Shelter in a storm in Kauai

By Grace Let Down Your Mask and Look God Honestly in the Face

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Of late I’ve immersed myself in the Psalms, like a scriptural hot spring. They’ve been a balm to my battered body and weary soul. Though they often made me uncomfortable because of their emotional expressions, I read them over and again. I rewrote them in my journal. I penned my own Sunday Psalms I hope you’ve read. Basking in these ancient and unvarnished prayers developed in me an honest way to talk with God. As David wrote in Psalm 22: For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” I learned God does not despise us for openness but rewards us with the grace to look honestly in his face.

Kauai chicken

Looking God Honestly in the Face Means Never Just Praying

For most of my faith life, fifty-some years now, I’ve largely spoken to God as if to a busy, exacting, caring but severe teacher who held my future in his hands. Do you by grace let down your mask and look God honestly in the face? Or is this how you talk with God as well?

“Please sir, if I may just interrupt you for just a moment. I was just wondering if you could just help me with this math problem. I know you’re very busy. And I’m not one of your top students. But this polynomial equation, x3+y3+z3=k, you’ve asked us to solve in order to discover the meaning of life is beyond me. Yes, sir. I’ll just wait over here in the corner just in case you have time or inclination to just help me. Thank you.”

Never once does any psalmist use the word just in the self-derogatory way we pepper our prayers. This irritating overuse of just in so many people’s prayers indicates more than language laziness. It unveils how we see ourselves. As unworthy of God’s attention, love, and help. Sinner or not, David viewed himself as one deserving to be heard by God. “Arise, Lord! Deliver me, my God!” David demands in Psalm 3. David strides boldly before the throne of grace. “But I, by your great love, can come into your house. . . ,” David declares. He knew his place in the throne room. At the feet of God but not as a footstool.

Our hedging in prayer reveals not humility but dishonesty, fear, unbelief, or maybe all of these wrapped in one ragged blanket. But like David, we are children of the Father wrapped in God’s elaborate love.

Lucha mask

The Psalmists Dropped their Masks Before God

I was surprised at how often the psalms demanded I be honest with God about my long, frustrating, misunderstood illness. Psalm after psalm laid bare the pain of the psalmist. Yet during one of the hardest periods of my life, I hid from people and God. “I’m okay,” I’d lie.

Just as the pages of the Psalms contain no use of the mealy-mouthed just prayers, they contain no record of lightning bolts striking a foul-mouthed honest lamentor.

In desperate, angry heartbreak at being held as slaves in Babylon and being told to sing a song of joy about it, a Jewish songwriter writes, “Happy is the one who seizes your [the Babylonians’] infants and dashes them against the rocks.” (Psalm 137)

Note that most if not all of the psalms are meant to be sung in worship. Can you imagine singing the above line? No! Because we too often hide behind prayer masks. We are afraid of what people might think, especially God if they knew the depths of our emotions. Instead, we declare, “How dare God allow such violent language in the Bible!” But this feigned moral indignation is a mask that covers our similar ugly, embarrassing anger. 

We mistakenly believe Christians should never be angry, confused, sad, or—well—emotional. Except happy. That’s an acceptable emotion. I recently heard a pastor call this the “emotional prosperity gospel.” 

Therefore, we utter pretend prayers. Or don’t pray at all. Then we are confused or even yet more angry when God seems to turn a deaf ear. By our deceptive language, we’ve told God everything is okay. God knows it is not. And God waits for the moment we admit the truth about ourselves to ourselves. God is not gullible. The Psalms permit us to be violently honest. 

A rocky trail in the Rockies

God Loves Honest Earthy Conversations

The psalms are messy and earthy. They are seasoned with blood, sex, rivers, rocks, dirt, death, birth, disease, strange animals, war, revenge, hate, and love. They offer not lofty, abstract prayers. God “brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water flow down like rivers,” writes Asaph in Psalm 78. These earthy words and metaphors ground the truth in our daily lives. We relate better with God being a rock and God’s love flowing like a riverthan with omnipotence and omnibenevolence

And God loves to answer these earthy prayers. “In your distress, you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thundercloud. I tested you at the waters of Meribah.” (Psalm 81)

If we were formed of earth our prayers can spring from that same honest soil of the psalmists.

