Ending the Pretending

Have you ever received a gift that you know came straight from God? It could have been an actual physical gift, financial assistance right when you needed it, or even a word of encouragement at the perfect time. I’ve been incredibly blessed to receive many of these gifts lately. It’s amazing, humbling, and sometimes downright staggering to see how clearly God is speaking to me. From leading me to the best possible counselor for me, to words of encouragement from friends, to sermons that speak almost word for word what I’ve been wrestling with in my heart, to songs with messages I need to hear, I am overwhelmed by God’s clear and audible presence in my life right now. All of these gifts have been encouraging me to be more honest and real with my emotions and who I really am. Like I said in my previous posts, that makes me extremely uncomfortable and I have honestly been very tempted to give up and run the other way. But when God speaks, as scary as it may be, I don’t want to miss the opportunity to hear.

Right in the middle of all of these neon “share your feelings” and “be real” signs, God decided to make it even clearer to me by dropping the book, “No More Faking Fine“, by Esther Fleece, into my life. Really, God? I hear ya! I was chosen to be on the launch team for this book, which comes out January 10. I knew just from the title that I would be in for the ride of my life. You know a book is going to impact you when you start underlining even in the forward. This book has given voice to my very heart and opened my eyes to new ways of thinking and healing.

“No More Faking Fine” is a true story portraying Esther’s journey through learning how to lament. She had a very difficult childhood and received a “suck it up” message at a young age. She learned to keep all of her feelings inside and thought that moving past her pain without feeling it and keeping busy meant that everything was “fine”. But she realized that pain doesn’t just disappear. It turns into far more dangerous things like anxiety, depression, etc. That is when Esther discovered the necessity of lament.

Lamenting is being honest with God about our feelings when we go through difficult times. Esther talks about our temptation to cover up our feelings, even in churches, because we think that being unhappy gets in the way of our joyful gospel message. However, there are many laments in the Bible so it doesn’t make sense that we would leave lament out of our own lives. Esther says in the very beginning that she wrote this book to give us permission to feel, to weep over our circumstances even while knowing that God is still with us through them.

She says, “For so much of my life, I thought sucking it up and faking away the pain showed true strength. But real strength is identifying a wound and asking God to enter it”. This is exactly where I am in my healing process right now. I have realized that my perceived strength of not allowing myself to feel has caused panic attacks, depression, constant anxiety, and yes, even health problems. But here is the great news. “[God’s] omnipresence means He is present even in our past, and even now, He can speak healing over the wounds we are trying so hard to leave behind. We can lament something in the past in order to receive health in the present.” This is what I was explaining to you in my last post and what I am attempting to do right now. I am trying to invite God into my past wounds, to help me feel the pain and to allow him to heal me from the wounds. It is messy and painful, but it is honest and healing at the very same time. As Esther describes in her book, it is impossible to heal without feeling the pain.

Another important concept in her book is that we need to allow ourselves to lament if we are going to be able to help others in their lament. If we are to “mourn with those who mourn”, we won’t be very good at it unless we learn to weep ourselves. She talks about our tendency to compare our pain to others’ and convince ourselves that our pain is not that bad. She says, “‘It’s not really a big deal’ are words we will never hear out of the mouth of God. That phrase only tells me we hold ourselves to higher expectations of ourselves in grief that God Himself does.” Just because our pain is different does not mean it is not just as important to God. He will never tell us to suck it up because we think someone else has it worse than us!

“We are so quick to get to the beauty that we skip over the brokenness or have a hard time seeing beauty arise amidst brokenness.”  I feel like this could be the theme for my blog. This whole thing is about me wrestling with my brokenness to find beauty. Without the brokenness, the beauty would not be quite so beautiful. As we draw nearer to God in our brokenness, we allow him to hold us through it all. Without our pain, we would miss the intimacy of God. Suffering makes us feel like we have lost control and often our automatic tendency is to push the pain away and act like all is well in order to feel like we have some control. But losing control is the perfect opportunity to allow God to finally have us. It is a holy process, this letting go. And without it, we can never truly heal. “Lamenting is a painful process. But it is even more painful to live a life of pretended strength, of keeping God an arm’s length away because you’re shutting down the conversation with a ‘fine’.” I want God to be as close to me as possible, even if the process of him getting there is painful.

The passage that impacted me the most was this. “God is lovingly and powerfully present with us in our laments, but sometimes that knowledge needs to be enough. Sometimes we need to learn to love God more than the happy ending we hope for.” WOW. This was like an arrow to my heart. I’ve been searching for happiness for so long that I’ve been disappointed in God because of all the pain. My heart needs to draw nearer to him in the pain rather than running around searching for happy. It is only then that I can find true healing.

Esther weaves the hope of healing throughout this entire book, but she ends by telling us how we will recognize the end of a lament. When the lament is over, we will begin to hear and sing a new song of praise that we would not have been able to hear prior to the pain. She says, “After spending the majority of my life sucking it up and stuffing my true emotions as far down as I could, I can say this genuinely: lament has given me my voice back. I can groan and cry, dance and shout, praise and sing. I’m singing now, because I know He was with me in the storm, and He celebrates seeing my faith make it out to the other side.” As someone who feels God speaking most through song-writing, this excites me to no end! I cannot wait for my new song!!!

As a member of the launch team for this book, I felt like it was part of my ‘job’ to write about it, but it turned out to be my absolute privilege to share this gift with you. This book has impacted me more than any I have ever read and I will be referring to it many times throughout my continued journey. Don’t forget to pick up your copy of No More Faking Fine January 10. Pre-ordering is also available now. Thank you all for joining me in my lament. I can’t wait to share the new song God gives me when the healing is complete!

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Author: Karina Baker

Hello, my dear friends! Glad to see you here. Thank you for reading about my beautiful rubble - my struggles with life, faith, and autoimmunity. Feel free to share your stories in the comments. My love and prayers to all of you!

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