Please Stop Telling Me I Will Get Better

"From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. 
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 'Never, Lord!' he said. 'This shall never happen to you!' 
Jesus turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.' 
Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.'" - Matthew 16:21-25

Please hear this from a place of love and hurt, not anger. Perhaps I’ll regret this post on a day when hope is bigger, but this is how I feel today, so I’m writing it. I reserve the right to a retraction later. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s a leap to compare our suffering with this snapshot of Jesus and Peter. It probably is, but hear me out for just a few moments.

My feelings on this are similar to my beef with those who tell single people, “someone is out there waiting for you”, that I described many posts ago. You can’t possibly know that, so stop saying it. It’s not an encouragement. You don’t know if God has called that person to be unmarried. And you don’t know if I’m going to get better. You don’t know if we will find a house. You don’t know if our circumstances will ever improve in this lifetime… so please stop saying it. There’s a huge difference between, “I know you will be healed” and “I hope you will be healed.” Maybe I have to “suffer many things” in order to bring about the greater good, a good I could never imagine. Peter couldn’t imagine how a suffering and dying Christ could ever be good. But it was the greatest good. It was hard enough for Jesus to stand strong through suffering without Satan jabbing him in the ear with the thought that it shouldn’t have to be this way. And sufferers everywhere have a hard enough time remembering that God’s plan is good. We don’t need any ear-jabbing, reinforcing our own questions of how a good God can allow suffering to happen. Get behind us, Satan.

As a society, maybe even especially as Christians, we are SO uncomfortable with suffering. I get it. I’m uncomfortable too. We don’t want to imagine that bad things could happen to us that we won’t be able to fix. So we try to convince ourselves and the suffering person that he/she isn’t doing enough because, if so, there would be complete healing by now. We have to believe sufferers will get better because we don’t want to sit in the pain with them for the rest of this life, if at all. We have no idea how to reconcile within our hearts a good God with deep and long-lasting suffering. But until we can come to terms with this, we will never be able to truly accept the cross, the deepest and greatest suffering there ever was.

We are stumbling blocks to each other, with our minds on this world rather than the glory of God. There’s no doubt we mean well. I’m sure Peter did too. But instead of being a rock of support that sufferers can rest on, we are a stumbling block to them, tripping them up over whether or not they have enough faith to change their circumstances. Isn’t saying, “I must get better” throwing down my cross instead of taking it up? Please correct me if I’m wrong.

Hear me on this. I don’t believe God actually wants us to suffer. Suffering entered at the fall of humankind. But I do believe God has been working good through suffering ever since. I have hope that I will get better in this life, waning hope, but hope nonetheless. But I am not God. I refuse to believe that I WILL get better. I will hope and pray for miracles but I will look forward to what I KNOW will come – my heavenly home.

My life is not my own. I will lose everything for the sake of Christ if that is what will bring Him the most glory. But I have to stop trying to save myself. And you have to stop trying to save me by rationalizing and empty words. Hope with me, yes. But don’t speak for God. It’s not my intention to seem harsh. Trust me, I am just as guilty of trying to explain away suffering because I HATE seeing it in those I love. But, it doesn’t help. It just hurts. And I humbly apologize for my role in hurting any sufferers in this way. I pray God continues to remove from me this spirit of judgement and fear when it comes to the suffering of others. I’m encouraged that the same Peter Jesus scolded for being a stumbling block was the rock on which He built His church. We can be good rocks once we lay down our tendency to be tripping rocks.

Striving has only caused me to lose my life even more. I do my best every day, every hour, to lay down my life at the feet of Jesus. I ask you to lay it down too. Be my support block, not my stumbling block. I stumble over myself enough as it is. If you can’t support, silence is golden. I have lost much in my life. I’m hoping that if I can stay faithful in that loss without rebuking God for not healing me, I will find my life in abundance one day in heaven. My Savior said it. Therefore, it is true. Amen. Let it be so.

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The Gift of Grace

When I was younger I thought that if I didn’t take communion one week and then I died, I might not go to heaven. Good grief, what would younger me think of older me with food sensitivities who only took half-communion for a year… that I was only half-saved? I’m not exactly sure of the ‘logic’ but maybe I thought that the further away from my communion with God, the more unforgivable and full of sin I became. I cringe at the ways I create to make life more difficult. Even after I realized the communion thing was a false belief, I still thought that if I sinned and died before I repented of that sin, I wouldn’t go to heaven. I’ve heard this exact statement from friends even today and I want to scream, “Please let me introduce you to my loving Jesus!” But I have to put myself in check, remembering that I am a recovering perfectionist who has lived in fear and works-based salvation for most of my life. No one could have changed my mind back then so I know my words won’t convince my dear ones, but perhaps they will at least plant a seed that I pray God will grow into greater understanding of His unconditional love and the gift of grace.