Reflection in Downtown Denver

Honest Conversations with God Deliver Freedom and Healing

Because of my immersion in the Psalms during my desperate illness, I am inching toward more emotionally honest expressions in my conversation with God. And rather than guilt or shame, I feel freedom and healing. This emotional healing has come because God has not punished me or distanced himself from me when I let fly with how I feel. As a result, I can express a range of honest, raw feelings to God. Anger, confusion, depression, desperation, fear, and even true joy.  “I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.” (Psalm 9)

By grace let down your mask and look God honestly in the face. 

Kite in Destin, FL

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Other blogs on honesty and emotions:

Resurrection Sunday Psalm: An Honest Conversation With God

Storming Heaven: A Sunday Psalm Shouting For God To Hear Our Complaint

How To Navigate The Pain And Pleasure Of Daily Life Simultaneously

14 thoughts on “By Grace Let Down Your Mask and Look God Honestly in the Face”

  1. Georgie Ann Kettig

    very interesting post,… it has me “thinking” about many things that I have “observed” over time and in various situations,… and not only “in myself”, but “in others” as well,… I’ll be “getting back to you”, as I hopefully “sort through some of these things”, and perhaps come up with some kind of perspective worth sharing,…

    & thank you for this!,… (-:

      1. Georgie Ann Kettig

        I’m just going to start with one “random” observation, and then go from there in no particular pre-planned order,… the first “connection” that I made was mostly just an “association” of happenings, rather than a thought,… and it was to link the sad plight of the actual victims in the Israeli/Hamas war currently going on, with the dire words in the psalm,… strangely prophetic?,… definitely somewhat shocking ~

        then, in general, I would say that as humans, who have grown up in our definitely “tainted” world and “life circumstances”, it is always going to involve some kind of “process” of re-learning “who we are” with respect to the improvements that would come about from knowing God in ever increasing ways, and over time,…

        but not everyone has been “conditioned” (or “programmed”) in similar earthly paths, or cultural traditions, etc,… and this makes it much more difficult to understand others, as well as our own selves,… and lots of “human” problems and assumptions can arise from this pervasive situation,… things that add to these differences and the confusion(s) that may arise, might involve the histories and traditions of various cultures, inherent differences between males and females, the actual things that have contributed to conflicts and hurts between people, and whatever “coping mechanisms” may have developed, and on and on,… it’s pretty obvious that people come up with lots of different “reactions, explanations, and solutions”,… and not being in agreement is fairly common,…

        so, we’re all together “in the human condition”, coping with it as best as we can,… literally, “for better or worse”,…

        I think I’m going to “do” this in sections, so the next part will be coming up,… (-:

        1. Well said, Georgie Ann. We are all together in this. I think the blame game is an attempt to say only “they” are in this. While “we are not.”

          1. Georgie Ann Kettig

            definitely a “human” tendency,…

  2. Georgie Ann Kettig

    continuation,… (because the spaces become narrower, I’m going to continue in a fresh space),…

    next part (2) ~
    so, here we are, all together on earth,… & we don’t know what we don’t know, really,… but we’re trying to “figure it out”,… day by day,… we learn things in school, or “on the job”, or from our neighbors and friends and family,… but there are usually still plenty of “unanswered questions” beneath the surface,… and of course, now, the media and the news influences are very strong (and perplexing), as well,…

    somewhere along this timeline, we may be blessed enough to “encounter something about God” that begins to capture our attention more strongly,… and this may begin to increase our focus on “something” (which we are learning about), that may help us transcend some of this earthly mess and confusion, and help us find a clearer path to lift and guide us, and carry us through,…

    at this point, I’m kind of vaguely describing my own transition from having to “deal with, and take chaotic life at face value, on its own terms”, and emerging into a “new reality” that seems to promise to “lift things up” out of confusion and grant a path to greater fulfillment and positivity, including being in actual relationship with the Creator of the Universe, whose Divine essence is Love,… definitely a great cause for rejoicing!,…

    from this point, my observations of myself and friends, in different forms and ways of following paths of “religiously influenced life”, ~ possibly different denominations or religious/spiritual backgrounds ~ reveal that we are still very unique in our personal “spiritual” ways, and in how we experience our relationship with God, etc,…

    next part (3) ~
    so, I would say that “as long as we are earthbound”, even with the blessings that God shares with us, we might be somewhat closer to having some tastes of “heaven on earth” now and then, but the earth still “has its own problems”, and we’ll be faced with how best to be interacting with these things,… for instance, some people may be able to directly intervene in helpful ways that will benefit others,… speaking for myself, (now an “old lady”), I prefer to remove myself from direct conflicts, but will do what I can (in prayers, etc) to hopefully influence some situations,…

