, and we are lamenting that it has not yet happened.
 
In other words, our questions are a quiet demand that God do what God has promised to do.
 
I look at the faith of those who have gone before us and I notice that the patriarchs of our faith seem to have a relationship with God quite different than ours. Abraham bartered with God and reminded God who he was. Jacob demanded that God bless him while they wrestled in the dust. Moses told God he couldn’t kill the Israelites because of who he was. Job questioned God for 38 chapters. The psalmist wondered why God abandoned him. Their faith was raw, human, and unafraid to lament that God didn’t seem to be living up to his character. Now, they didn’t always get answers to their questions, but they always got God. Their questions, and their willingness to ask questions directly to God, wrought a special intimacy and trust that brought comfort because God came near to them.
 
That’s the kind of faith I want. That’s the kind of faith I need. That’s a human faith. And in the end, the truth is I don’t need the answers to my questions. I just need the nearness of God.
 

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Nate Pyle is a pastor and author. Nate pastors in Fishers, Indiana, a suburb of Indianapolis, and writes at www.natepyle.com and his book, Man Enough: How Jesus Redefines Manhood, will be released on September 29, 2015.

 
 

Tweetables:
 
On questions and the nearness of God – @natepyle79 tells his God and Suffering Story for @Tanya_Marlow:
 
“We were going to the hospital to end a pregnancy we had longed and hoped for.” – @NatePyle79 for @Tanya_Marlow:
 
“In a rare moment of honesty, I didn’t dress in my Sunday best for God.” – @NatePyle79’s God and Suffering Story:
 
“The questions…were the most honest, gut-wrenching prayers I’ve ever prayed.” – @NatePyle79 for @Tanya_Marlow:
 
“What if our questions actually reveal the strength of our faith rather than its weakness?” –NEW post by @NatePyle79:
 
“God…can make the ashes of our suffering into something beautiful.” @NatePyle79 On questions and the Nearness of God:
 
Over to you:

  • “When we suffer, we suffer twice.” What do you think about Nate’s observation?
  • What do you find encouraging from Nate’s God and Suffering story?
  • When you’ve suffered, what have you done with the questions?

 

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11 Responses to Of questions and the nearness of God – Nate Pyle

  1. Cathy Fischer 19th February, 2015 at 1:42 am #

    Wonderful. Thank you 🙂

  2. Rebecka 17th February, 2015 at 7:57 pm #

    Thank you, Nate!
    I often feel like I’m failing at being a Christian whenever the questions start piling up, and they often do. I needed this perspective and I will hold on to it. Thanks again.

  3. PastorM 17th February, 2015 at 7:04 pm #

    Another powerful post.

    On another subject, when you have time check out Christy Thomas’ blog, The Thoughtful Pastor–“The Seduction of Young Men….’ which I think that you will appreciate.

  4. beth Dickinson 17th February, 2015 at 4:49 pm #

    Tanya, & Nate,
    Thanks I love the expression that we lament because God’s intervention hasn’t happened yet, His Kingdom is not fully here. Yearn for a different reality because we believe. Slowly after many years of questions, I have got over my grudge at God for not doing things my way, allowed Him to love me in my circumstances Believe His character is good becuase the evidence of Jesus, as that does’t change, though my cirumstances and what I understand about different passages of scripture do. Tears and questions are sometimes all I have but I know he accepts this offering too. Even treasures it because its honest.
    Tanya, I love the fact you put alerts out about what your blog contains.
    thanks

  5. lulu 17th February, 2015 at 4:38 pm #

    Always lovely to hear from you Tanya! The thing about railing at God is sure I get a moment of relief but He always throws it back in my face. My Great Gran was diagnosed with cancer on Friday. Only a couple of days after i railed at God. I’m desperate I’m tired and I’m in tears and he’s standing so far away. I’ve just been going back through your archives I’m really enjoying it. I love your positives and negatives on voxet

  6. lulu 17th February, 2015 at 9:37 am #

    Dear Nate I want God to be near me but every time I talk to him every time I beg on my hands and knees with him my situation gets so much worse.

    • Nate 17th February, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

      lulu – I’m sorry to hear that. I will pray that God is near to you in the the midst of your situation.

      • lulu 17th February, 2015 at 4:54 pm #

        Thank you Nate.

    • Tanya 17th February, 2015 at 3:51 pm #

      Hi Lulu – always nice to hear from you. I’m sorry things are so hard at the moment. You’re holding so much, and I hear you saying that you can’t take any more – but then there’s something else to add to the pile. I really liked what Nate said about being free in the questions. I just wanted you to know I think you’re doing the best thing you can – you’re taking your questions to God, and railing with Him against the situation you find yourself in. This is just what Nate describes doing, here. I know that it seems impossible and never-ending when you’re in the middle of it. I’m just trusting that there will be an end to your struggle, that you will get some breathing space. (I can hear you say, ‘WHEN?? WHEN?? I’VE HAD ALL I CAN TAKE!’ – and I just want to reply like a mother would to a confused child, stroking your hair, saying, ‘I know, I know’. That’s all I’ve got – I know, I know. It’s hard. It will get better, I believe it will get better for you. There will be some relief. It seems never-ending, but it will end. In the meantime, you’ll just have to picture me – or God – stroking your hair, telling you that you are loved, you are seen.)
      Also – I love that you’re scouring my archives – have you come across this yet? This is one I turn to when I feel frustrated with God. http://tanyamarlow.com/running-away-from-god/

      • lulu 17th February, 2015 at 4:52 pm #

        Sorry my thumb slipped on the submit button. Where was I oh yes Voxer. I liked it too but I think WhatsApp is sooooo much better. I have read the Running Away from God one it was one of the first links E M sent me! Very insightful.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. What I'm Into (Feb 2015) | Tanya Marlow - Thorns and Gold - 5th March, 2015

    […] On the blog – I was muzzled by my ill health so the blog was quieter, but D.L. Mayfield and Nate Pyle rounded off this season’s God and Suffering series in style – both were seriously good. […]

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