Grace is not emphasized enough in our lives and teaching. As a result, so many of us grow up in fear and burn ourselves out from striving to be perfect. Did you know that when you asked Jesus into your heart, God started seeing Jesus when He looks at you? I honestly didn’t know that until a couple years ago, and it took me even longer to accept and believe it. This journey toward grace takes some serious unlearning of what we have always believed to be true but, I promise you, it is worth it. Jesus has already taken the punishment for our sins. We don’t have to live in fear anymore. We are free. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). Hallelujah! Why do we live as if this were not true? Why do we live as though Jesus never died for us and we have to save ourselves over and over again? Aren’t you exhausted? I am!

So let’s crawl our exhausted selves right up into God’s lap and let Him tell us the truth about grace. Grace is “the free and unmerited favor of God.” Look at that. Grace is free! We don’t have to pay for it because Jesus already did. We don’t have to keep working to try and earn it. Please hear me. WE CAN’T EARN SOMETHING WE ALREADY HAVE. And grace is unmerited or, undeserved. I think this was my biggest hangup. I knew I didn’t deserve grace so I had trouble accepting it. But, God knows it’s undeserved, and He gives it anyway. If we deserved it, it wouldn’t be a gift. It would mean that we could work for our own salvation and forgiveness when God clearly says that we are saved by faith, not works. Grace means freedom from a works-based life, freedom from striving, freedom from perfectionism, and even freedom from the fear of imperfection. How often have we heard that we are saved by grace through faith, not by works? Why don’t we believe it? I think Satan has a field-day with our fears. He is the accuser and knows that if he can get us to believe that Jesus’ gift was not enough to save our terrible selves, we will be stripped of all peace and joy, and our striving will hinder our ministry and make us much less fruitful. Stomping on Satan’s lies over and over again (because he is super-persistent) is life-giving work; life-freeing for ourselves and life-saving for those we are supposed to point toward freedom in Christ. We can’t be used by God to free others when we aren’t living free ourselves. We need to ask God to help us throw off those chains! He’s already broken them but, for whatever reason, we won’t let them go. He wants so badly for us to let go!

Sometimes it’s difficult to see that the God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament because He seemed so punishing and severe back then. But we have to remember that at the end of Old Testament times, He sent His Son to take care of all the punishment for good… for ALWAYS. Not just until the next time we sin. I pray this most precious truth sinks down deep into our beings. We can never work hard enough to earn forgiveness. It’s a lost and hopeless cause. But, because God already did the work for us and forgave us, we can have hope. I’ve been wanting to talk about grace for awhile now but I couldn’t find the words and then we talked about it in our small group this week and this beautiful passage came up in my reading today:

“‘So there is hope for your future,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:17)
“‘You disciplined me like an unruly calf, and I have been disciplined. Restore me and I will return, because you are the Lord my God. After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast. I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’
‘Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:18-20).

Even here we see God in the Old Testament, showing His character of grace and the love of a parent. His people were unbelievably rebellious (kind of like us). They turned away from Him and toward idols. They didn’t understand His love. But look at what God says about them. I could just weep. He calls them dear. He yearns for them. He delights in them! He DELIGHTS in His rebellious, straying children. His grace melts my heart. When God’s people realized what they had done and how they had strayed, like so many of us, they groveled in shame and humiliation. I was the queen of this kind of torturing, self-flagellating remorse for many years. I beat myself up in shame even though I knew Jesus had already died for me. I was ashamed that He paid the ultimate sacrifice so I thought if I beat myself up, maybe I could have some of the punishment that I deserved and He wouldn’t have to take so much. But the truth is, He already took it. It’s already done. Nothing I could ever do could somehow make the best thing that ever happened to the world any better. I can’t take away His suffering and give it to myself, so I must learn to accept it. I must pray every single day that God helps me accept it. No matter how often I stray from Him, God still delights in me and holds me dear. He restores me over and over again.