    this brings me to the question of “what is the crux” of the earth’s problems of ongoing chaos and hurtful situations and issues,… the answer is basically “satan and his influence”, which is very pervasive,… I think that we, as Christians, have to be very realistic about this,… it may be “easy” to think/believe that “if God loves me, and if I pray, he’ll be taking care of ‘the satan problem’ on my behalf”, and I’m sure to a certain extent he definitely is helping us in this way,… but it’s also obvious that we’ll be challenged by various attitudes and circumstances that surround us, and we’ll be well-advised to be “praying for wisdom” for how best to handle things from our own position, as well as asking/expecting/hoping/trusting for God to help us,…

    with God, it always “pays” for us to be grateful and appreciative for whatever level of blessing he is providing for us,… to begin to see him in a “less than” light, really only means that we have let the hateful nature of satan get a grip on our situation,… at best, knowing that we are actually helpless unless God is perpetually rescuing us, is an acknowledgement of the ultimate “humility” of our situation,… at this point, in my initial reactions to reading your post, I wanted to question, honestly, whether this basic “attitude” might really be different in men and women,… I can only speak for myself, and I know that I, personally, would shy away from “a confrontative attitude”, but it would seem that men might be more designed for things like that,…

    so, those ideas just show that we each need to study and evaluate our own roles and “callings”, and learn how to fulfill those as we interact personally with our God in the process,… as I see it, these are lifetime learning processes,… and “we learn as we go”,… so, what you’ve written about here, is an example of how you are feeling “called and awakened” to be able to express and interact even more honestly, with God, than heretofore,… and as you’ve said, he does already know and understand everything about us,… so, the more honestly and closely we can address him, the better it really is,…

    next part (4) ~
    another thought that I wanted to mention, was more on the “satan problem” issue,… as we get to know God better, and he helps to develop and refine us, I have personally felt much less like “being drawn into confronting or dealing directly with the energy of problem people and/or situations”,… the personal emotional reactions engendered by these people and/or situations, are usually going to be in the negative category (negative responding to negative, such as with “malice, anger and hatred/violence”), as they would take the form of my own personal emotions being directed against others,… and I do not wish to personally experience or express such negative energies,… however, in strongly resisting these direct personal emotional expressions and interaction(s), I found a different “spiritual platform” became revealed,…

    and I think this is in the realm of what is called “spiritual warfare”,… what I have found, in steadfastly refusing to become personally negatively charged emotionally, myself, in an “interpersonal negative situation”, is this ~ as I perceive the negative energy of the challenge or threat, but stand strongly “on the rock of my God and Savior protecting me”, what I then perceive is myself, standing closely aligned in and with the strength of God, and the separate “negative force from the enemy” trying to invade or put pressure on me,… but because my mind is clear (not permitting any personal negative engagement), it becomes a more simple matter of resisting any reaction (with my Ephesians 6 “God shield”), and re-directing the negative force to “go back where it came from”,… iow, the negativity, coming from another source, is “not received”,… it is rejected/blocked, and forced back onto itself,… in so doing, I’m not “wrecked by being drawn into a stupid personal interaction”, and it’s a wonderful feeling when it’s all gone!,… (-:

    supporting scriptures:

    James 4:7 “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

    1 Peter 5:5 “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble’ ”

    Ephesians 6: 10-20 (The Whole Armor of God)

    next part, finale ~
    why I had so many thoughts occur all together, I do not know, but I wanted to take the time to sort them out,… I’m not even sure that they directly relate to exactly what you were writing about, letting go of a mask while relating to God,… I can remember times of “trouble and my own perplexity”, where I really didn’t know what to do, and how mercifully God personally stepped in and helped to rescue me and direct me through a bad situation,… I can also remember feeling stranded, and “at the mercy of life” for an extended period of time, but God was with me, even then, and brought me through,… He is faithful, even if life can be treacherous, sometimes,…

    the bottom line, as I get older, is to realize that “earth seems to be perpetually problem-laden”,… and many self-defeating and counter-productive attitudes and events happen every day,… and these are way beyond my scope, as an individual, to handle in my own strength,… of course I can be sincerely concerned and pray,… and we can also sincerely share our own “spiritual” take on things with others,… but that doesn’t really mean the other person is going to understand it in a way that is as personal and meaningful for them, as it is for us, even though it may hopefully be encouraging,… so, it’s always good to have faith in God that he does hear our prayers, and is faithful to be trying to help us in many “invisible” ways,…

    it is good to acknowledge the greater wisdom and abilities of our God, and be trusting that he is the Redeemer with a righteous plan on behalf of all those who know, love and desire to serve him,… amen (-:

    (p.s.: I was wondering why I was in such a hurry to write down all this stuff, and just as I finished, I received an unexpected phone call that presented a quasi “spiritual/psychological” problem that this message ended up being the perfect antidote for ~ amazing!)

