Seeing Community as a Gift by Brenda Amodea
One of the great apologetic questions consistently asked is “How can God allow evil to happen?” Which really means “Why did God let this happen to me? Or “Why did God abandon me?”
All of these questions really funnel down to one question, “Is God good?”
Because it is easier for you to believe that God is not good, or even does not exist, instead of walking through the pain that you are in.
So how can I figure out that God is good? Or that God is good again?
I wrote this small book about my gift of people who have helped carry me in my pain. On p. 13 I wrote this:
I feel so alone.
Shame survives by convincing me I am alone.
Whether my pain was caused by my bad decision or whether something tragic happened to me, shame is loud in my head.
All of God’s promises that I know do not quiet this shame.
Shame feels comforting when I feel so helpless.
Because it is easier to feel shame than it is to feel helpless.
Shame is something I think I have control over.
Except shame lies.
…Your persistence will win over shame.
(From I Wish I Could Take Away Your Pain. Order at http://bravester.com/new-book-from-bravester/)
I have learned two pieces of helpful advice.
Keep listening to God’s word. Even as it doesn’t make sense to you. Read your Bible. Listen to audio versions of God’s word. Listen to good podcasts. Stay in God’s word desperate to find some truth you can hang your broken heart on.
Your persistence with me will help me remember things from the Bible-- because the Bible makes so little sense to me right now.
Because pain wants to isolate you. Pain produces loneliness which scientifically leads to distrust.
During prolonged times of loneliness the brain changes to self-preservation. The brain becomes hypervigilant to social threats so I start seeing threats everywhere. I become like the animal at the edge of the herd.
Believing that I’m that animal at the edge of the herd it becomes easier for me to not try with people anymore and to stay “safe” in my loneliness.
The lies of loneliness are only ramping up.
I might start telling myself that I am lonely because I have poor social skills or some other excuse. When the truth really is in my prolonged loneliness my brain is in self-preservation mode.
Which means my brain starts misreading people, scientifically proven**. I read into people’s eyes looking at me. I overanalyze every word of those texts. I judge people very quickly.
Which means I start dealing with you more cautiously, maybe viewing you as a potential threat because you might also leave me and add to my pain. I may say something insensitive. I may not return your text. Over time we are no longer friends. I walked away telling myself some made-up story that you had changed.
Or that God is not good.
Blaming you or God, I will become even lonelier. Oh, the downward spiral.
We started off with what do we believe about God and the great question of theodicy and we ended up with our need for each other to see God.
This is what Jennie’s Community series is all about. I need my gift of people. Some of them have carried my pain. Some of them have only given me drive-by prayers and platitudes. That does hurt but it is way better than the alternative of my pain lying to me and then isolating me.
I’m choosing to believe that God will redeem every bit of this painful mess, that God is good still. I have the Bible to remind me of that and I have you to remind me of what the Bible says. I need both.
**The science on loneliness comes from Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection by John T. Cacioppo.
Brenda is a pastor, speaker, wife, and mom to four men with their own brave stories. Her life is a story of getting her heart smashed and the many times she has chosen to get up. She shares the beauty of her pain at www.Bravester.com and has written a small book about it, I Wish I Could Take Away Your Pain. Sometimes these stories shared are better in person. Complete with prayer together. Maybe you would like her to come speak to your group?