I’m currently in survival mode. Maybe you’ve been here before, in a place where you can’t look past tomorrow without falling apart. Its a place void of dreaming and vision, a place where you are just fighting to hang in there. You’re certainly not thriving. You’re simply trying to survive. You don’t even feel like you’re living your life, you’re just popping in and out of others stories with no real substance of your own.
The last five months have been filled with unexpected loss and grief, confusion, loneliness. It has seemed like I don’t have time to recover from one gut punch before the next one follows. I don’t see an end to what has been going on. I have questioned everything. I have second guessed every aspect of myself and my life. I have begged for understanding and been left shattered when it never came. I have questioned everyone in my life. Biggest of all, I have questioned God and his reasons for allowing everything to crumble at once.
It’s been here my faith has been tested, as God asked me about the depths of my faith in a pop-quiz sort of way. I never know when the questions are coming, and they always catch me off guard. When we are able to see storms in the forecast, we usually have some time to prepare. But when it’s a beautiful day outside and we’re on our way to the beach, we don’t expect a category 5 hurricane to take us down without warning.
I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing that there was a way to see how it all turns out. That prayer begging to God to reveal just enough to us that we would know how something would look, or at least a time that things would be back in order. And what if he does answer it? What if he gives us a promise of something but it looks like, with the way things are now, it will never happen? As you can see, I’m in the thick of it, with lots of questions and confusion. But the one thing I know for certain is that if there was any cheat sheet for the never-ending pop quizzes I’m getting bombarded with, it would have one simple word on it every time- faith.
There is something else that I’ve realized recently. I want to share it as a reminder to myself and anyone else who may be in a valley, a storm, a desert, or any other Christian cliche you want to use when your life just really sucks.
Jesus is many things, many beautiful, sweet, gentle, loving things. But his time on earth wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies. He went through temptations just like we do. He went through tremendous suffering, too. At the end of his life, he was tortured and beaten until he was unrecognizable. He had to carry a huge wooden cross up a hill only to be nailed to it until he eventually died. Being the Son of God, you would expect that he went straight to heaven, but he went somewhere else first. He went to hell. He endured it so that it could not have any power over his people. He knew all of this would happen before it did, and he asked his Father if there was any way that he wouldn’t have to go through it, but ultimately, for God’s will to be done.
There is a situation described in the Bible (Matthew 16) where Jesus is talking to his disciples and tells them that if they want to be like him, they are to pick up their cross and follow him. Right there he tells us that following him isn’t going to be a never-ending beach vacation with sunny skies and bottomless mimosas. It will get very, very hard. The more suffering in your life, the more potential you have to more resemble Jesus. If we feel like we’re “going through hell,” we have the promise that he gave us as he declared victory over hell. He was not there long, but I’m sure it felt like an eternity.
As we carry our own crosses and are tempted to feel alone, we need to remember that the one who loves us more than anything went through it, too. We aren’t alone, we have a God that is not only there to us, promising us that it will be better, but he also understands what we go through. I have said so many times over the last few months, “I feel alone and like no one understands me.” I’m sure this feeling will come back again, but when it does, I need to remind myself that yes, there is someone who understands me. He is perfect and trustworthy, too. He wants me to go to him. He wants to fix things for me. He wants to be with me and hold my hand. He wants me, and he understands me.
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.
I came upon this Psalm recently and the peace it washed over me was so sweet. There is a reason for this season. There are so many promises in this psalm that I beg you to read, re-read, hold onto, and never let go.
The Lord restores.
God will use this story to deliver hope.
There will be joy. (& lots of it!)
The tears aren’t in vain.
Our asking (or begging) God to take away our suffering shouldn’t be something that we are ashamed of. Jesus did it too. I pray that brings comfort to us in the times of hurt, confusion, and stress. Jesus had a reason for his suffering- it certainly wasn’t for nothing. Through the cross, through going to hell and out again, he was able to provide a way to spend a perfect eternity with the imperfect people he loves so much. That’s us. He did it for us. And I promise, our suffering is certainly not in vain. There is so much purpose for it. The Lord will restore. He is faithful. The Lord will use this story to show his promises do come true. He is faithful. The Lord will bring joy back. He is faithful. The Lord will turn tears into laughter. He is faithful.