    1. I am so glad God spurred your thoughts, even if they may not directly connect to my writing. You said, “somewhere along this timeline, we may be blessed enough to “encounter something about God” that begins to capture our attention more strongly. . . .” I think this shows God’s goodness. Even in the dark we can perceive God’s light. And certainly, Satan wants that not to happen.

      And so God sends a phone call to connect some of this. Wow.

  3. Georgie Ann Kettig

    I don’t wish to reveal anything particularly “identifying” about that phone call, but in my on-going wish to not be engaging with negative energies trying to connect with me through other people’s ideas and attitudes ~ and also hoping that interacting in a kindly and accepting way, might bring about a type of “interpersonal evangelism” that would have overall “positive results” ~ I had been having an ongoing “conversation” with someone of a different “religious persuasion”, who was definitely interested in influencing my position on things, while on the other hand, I had just hoped for some kind of happy meeting point, where we could agree to agree on some basic things,… BUT it looked like that wasn’t really going to be happening, and I had to realize that I had “stepped into something” that was becoming a forceful type of confrontation (which as I have said, “is not my cup of tea”),… lol,… but then I had my whole exposition (just finished!) to read back to myself!,… and it really did help,…

    what I see now is that in my effort to find things we could have “in common”, I wasn’t always as starkly honest as I could have been about some other aspect(s) of things, and I guess in the long run, that was “my bad”,… re-reading what I had written to you, really did help to bring me back to “the strength of having my own faith” to live in and stand on, and it will be interesting to see how that will affect these conversations in the future,…

    these thoughts come to mind ~ “a word to the wise is sufficient”, and “before they call, I will answer them”,…
    Isaiah 65:24
    “It shall come to pass That before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear.”

    God is SO good!,… (-:
    Psalm 73:1

    1. Isn’t it amazing how often writing helps us know/remember what we think? And let me know how the conversation goes.

  4. Georgie Ann Kettig

    it looks like I just lost a comment that I made on my older computer,… they had me doing some “captcha ids” to prove I wasn’t a robot, and then everything collapsed,… I’ll wait a bit to see if it somehow survived,… if not, I’ll try again,…

  5. Georgie Ann Kettig

    glad to hear from you, and hoping you’re doing well!,…

    in retrospect, I think that there may have been something more similar going on, with respect to your point about “presenting a mask” to God, and my own situation, which did actually involve “presenting a mask” to this friend with whom I was having the ongoing conversation,…

    that conversation (years long) had evolved to the point that I was being directly confronted and challenged on certain points (rather self-righteously, I might add) that the person had no qualms about claiming that “scripture says thus and so”, which left me in a position of “being accused of doing and being wrong” about something that I actually thought THEY were mistaken about,… and also that THEY were being incorrectly judgmental about,… BUT, I had always kind of dodged confronting the particular “issue” head on,…

    well, this particular point had arisen a few times, and each time with more directly confrontative and judgmental language, and I was beginning to feel that I really needed to start to “push back” with some greater honesty,… God was good enough to provide a wonderful “scriptural example” (via a friend), which I was able to make use of, to develop an honest challenge to their insistent point of view,… and in the process of that, I was being more direct and confrontational than is my usual,… so, that sounds very similar to me now, to what you were describing about “letting down a mask”,…

    I had a habit of being non-confrontational, to avoid argument and/or insult, but I can see that there was an actual challenge to me to become more honest and direct,… in fact, I was hiding my honest opinion, which does matter, since it was about my honest relationship with God,…

    somehow “the flurry of thoughts” that I went through seems to have been connected to “something” that needed to be unraveled a bit more,…

    interestingly, since going through all that, I’ve found that there has been “some kind of change” in the way some people are interacting,… maybe a little more directness, a little more clarity, and even sometimes “a little more ease”, and dare I say, “openness”?,… I can’t really explain it, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that “God was up to something”,… we’ll see ~ watch and wonder,… (-:

  6. Georgie Ann Kettig

    this reminds me of this ~

    Proverbs 18:24
    A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

    (-:

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