I was lucky enough to grow up in a church which was expanding and where there were many people investing in the young people. My relationship with God was very good. When I needed comfort, I prayed, and he was there for me. When I needed wisdom, I prayed, and he guided me. And, when I knew I couldn’t handle something on my own, I prayed, and the power of the living, creator God was with me.
The summer before my 18th birthday, God was speaking to me through the book of Job. The book asks the question, ‘How would someone react if everything was taken from them?’. I felt God was asking me the same thing, and because life was good, it was easy for me to answer that I would stick by him and never doubt him.
In early September, I was leading worship with my youth leader, when he turned to me and said he needed to stop as he had a headache. I thought nothing of it and was expecting to see him the next evening as I was babysitting his 3 daughters (all under 5) so his wife and him could go out. However, they called to say he had gone to hospital and he had a brain aneurysm. A few days later, I was invited to the hospital as he’d suffered life ending brain damage, and they were going to turn off the life support machine.
Two weeks later, on my 18th birthday, was the funeral. The church was so full there weren’t enough chairs and the youth group led every part of the service including the music, the prayers and the sermon.
I was so angry. How could God take a man who had a wife and three young daughters? How could God take a man who had led and nurtured a youth group to such faith? He had so much more he could give.
My conclusion was that if God was the kind of God who would do this, I wanted nothing to do with him.
The praying stopped and I walked away from God.
When I wanted comfort, I relied on my friends and partied. When I needed wisdom, I could choose what I wanted to do. And, when I needed to handle a big situation, I relied on myself and took the glory. Life was good.
As I approached the end of university, I had got myself in a not very good place. My friends had let me down, I’d made lots of bad choices and I knew that I could not handle the next phase of life.
I remembered what it was like before I was 18 and I wanted it back.
As I approached God, I instantly knew his forgiveness, but I also knew our relationship had to grow.
God taught me a new way to pray when I felt angry and confused, and it’s best described as a wrestling match like when Jacob wrestled God for is blessing in Genesis. This is a prayer of discontent but instead of shouting at him from a distance, I’m grappling with him up close. When I’m angry, instead of walking away, I hold on, pushing and shoving God through my prayers.
The great thing about wrestling with God is that it is also becomes a process of moulding, where my thoughts and feelings can change as I’m spending time close to him. And at the end of it, when I’m exhausted from the fight, I can collapse in a heap and rest in his presence.
Communication is the foundation of any relationship and God is no different. I now know that God can handle my fears, my anger and my doubt and that the only way to deal with it is to bring them all to him.