I was angry at God for a long time. I hid that fact even from myself for awhile because I didn’t think I should be angry at Him. After awhile, I just had to allow the fire-hot honesty flow out of me. I can hardly stand to recall the picture of myself screaming terrible things at God, even that I hated Him. I accused Him of hurting me and taking pleasure in hurting me. I recoil at the memory, but that picture is an important part of my story. I was living in such darkness that I could not see the real picture. I was relying on my own understanding of God and He wanted to show me His understanding. I’ve fallen to my knees in repentance and acceptance of his mind-blowing grace each time the real picture becomes just a little bit more clear. The true picture is God’s extremely broken child, reeling in pain and hurt, trying to escape her Father’s comforting arms, lashing out at Him for not making it better… all the while being held by Him who, despite the blows and cutting words, still held her dear. Despite what she thought, He was not saying, “you’re getting what you deserve” or “I don’t care that you’re suffering”, but simply, “I know, beloved. I know. I’m here.” He so desperately longs for me to understand that He already ‘made it better’. He made it best. I just can’t see it yet.

He’s a God of unbelievable grace… but oh, how He longs for us to believe it. I suppose that just as addicts are always recovering addicts, I will always be a recovering perfectionist; a recovering striver, constantly learning the freedom that comes from resting in the grace of God. I see and feel this so deeply in my own life and pray it for yours: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). I know I can’t convince you but, once you feel the peace and joy that comes with that freedom, your heart will absolutely leap to share it with others. For that reason I pray fervently for all of you who still live in fear and striving. I pray that you ask God to tell you the truth about His grace and that you allow that truth to saturate you, to fill you to the point that there is no room for works-based and fear-based lies anymore. And if you’re like me and you don’t even want to ask God to show you the truth about grace because you don’t think you deserve it, there is no shame in asking Him to help you want to ask! My mouth almost hurt the first time I finally eked out that prayer, but God hears even our most hesitant prayers. The next time you pray, your mouth may form the words a little better. Then you may be able to ask louder and with more confidence. And once God gives you the desire, then you can ask Him to tell you the truth. And then you can ask Him to help you let the truth sink in. Once His truth finally sinks down into your heart, you will feel the blessed freedom that comes with God’s gift of grace. I will never stop praying this for us, God’s dear ones!

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No Pain, No Gain

January 3, 2019, mostly written in my journal:

I had a laser detox treatment yesterday and it has required me not to touch a phone, computer, remote, or my dog for 25 hours. I could explain the details and the whys but right now I just don’t have the strength. Detoxing is exhausting. Here’s a video if you’re interested. Without anything to distract me, I’ve had a lot of time to think.

Every disease has an emotional connection. Again, I don’t have the strength to explain this but you can follow the work of Trina Hammack, who has studied brain scans to determine the effects of different emotional traumas on the brain. The emotional connection with POTS is heartbreak. My heart has been broken and not yet healed. I’ve been talking to God about the heartbreak for months now, trying to figure out what it is. I honestly believe that one of the biggest unhealed heartbreaks is my illness itself. I didn’t have POTS until quite awhile after Lyme had already wreaked so much havoc. I wonder if that’s why so many people with Lyme have POTS. Lyme is so evil. There’s a hashtag going around: #lymeisloss. Lyme is loss. And why is it still unhealed? Because it’s a daily loss. The loss never ends. I think I’m doing everything right and then I have to cut something else out of my life. It’s so unfair, but I know that’s life. It’s hard for me to watch other people on social media doing whatever they want so this technology break is good for me. I can’t stop the twinge of jealousy or the tremendous worry and urge to tell them they need to stop doing what they’re doing or they’ll end up sick like me. I lay my jealousy, judgement, and fear at the feet of Jesus once more.

I’ve been alone here in bed, allowing the losses to linger so I can grieve for them. I’ve lost my career and, with that, my daily support system and social interaction. I’ve lost a whole lot of in-person contact and now, with my very limited internet time (decreasing EMF exposure), I’m becoming even more isolated. I’ve lost my freedom and independence. I’ve lost my dearest friend. We think I’m picking up some immune stressors (pesticides and parasites) from my dog so I was worried about losing her but, if I’m going to heal emotionally, separating me from my dog is probably not the way to do it. It’s been a challenging 25 hours keeping her out of this room. She’s very persistent! I’ve lost the people with whom I used to spend time. I’ve lost fun. I’ve lost exercise and hiking and being outside for long periods of time. It’s such a little thing but I’ve recently lost my favorite coffee. No more Tim Horton’s for me! I’ve lost the ability to put anything into my mouth or walk outside without fear that I will ingest or inhale something my body hates. Although I’ve been back a couple times recently, I still feel like I’ve lost my church. I don’t feel like I belong there anymore. I’ve lost music in the way I used to experience it. I’ve lost much of my confidence and my stability. We’ve lost financial security and the hope of ever getting out of debt. I’ve lost my perfectly clean house and even some of my looks. I’ve lost much enjoyment of food and, while I’ve come to terms with not eating when everyone else is eating, I can tell it makes other people uncomfortable. I’ve lost the ability to do things for others. For so long I lost my feelings of significance, joy, and hope. We’ve lost other things that I haven’t decided I’m ready to talk about with the world so, stay tuned. And every single day is a new experience of these losses as well as new ones. So, how? How can I possibly heal from the heartbreak when the breaking just keeps happening over and over?

