Sometimes, when things are difficult, it’s easy to forget about all of the goods things in life. And I know that sounds awfully cliche, but it’s never been truer.
Today, later in the day, I caught myself wanting to just whine to God about everything, to tell Him I didn’t know what to do, that I was doing all I could to “fix” certain situations and nothing was working. I was reading His word, I was doing what He asked, and I was doing nothing wrong. I was off…by a lot.
But I’ll start at the beginning.
This morning I woke up from a nightmare or two. I went to my journal and began to talk to God about everything, bringing everything before Him…but it was more of a “God, this is what’s up but I have no idea what to do EVEN THOUGH You’ve told me multiple times in Your word and through experience that You’ve got everything under control and that if I just focus on who You are and what You’ve done and how much You love me, nothing else really matters.” I knew what needed to be done. I knew I needed to sit back and be patient and consistent and trusting, but I was hoping in vain for a more immediate answer, and hoping that if I maybe told Him everything over and over again He’d answer differently.
I headed to Travel Writing. My brain felt like a big bag of bricks (go ahead, make all the jokes) all through class. After class, I went and grabbed the bike light I’d bought with Jenny over the weekend. When I tried to install it on my bike, however, I realized that, though the headlamp fit just fine, the tail light was too large to fit on the thin pipe of the back of my bike. I decided to leave it and try and fix it some other time rather than becoming frustrated with it.
I had lunch with Karly and we had an awesome conversation. I left it feeling stretched and challenged. I was suddenly overwhelmed by my own incapabilities and brokenness. Part of me, though I kept asking God what in the world I was supposed to do, wished I could just fix things, just have a perfect answer for everything.
Studio came, and I had a very poor attitude, the bag of bricks that was my head pulling me down into the hole I’d dug for myself. I didn’t say anything horrible, but my attitude was leaning towards sour and bitter, and I was struggling to correct it…on my own.
Leaving Studio, I again was overwhelmed, this time not only by my own weaknesses but also by the fact that I have a story due on Thursday, and even though I began one the other day, I know it’s not what I’ll be turning in.
While I worked on French before German class (I know, it’s insane), I kept trying to be tough and be strong, but the Holy Spirit continued to tug at my heart, and I was reminded that I was made to rest in Christ, and that though I was spiritually exhausted from the day, from the weekend, from conversations with people to whom I was ministering, He could carry me through it. I just needed to ask for help.
After German class, I went straight to my dorm, grabbed my journal, and homework stuffs, and headed to the Pi Shop. As I walked out of the dorm, however, I realized I’d left my Bible in my room. Satan tried to convince me I could just use a Bible on the Internet, that I wouldn’t be distracted, that I didn’t need it. With that, I turned right around, went upstairs, grabbed my Sword out of my backpack, and went back down stairs and outside.
I proceeded to sit down and spend time talking to God amongst myriad personalities and different-smelling Italian dishes. At first I planned on telling Him how hard everything was and how many thoughts were running around in my head…but then I was reminded of all the awesome things going on, how awesome He is, and I found myself writing out all of the things I was thankful for.
I mean, really. God has blessed me with Sam and Maria, two people who genuinely care about and want to help me, who bless me all the time with their words and love. He’s blessed me with Charlene and Jenny, two friends I get to hang out with and be sharpened by. He’s blessed me with Hannah, Beth, and Jacob, three people who have been used by God in multiple ways to encourage, sharpen, challenge, and grow me while I’m here, pretty much isolated from other Christians except for the weekends and Tuesday nights. He’s blessed me with my mother and my family back home. He feeds me and keeps me warm. And so many other things…
And then there’s His love for me. There’s His perfect ability to forgive me and discipline and correct me to make me better, His passionate desire to grow me closer to Him, the strengthen me, and there’s His fierce protection, which He executes both when I’m running with Him and when I’m crawling next to His feet.
I studied Lamentations 3, which is by far one of my favorite passages of the Bible. It shows that Christians doubt, that things aren’t all sunshine and rainbows and “Oh, just pray about it and everything will be better” or “You just need more faith,” but that it’s an all out battle, a war, and that through it all, in the end, God is still God, and He’s still enough, and His love still lasts forever.
“My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say ‘My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.” (v. 17,18) Talk about lamenting!
But then, in verse 21, there’s a shift. After 20 verses of lamenting and pain and suffering, this is what the author writes:
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” (v. 21-27)
What!? This whole time this author has been beaten, ripped apart, abandoned, become the object of the wrath of God, and been the victim of divine punishment. How on earth can he end by saying “God is good?”
But then, in the next set of stanzas, the author reveals something about God’s character that I’ve never caught before. Verses 31-33 says “For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though He cause grief, He will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love; for He does not afflict from His heart or grieve the children of men.”
“He does not afflict from His heart,” shows that God’s first instinct when faced with the disobedience of His children, of people in general, is not to punish. This means that, before He punishes/judges someone, whether it be an individual or a nation, He is patient and gives them many opportunities to repent and turn to Him…
God’s first instinct is never to punish. He does punish, but, in keeping with His immutable character, it’s only after His patience is met by hardheartedness. Hm.
I talked to my mom and to Beth for a while, being encouraged by both of them, being reminded once again that when I’m spiritually exhausted I can rest in Christ, and that He’s there to shoulder the blows of discouragement, difficulty, and even feelings of incompetence and inability. And resting in Him reminds me that it’s not my job to be God. It’s not my job to have all of the answers. It’s not my job to save anyone or to be anyone’s savior. It’s His.
I’m still spiritually exhausted. Things aren’t perfect, and life isn’t sunshine and rainbows and unicorns…but oh God is good. God is so capable of handling all of this and I’m just so incapable of handling any of it. And there ya go.
“‘Because he holds fast to Me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows My name. When he calls to Me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.” —Psalm 91:14-15, ESV