So, this summer has thus far been one of the most painful, difficult, and uncomfortable summers I’ve ever had. But already I can see God using the difficult conversations, the painful scars (both physical and emotional), the separation, the spiritual onslaught, the sleepless nights, and the tears to further His glory and my good and the good of others.There is a war waging, and God is winning, will win, has won.
As a result of all this, however, I’ve lately been feeling very wounded (and I do feel rather pathetic saying that, like, “You ought to be tougher than this, stronger than this, braver than this”). Like no one is defending me (“You shouldn’t need to feel defended.”). Like no one is supporting me (“Why do you need this?”). Like I have no one on my side (“You’re stronger when you depend on yourself anyway.”), and no one understands me (“You can only trust yourself, everyone else will let you down.”), and no one really considers or cares about what’s going on in my head (“It’s because you talk too much, because you aren’t enough, because what you think and say are not important and no one really cares.”). Like no one sees me as worth protecting, worth fighting for, or worth listening to.
Not that anyone has explicitly said any of this, and not that I don’t have very loving, supportive, godly people in my life, but these are the thoughts and feelings that I struggle with most, these are the ideas that the enemy uses most often to bring me down, beat me up, and break me.
If you’re having similar thoughts, whether they’re based on legitimate evidence (someone is actually treating you this way or circumstances are overwhelming and these are the result of that), or just plain feelings (which is usually where most of my struggle comes from), or if you struggle with depression and anxiety and have these thoughts, these are all complete lies, i.e., you are loved, you are known and understood, and you are worth fighting for, protecting, defending, and dying for. I know this, because the One Who created you and me has said so. And so far, in my experience, I have not been able to prove Him wrong, nor have I seen Him fail. You do not have to just cope with life, with these thoughts and feelings. Christ has died and lived and embodies everlasting life so that you can live in victory through dependence on Him.
A WAR OF THE HEART: TRUTH AS A WEAPON
Yesterday morning, I sat with my journal open, pen in hand, Bible spread out to Psalm 139. In the past week, there had been several times when I found myself unable to express myself clearly, or the people to whom I was speaking misunderstood me and not only felt hurt by me but hurt me in turn.
This chapter, however, reminded of this God Who transcends the boundary between light and darkness, this Savior Who has intricately and uniquely constructed me in fearful wonder, and this Lover of my soul Who pays so much attention and has such intimate knowledge of my ways.
“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.’ (v. 11-12)
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (v. 13-14)
“You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” (v. 2-4)
When I feel least understood and least supported and least loved by the people around me (whether they are actively and making an effort to support, love, and understand me or not), God often uses this as an opportunity to remind me that He always understands exactly what I’m thinking, feeling, wondering, avoiding…He understands the depth of hurt, the power of fear, the sad lie of anxiety, and the perfect solution to all of it specific to me.
“By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” (1 John 3:19-20)
When I talk to Him, I never have to catch Him up to speed on all that’s going on in my life and how I’m struggling and what I’m feeling and wondering about all of it. He knows my questions before I ask them, and He always has an answer. He never sees me as being burdensome or annoying…He never sees me as too much or not enough, and with His truth He destroys and balances out any emotions of mine that try to tell me otherwise.
This brings me back to remembering that my worth is not in those around me. In other words, even when the people around me are loving me very obviously, or very deliberately supporting and helping me, my ultimate security and dependence is not in or on them. It is in and on the One Who never changes. He is always with me, and I am always with Him. Not only am I His, but He is also mine….
“Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.” (Psalm 146:3-4)
THE CAPACITY TO HOPE WHEN CIRCUMSTANCES DEMAND HOPELESSNESS
I used to say, a lot, that faith in Christ offers His royal adopted sons and daughters the ability to have hope when it would make sense to be hopeless, patient when impatience is expected, and a calm demeanor when everyone is waited for you to shatter and panic (see 2 Corinthians 6). I don’t mean dissociation or being numb. I mean taking in the reality of your circumstances and seeing them through the lens of Christ; nothing that is happening right now is too much for God.
Lately, in light of the circumstances that command hopelessness, with Dad being gone, with Mom being hurt, with things going on with Gracie, with Jimmy’s hurt, with being separated from Jake, with a broken world in desperate need of a Savior, with a million other things, I’ve been exposed to an even greater understanding of what it means to have hope when everything seems like it will always stay the same.
There is of course that whole insecurity about the fact that there are so many people in the world who are undergoing much harder things and much more tragic circumstances than I could ever imagine…but that does not mean that what I am experiencing is any less difficult.
Two of my greatest fears are 1) that things will always stay the same, and 2) that things will change. Real simple, right? I am afraid that the difficult things will always stay difficult, that relationships will remain stagnant, that unforgiving and hard-hearted people will never change or heal, that a cutter will always keep cutting, that a separation from someone I love will always be present. And then, on the other hand, I am afraid that whatever change may or may not happen will not be good change, that something will be lost in translation as I transition from one phase of a circumstance to the next and it will actually be worse than the last, i.e., no change could possibly be good change.
Oh, what lies!
“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19)
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)
Regardless of physical circumstances and whether my worst fears are rational or not so much…even if everything I am afraid of comes true, Christ calls me to look beyond what I can see in front of my face…God via Paul calls me to see what He sees through His eternal lens (Isaiah 55:8-9). This life, right now, is nothing compared to life with God after the lights go down, after the curtains close, after the music stops. The temporary stuff that’s going on with me and those around me, both good and bad, is only temporary.
“For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:24-25)
Lord, can You handle the anger and the bitterness and the frustration that’s living in me? Can You make my hurt dissolve (1 Peter 5:6-8)? Can You make something beautiful out of the mess that is my heart? Oh, can You heal me? Can You protect me (Psalm 140:7)? Can You defend me (Exodus 14:14)? Can You love me? Please? Can You walk forward with me and help me be secure in You? Can You enable me to love those who have hurt me? Can You help me see them the way You see them? Can You help me see me the way You do (Isaiah 55:8, Jeremiah 33:3)?
“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.” (Isaiah 43:1-4, emphasis added)
“Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” (Jeremiah 33:3)