I wonder if this is how. Because Lyme is not just loss. It is also gain. I talked about this in more detail in my previous post, It Was Because of An Illness, so I’d love for you to read it if you haven’t yet. I have gained an intuition with my body like you would not believe. I know what organ is struggling when and usually why. I have gained relationships with all of those who are guiding me toward health. I have gained time. Yes, I have lost time doing the things I used to love but I have gained time with God, which is a much better use of time anyway. I have gained an addiction to and love for Scripture and I have gained inspiration from those who write about their own experiences. I have gained introspection and a continued discovery of my weaknesses and the areas that need healed. I have gained a deeper prayer life. I have gained a voice and less fear of expressing my opinions. I have gained a greater longing for heaven. I have gained much better priorities. I have gained a story. I have gained honesty. I have gained an understanding of who I am in Christ. I have gained rest and peace while slowly releasing my spirit of striving. I have gained a better understanding of grace. I have gained the time for and realization of the importance of grieving and not stopping my grief even when I think, “I should really pull myself together now.” There is no “should” with grief. I have gained the gift of solitude to experience healing in all of these things.

I thought about all of this yesterday and how I would honestly rather experience physical pain than emotional pain, so it’s been hard for me to allow myself to feel and grieve these daily losses. But it’s so important and I thank God that He knows what I need, gives me time to experience it, and stays here with me through it. He is the only  One who sees me completely unglued and that is becoming more and more precious to me. This time is sacred and beautiful, as painful as it often is. #lymeisloss but, also, #lymeisgain. Through my loss, I gain more God. What a precious gift!

Now it is hour 23. I dozed off and woke up in AGONY! I was doubled-over in pain and Jason said he thought I was dying (do you think we both exaggerate a little? I did scare him, though). The pain was so excruciating that I told God, “Remember when I said yesterday that I’d rather experience physical pain than emotional pain? That wasn’t a suggestion!” I guess I was just experiencing the final detox purge. The pain has eased a bit now so I may decide to change my vow of “never doing this again” later. Isn’t that the way we so often are? When we experience pain, we vow never to do what caused that pain again, whether it be trust, or stepping out of our comfort zone, or a medical treatment. But maybe the saying really is true: “No pain, no gain.” We have to experience the pain to get to the healing. So I will continue to experience my losses, knowing that each one will be redeemed. I will continue to feel so that I can heal. I will let go of trying to control the way my  heart breaks, and just let it break. I will allow pain for the greater gain.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” – 2 Corinthians 4:17

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Rest to Be Restored

Today marks three years since the loss of my job. My Facebook status that day included words to the song, “Promise of a Lifetime”, by Kutless. “I have fallen to my knees as I sing a lullaby of pain. I’m feeling broken in my melody as I sing to help the tears go away.” Many times since that day I have left my bed to fall on my knees in the other room, mixing worship and tears. I was devastated and still grieve even three years later. I remember choking out a question, “What am I supposed to do?” As I’ve said before, God’s answer was, “Rest and let Me heal you.” I was not a fan of that answer but it has certainly grown on me as I’ve slowly come to understand God’s purpose.

As we near the end of 2018, I’m in a reflecting mood. The word God gave me for this year was ‘restore.’ I didn’t notice until now that the word ‘restore’ doesn’t even exist without ‘rest’. It’s amazing to me that God gave me both of these words. I know now that we can’t have one without the other. We can’t heal from any wound without rest and we can’t be restored without resting in God. I was exhausted in every way – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually – because I had been trying to do everything myself with no help from the Lord. Three years ago I thought I just needed to be restored physically but now I know that I more desperately needed to be restored in every other way. In order for that to happen, I needed to rest.

We rest to allow God to carry our burdens. “Then I remember the pledge You made to me. I know You’re always there to hear my every prayer inside. I’m clinging to the promise of a lifetime. I hear the words You say to never walk away from me and leave behind the promise of a lifetime”(Kutless). We can rest because God promises that He will never leave us. We are safe with Him; safer than we are when we try to protect ourselves. We never have to carry our burdens alone. God invites us to this deep soul rest in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Doesn’t a light and easy burden sound wonderful? I was very happy in my job and my personal life but the damage from previously trying to hold myself together had already been done. I had put so much burden on myself to be everything to everyone, to fix myself and everyone else. I needed to learn how to let God carry the unnecessary, self-inflicted load.

