I recently finished the book The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer. It is a story that moves from a girl in Nazi-occupied Poland in WWII to her granddaughter’s family in the present. We go back and forth between the two experiences- one girl not allowed to ask questions about what was happening in the war to a woman who has held resentment toward her husband for the past seven years, never telling him. From a girl who was scolded every time she brought up the work camps or the Jews that were starving to a woman who felt she had to hold it together for her special needs son, but was crumbling inside. A grandmother suffering from a stroke who could barely speak and a granddaughter trying to honor her grandmother’s limited voice.
These women could not say the things they needed to say because they did not feel safe.
Remaining hidden (physically and emotionally) mimicked the feeling of protection.
It felt safe.
I think we often hide ourselves from others because exposure feels dangerous.
We do not share our thoughts and feelings, our fears and limiting beliefs, our life and our story, our temptations and sin. We don’t share who we are or what we believe. We don’t share because we are afraid. Of judgment, of rejection, of saying the wrong thing or seeming too needy. We fear the opinions of others and their abandonment. We expose the things deep within and immediately put ourselves at risk.
One thing I love about King David is that he was called a “man after God’s own heart.” I think God allows us to see David’s songs, poetry, and prayers in the Psalms to show us what a man after God’s heart looks like. We see his moments of praise, of lament, of anger, of fear. We see his pain and his broken heart. We see his sin and his triumph.
But my favorite thing about David is his brutal honesty with God.
He asks hard questions.
Questions like: “Why have you forsaken me?” “How long, O Lord?” “Where are you?”
His heart bleeds on every page.
He pour it all out there, completely exposed, because He knows the presence of God is safe.
When we hold back from being vulnerable with others, we often carry that over to our prayer life.
We don’t come boldly into his presence as He longs for us to do, but instead we come with our masks securely in place.
We tell him thank you for all of our blessings, and we pray for our neighbor who broke her toe. We ask him to give us everything we need, and forgive our sins.
We say Amen.
Why are we speaking these shallow prayers? These prayers that become like second nature with words that have nearly lost their meaning? Why aren’t we being honest with God when we are afraid, or depressed. When we are lonely or overwhelmed. When we have doubts and don’t feel Him near?
Here are three things that hold us back from being honest with God:
1. A distorted view of God
We think things like:
There is no God. Why would I be honest with a god that isn’t there?
Or God is unkind. He has allowed too much bad stuff in my life. He has not given me what I expected, what I wanted.
God is unfair. A just God wouldn’t allow me to experience the depths of this depression. A just God would not allow my family member to commit suicide.
Where was God when I went through all of this? When I was being abused? When I got the cancer diagnosis? When I went bankrupt? When my spouse left me? When I tried for years to get a positive pregnancy test?
How can I go to a God like that with all of my stuff? He doesn’t seem to care that much about me.
A client of mine wrestled with this. Her uncle prostituted her out throughout her childhood for money to pay the bills and pay for his drugs. She began to realize how many questions she had for God today. She wondered, “Why did you let me endure all of that? As a child? Why did my uncle use me? Where were you in all of that, God?” I simply encouraged her to ask Him.
She came back the next week and shared her experience. She broke in the presence of God, and all of these questions about who He is spilled out all over her floor with tears. And He met her there in the most kind, gentle way. She told me in tears that she had never felt God so tangibly than in that moment of complete vulnerability. And all of the truth of what she had come to know about God but never personally experienced came flooding in. She felt his love intimately for the first time and knew deep in her heart that it was not God who did those awful things to her. And she did not need to be mad at him anymore. She realized how many times He had gotten her out and taken care of her and where he had brought her in her life as an adult. She started to see when he had been faithful and kind. And she was finally free.
It was that moment that changed everything for her.
God is not the author of all the bad things. Sin brought those into the world. Not God. As Haymitch says to Katniss in Hunger Games, “Remember who the real enemy is.”
2. A distorted view of self
People think things like: “There is no way I can grow closer to God. I am not good enough. I have done bad things. I’m sexually active with my boyfriend. I am having an affair. I am battling a porn addiction. I have stolen. Lied. You are saying that I can go to God? He does not want to hear from me.”
Something in us says that he won’t hear us when we are messed up. Or that he does not have time for us. That we are not good enough to be close to Him.
But who ever said we had to be good enough to go into the presence of God? We live in a New Testament, post-cross world. We have unhindered access to the presence of God. ALL OF US who believe in Jesus.
No matter who we are or what we have done. We can “with CONFIDENCE draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
3. A lack of intimacy with God
We go through seasons of distance in our relationship with God. I think this is a normal experience. But how are we supposed to be able to be honest with God when we barely talk with Him in those seasons?
In my marriage we have had these disconnected seasons, too. A lot of them. And if I never went to Beav and shared how I felt about that disconnect, we would never get back to a place of intimacy.
It’s the same with God.
We can’t be authentic and vulnerable in the presence of a God we don’t know. And we can’t be connected with God if we can’t be vulnerable with Him.
There are so many other things that hold us back from being honest with God. Sin. Shame. Heartache and Brokenness. Distorted thinking and beliefs. Numbness to feeling anything. But what if we just came to Him with all of that stuff? What if we remembered that His presence is safe, that He can handle what we have to say.
What if we took a risk, shared what we really thought? Shared hopes and doubts and fears and sadness and anger and numbness. What if we opened those places that we’ve been so afraid to open? I wonder what kind of walls would come down. I wonder what kind of freedom we would experience.
Maybe it’s time to take a hard look in the mirror and determine what is holding you back from intimacy with Jesus. What is it? And then tell him, honestly.
In The Things We Cannot Say, we get to see the results of this kind of vulnerability. We see a girl bravely rescue a Jewish man and escape Poland, the same girl that was never allowed to speak of such things. We see a woman release her resentment and share her true feelings with her husband. We see a grandmother find freedom because her granddaughter took the time to listen.
Freedom comes with honesty. Intimacy comes with honesty. Healing comes with honesty. So lets stop holding back from being honest with God. Because in His presence, there is freedom.
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