When God Missed Parent’s Day
MAY 27, 2021
When a parent doesn’t show up on an important day, it’s a big deal.
I learned this in third grade. My friend Derick had a difficult relationship with his father. His parents were divorced and meaningful time with his dad was something Derick valued more than anything. Even as a third grader I knew this because of how much he talked about his dad and how amazing he was. So when Parent’s Day rolled around, Derick was bouncing off the walls because his dad promised he would be there. Unfortunately, that promise wasn’t kept. I watched joy turn to sorrow and then to a complete emotional breakdown. Derick was inconsolable and his mom had to take him home early.
There have been so many times in my life that I’ve felt like my friend Derick. Not because my earthly parents didn’t show up but because I felt like my heavenly father was a no-show on some of the days I needed him the most. Even typing this is difficult because it disrupts my foundational belief that God is always good. How can I know this at my core in one hand and feel the complete opposite in the other? Is this okay? Is this healthy? Does this mean I don’t love or trust God? Grace, yes, yes, and no.
Grief is real, but grace makes it bearable.
On those days and seasons when you’ve pleaded with God, begged, expected Him to bring a miracle or at least clarity and all that came were dark clouds, grace is a necessity. Grace allows us to be honest without fear and hopeful through the seemingly hopeless. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection not only offers saving grace, it offers functional grace for the day in, day out rigors of life. We see this in Jesus’ interaction with Mary and Martha at Lazarus’ death. They are both brutally honest when Jesus arrives. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Essentially saying, “Where were you? Why didn’t you show up?” Is this response to Jesus okay? Based on His response, it’s not only okay but it’s welcomed. “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled…Jesus wept” (John 11:33, 35).
Jesus didn’t reject their feelings of grief, instead, he related to them and assured them of His ability to restore life. Mary and Martha realize one of the most difficult aspects of the Christian faith; although God’s plans and purposes were very different than their desires, it didn’t mean He was a no-show. “Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go’” (John 11:40-44).
God, in His greatness and purpose, has created us as emotional beings. Sometimes it feels like the church often forgets this or attempts to minimize it because it requires us admitting, “I don’t know” to some very painful questions. When I express my anger, frustration, even feelings of abandonment with God, does it mean I’ve stopped trusting Him or love Him less? On the contrary, when we are able to sit with and accept the reality of these emotions without fear of rejection, it actually points to a healthy faith and a deeply intimate relationship. We actually see this is Martha’s two-fold response to Jesus. On the backend of her feelings about Him not showing up before her brother dies, she says, “But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (John 11:22). Emotional honesty met with a deep-seated faith. Being honest with God on an emotional level shows our humanity and invites God to speak into it…and He does, time and time again. “I haven’t left you. I haven’t abandoned you. I grieve with you. You are not alone. You are my child, and I love you.” Like Mary and Martha, as long as we are willing to hear His truth that speaks over our feelings, we are in a safe space to come to God with brutal honesty, knowing that instead of a slap on the wrist, He will meet us with open arms and a loving embrace. It might not always feel like it, but God has never missed a Parent’s Day.