We rest so that we can be refreshed. “Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed” (Exodus 23:12). Even my status three years ago alludes to my striving, “After 4 years, 9 months and 8 days of living, breathing, and loving my job, I said goodbye today. There are no words to describe the heartbreak. Prayers appreciated as I struggle to find purpose in my life again.” Not only did I have my purpose entirely wrong, but I put my whole self into it. I never stopped. Jesus told His disciples to rest when they had been doing too much without taking care of their own needs. “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest'” (Mark 6:31). Jesus cares about our needs and asks us to rest with Him. We need to pay more attention to His nudges so that He can refresh us and we can stay healthy in every way.

We rest so that we can be repaired. Honestly, learning to rest doesn’t always feel gentle. One of the definitions of restore is “repair or renovate.” “Will You help me fall apart? Pick me up. Take me in Your arms” (Kutless). I didn’t think about it three years ago when I used the song lyrics to ask God for help but, in order to be repaired, it’s necessary to fall apart first. I felt deep in my soul even then that I needed to fall apart but I didn’t know how. I needed God to help me. Up until then I had been doing everything I could to hold every broken piece of myself together. I didn’t know how to let myself crumble and the thought terrified me. I have since learned the beauty of brokenness. We don’t get to experience healing restoration if we don’t allow ourselves to break first. It hurts SO MUCH, but the treasure of falling apart is that we fall into God’s arms. How can we experience such comfort if we don’t allow ourselves to fall?

We rest so that we can be blessed and made holy. “Find my way back from the storm and You show me how to grow through the change” (Kutless). “Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (Genesis 2:3). If we don’t stop to let God work in us, we don’t give Him the opportunity to make us holy. If we’re striving in our own work without God’s help, that work is not holy. Holy work is done by God in us. All we have to do is give up our control and let Him. I don’t want to miss such an opportunity for God’s blessing.

In order to gain all of these benefits of rest, we have to stop what we are doing and we have to let go of our own understanding. “I am holding on to the hope I have inside. With You I will stay through every day, putting my understanding aside and I am comforted” (Kutless). When God rested, He ceased doing. I needed to stop doing the destructive things I was doing (self-protecting, trying to control, trying to prove I was worthy of restoration, basically trying to be God). I needed to let go of my need to know and my striving to figure it all out and I needed to soften my heart to God’s purpose and restoration.

After much wrestling and finally resting, I can now see these last three jobless years as God’s way of blessing me. He has changed my view of His purpose for me. He has helped me let go and allow Him to carry my load (obviously, I’m not completely cured in this area but I’m thankful to be God’s work in progress). He is refreshing me and healing me. And He’s not just repairing me. He’s doing a complete renovation of my heart. Now I truly believe that’s what God meant when He told me He would restore me this year. He is renovating me- making me holy and preparing me for His purpose. I am so very thankful that I’ve FINALLY surrendered and am allowing Him to do so.

“Looking back at me I know that You can see my heart is open to the promise of a lifetime” (Kutless). After I finally invited Him, God opened the door of my heart this year and poured Himself in. His abundant love and grace are pushing out everything that doesn’t match His will for me. I am so grateful for the changes I see in myself and I look forward to what He is preparing me for… the year of HOPE.

May you let God pour His heart into yours this new year.

Song I’m feeling: Promise of a Lifetime, by Kutless

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In His Tender Mercy, God Still Enters In

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit” (Isaiah 11:1). From nothing, God brings forth something wonderful. From a stump that appeared to be dead sprang the most beautiful shoot of life: Jesus.

“The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (John 1:5). There is so much I don’t understand about Jesus. I think I’ve had a cleaned-up picture of His birth in my mind for all these years because I can’t imagine my Savior being born in such a human way. Surely God would have cleaned up the stable a bit, right? He certainly wouldn’t have wanted His Son to be born in filth. Don’t you think God would have removed all the animal spit germs from the manger before He allowed Jesus to lie there? It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around Jesus’ complete humanness. But the truth is, the Son of God laid where dirty animals put their mouths. Jesus was vulnerable to the grime of a stable and the smell of manure. I guess I never wanted to imagine the reality of the mess.

I shield my eyes from the cross as well. I find myself believing that God couldn’t have meant for it to be that gruesome. Maybe He helped Jesus with some supernatural pain management. It didn’t actually hurt that bad, did it? But the truth is, as much as I try to shield myself from believing in pain, Jesus refused to shield Himself from it. He entered into the pain, the horror, and the filth of His life and death. He refused the wine mixed with gall (Matthew 27:34) that might have eased his suffering a bit or ended it sooner. I struggle to grasp that He fully and willingly entered into humanity.

Why would God do all of this for me? Zechariah tells us in Luke that God sent Jesus “to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days” (Luke 1:74-75). “because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:78-79). I love the part that says He did it to enable us to serve without fear. Because of Jesus, we are no longer bound by the Law. Because of His ultimate sacrifice, we don’t have to live in constant guilt and offer countless sacrifices. God, in His tender mercy, sees us in our dark and death-like places and He doesn’t turn away. Instead, He pours out His grace. He has removed our guilt once and for all so that we are are free to serve Him in peace, not fear.

It’s important for me to uncover my eyes and gaze upon this truth if I am ever to believe that Jesus enters the stench and sin of my own heart. I need to see Him as a vulnerable infant lying on animal spit with the smell of manure wafting over Him if I am ever to believe that He cares about my vulnerability. I need to stare Jesus in his agonized face on the cross if I am ever to believe that He could enter into my own pain. I need to believe in Jesus’ humanness and sacrificial love for me if I am ever to have the peace that God intended. I need to understand that God will never turn away from my heart no matter how dark I feel it is. He springs forth beautiful shoots of life where I see only death. God brought about the highest good from the greatest pain and He will bring about my greatest possible good from my own pain.

God didn’t change the time of the census so a very pregnant Mary could give birth in comfort. He didn’t make room in an inn so that His Son wouldn’t have to be born in a stable. He didn’t clean up the stable and He didn’t skip the messiness of human birth. He didn’t take away the pain and horror of the cross. Jesus did not shield Himself from the agony and vulnerability of His human life and He does not shield Himself from ours. This Christmas, I pray for a greater understanding of what God did for us. I pray for us to embrace the reality of our mess and open our eyes to see Jesus in it. I pray for the wholehearted belief that God, in His tender mercy, still enters our misery and pours out His grace. I pray for the courage to look Jesus in His agonized face and cry, “Thank You.”

Song I’m Feeling: It’s About the Cross, by Go Fish
“It’s about God’s Love nailed to a tree. It’s about every drop of blood that flowed from Him when it should have been me.”

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Fire of Hope

I used to love Christmas. When I was younger, I would even decorate my bedroom. When I moved out, my roommie and I would combine our holiday cheer into a glorious festival of lights bordering on tacky. Okay, it was pretty tacky. For many years of my life after the Christmas Eve service, I would sit in my room by the light of the Christmas lights, quietly listening to the Point of Grace Christmas albums until midnight when I would sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.

That Christmas cheer left me a few years ago and now I pretty much dread this holiday. It’s such a chore to put the decorations up and even more depressing to take them down. Christmas seems to be a reminder to me that things are not as they were. The death of my holiday spirit was due to a combination of losses. Holidays have become just a marker of time for me, reminding me how very long I have been sick. My traditions can no longer go on. I can’t usually go ‘home’ to spend it with my family. I can’t attend every event, parade, or concert that I used to attend. I can’t eat what everyone else is eating and will never again experience my mom’s famous Christmas cookies. I can’t sing Christmas songs with the choir or worship team. I don’t have the ability to pick out perfect gifts for people. I lost my job three days after Christmas. Etc, etc. Oh, and one year while decorating, I discovered that a mouse had stolen all the fuzz off the front of the Christmas stocking that I had since I was a baby, wrapped itself up in it, and died. I’m still in mourning. Not for the mouse, but for my stocking, tradition, and sentiment. I’m sure the mouse died a nice, warm, peaceful death. Bah-humbug.

“Fire of hope is our only warmth. Weary, it’s flame will be dying soon” (Night of Silence, by Daniel Kantor). I think that’s what happened to me. It’s not possible to have Christmas joy without hope and the light of my hope was snuffed out. Why? Because my hope was in tradition, my career, my health, Christmas activities, gift-giving, and sentiment. I didn’t have a lot of hope in Jesus.

A friend recently said, “hope is the most important thing we have.” Honestly, I wanted to rebel against that statement. I feared hope for so long because, in my mind, hope meant disappointment. I couldn’t handle any more of that. I tried to find hope in heaven but I was still left to question the now. What am I hoping for now? Perhaps it’s a more mature faith than mine that can live with only the hope of heaven (as if that’s an ONLY and not the greatest hope ever), but the step I was finally willing to take toward that faith was hoping to experience God in the present. I am overwhelmed by how He shows up for me when I’m looking for Him. I am inviting Him here and He speaks to me in so many ways. The more aware I become of God’s presence with me now, the more I hope for heaven, and not in my usual trying-to-escape way. I hope for heaven because I want to see Jesus face to face. Experiencing God now has led me to a greater hope in heaven. Being with Him has become more important to me than health and sentiment. What could be more healing than the presence of God?

The more I think about this, the more I’m persuaded about hope’s importance. I was surprised when I finally noticed that hope is not listed with the fruit of the Spirit. I was puzzled. If hope is so important, why didn’t God gift it to us like He did the fruit? I think there are at least two reasons for this.

Hope fuels the growth of all the other fruit. Think about it. If our hope is in Jesus, we know that He will keep His promises. He promised to continue the good work that He started in us. He planted the fruit of the Spirit in us and, when we hope to experience Jesus, that fruit grows. When our hope is in Jesus, we grow the pure love of Christ, the joy of being in His presence, the peace that passes understanding, the patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control that matches His, and the faith that endures through suffering. Without hope, the fruit in us cannot grow. When we hope in things that do not last, our fruit becomes diseased. Mine certainly has. My love has not been pure, but conditional. My joy has been nonexistent. My peace has turned into constant anxiety, my faith weak, and all the rest of the fruit inconsistent and spotty. As my hope shifts back to Jesus, I am watching my fruit grow in health and vitality. Thanks be to God.

The other possible reason for hope not being a fruit is that hope can be lost, but the fruit of the Spirit is a gift from God already in us. The fruit may not have grown big and ripe yet, but it’s in us. In contrast, I believe the flame of hope can die. I believe this because it happened to me. I refused to hope and my world became a very dark place. My fruit started to shrivel as it searched for the Light. I couldn’t see through the darkness the compassions that the writer of Lamentations saw, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him'” (3:21-24). I wasn’t allowing God to fill me with hope. Therefore, I was consumed with disappointment and only begrudgingly waited for Him to rescue me. Now, I’m beginning to see the newness He brings to each day.

Before I lead you to believe that it has returned to Fa La La Land up in here, let me tell you that I have yet to regain my “thrill of hope.” However, the spark is back. God is growing His fruit in me again. I pray every day as we enter the week before the holiday that my Christmas will no longer be lost because Jesus cannot be lost. I pray that Christmas regains its sparkle for me because it’s about Jesus, not all those other useless hopes. And, as hard as it is for me to pray for hope, I pray that He will continue to fan that flame so it can grow His fruit in me. I pray all of these things for you, too. No amount of disappointment after hope can ever be worse than feeling your fruit shrivel and your spirit darken without it. “Breathless love awaits darkened souls. Soon will we know of the morning” (Daniel Kantor).

Song I’m Feeling: Night Of Silence, by Daniel Kantor. Oh my, you have to click on the link and listen to this arrangement.

“Cold are the people, winter of life
We tremble in shadows this cold, endless night
Frozen in the snow lie roses, sleeping
Flowers that will echo the sunrise
Fire of hope is our only warmth
Weary, its flame will be dying soon.

Voice in the distance, call in the night
On wind You enfold us, You speak of the light
Gentle on the ear You whisper softly
Rumors of a dawn so embracing
Breathless love awaits darkened souls
Soon will we know of the morning.

Spirit among us, shine like the star
Your light that guides shepherds and kings from afar
Shimmer in the sky so empty, lonely
Rising in the warmth of Your Son’s love
Star unknowing of night and day
Spirit we wait for Your loving Son.”

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God’s Excruciatingly Precious Timing

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.” – Proverbs 3:5-8

Many of us know the first part of this passage by heart. I think I’ve even written multiple blog posts about it in the past. But the second part of the passage caught my eye today. Trusting in God’s wisdom rather than our own will bring health and nourishment to our bodies. There was a time I would have scoffed at these verses. How can trusting in God affect my health? Goodness, I could tell you some stories…

For a long time, I have struggled with my need to know answers, especially answers to the question of why God was allowing me to suffer so. I was hurt and angry with Him and I allowed it to fester into bitterness. I describe this period in my life, which actually wasn’t that long ago, as extremely dark. I tried to walk away from God multiple times but He lovingly pursued. My understanding of God’s promises did not match what I was experiencing and the perceived discrepancy caused an unbelievable amount of anxiety and anger. This emotional pain and spiritual tension started to hurt me in every way, including physically. In addition, I sometimes would convince myself that I shouldn’t be angry at God so I turned my anger inward. My self-loathing led me to very dark places, sometimes even to suicidal thoughts. When we have such extreme emotions, we feel them in our bodies whether we realize it or not. My stomach was always in knots, my neck and shoulders tense. Every weak part of my body would flare during those times. When I would have an intensely emotional day without properly expressing those emotions I would experience sharp pains shooting throughout my body the next day. I wasn’t giving my body the proper nourishment of God’s truth and promises. Instead, I was feeding it lies and hatred. My reliance on my own limited understanding about suffering left me malnourished and sick, careening down the crooked path of darkness and evil rather than God’s straight, beautiful path of light. I very often asked, “how long, Oh, Lord? How long?”, and that’s a perfectly fine question. But I understood there to be no good reason for my continued pain. In my perception, I had been suffering far too long and it was time for Him to do something. But what I didn’t understand was, He was doing something. He is always doing something.

I’m not exactly sure what started to change my attitude but I’m sure I’ll be writing more about that as I continue on this journey. I see what God is accomplishing in my heart through this illness and it takes my breath away and brings me to my knees. I want to say that I’m a different person than I was just a few months ago, but I think I am just becoming more me, more the person God intended me to be all along. I am fiercely protective of my illness now, in the sense that I know how precious this time is… excruciatingly precious. How dare the enemy say this painful time of waiting is wasted? I thank God that, on most days, I no longer believe that. My illness is accomplishing something wonderful in my heart that would not have been accomplished in any other way. God is becoming my everything when, for so long, He was my punching bag. He has helped me let go of so much anger toward Him and toward myself. There are times when the self-loathing and anger still rear their ugly heads but those times are becoming fewer and farther between. When I’m feeling particularly broken, I don’t often try to make it on my own anymore. Instead, I run full-speed to God. He is filling me with His truth and love. I am no longer starving and my bones are feeling stronger. I see more light than darkness.

Susie Larson said this of God’s timing, “He’s making me wait because He’s making me ready.” I have been hurt and offended by what I thought was God’s purposeless waiting period. But I am so thankful that He has opened my eyes to see His perfect timing. I think I said in my last post that I love quick fixes but God knows that I couldn’t handle today’s discoveries and hurts yesterday. He is feeding me His truth and His love so that I am just strong enough for Him to reveal another hard truth about myself so that He can help me deal with it in His way, the healthy way.

I have experienced several examples of God’s timing through the pain, but will describe just one today. I’ve been fighting for disability for almost three years now. It’s a fight I have hated and I’ve been devastated by the need to do so. I had waited years for my hearing and finally it was set for this past May. My attorney and I prepared and studied and a multitude of people prayed for me. But I sat before the judge for thirty seconds while he told me I was going to have to see yet another doctor. Months more waiting. I was so hurt and angry. Defeated, really. I wondered if God cared about all the prayers that had been uttered on my behalf and if He was ever going to provide for us in this way. Months went by and I finally had my second hearing just last week. It was a grueling, painful experience to say the least. It seemed that the judge’s aim was to make me feel as small, useless, and parasitic as possible. The way he spoke and acted made me feel like absolute scum. It cut deeply that someone would do everything he could to make it seem like I left the job that I loved on purpose, that my illness wasn’t real and that these last three years of what I had often considered pure hell meant nothing. I was deeply hurt and wanted so desperately for everyone in the room to know my story, to know that I would give almost anything to be back at work doing what I love. But I had to be silent and take the blows the judge was dishing out. Honestly, it could have destroyed me. If I had experienced the entire hearing back in May, it WOULD have destroyed me. At that point I was still fiercely clinging to my own understanding and self-loathing. I would have blamed it all on God or myself or the world and who knows what would have happened to my heart? Don’t get me wrong, it still cut deep. I still cried periodically throughout the rest of the day but the way I was able to handle it was drastically different than I would have handled it before. First of all, I let myself feel everything I needed to feel, whereas before, I would have done everything I could not to feel the hurt or deal with it at all. This time I took my hurt to God, pouring it all out at His feet. I repeated His truth to myself that I am His child and His opinion of me is the only one that truly matters. He knows that I am far from scum and, eventually, that became enough for me. The sting of what happened to me last week has become less and less by the day. God’s view of me is everything. Though it still hurt, He knew I was finally ready for that day and I am so, so thankful that He made me wait. He was making me ready. Thank You, Lord.

I received the letter from Social Security yesterday that said I am receiving disability. I am disabled. That statement has been difficult for me to swallow. I have been running the gamut of emotion since I received it, from relief that the fight is over and that our financial situation will be somewhat better to deep sadness that this had to happen at all. But I am continuing to seek God’s understanding, not my own, and I feel more nourished and healthy by the moment. This whole experience is drawing me closer to God than I could have imagined. I used to get angry when people would say the lowest times of their lives were when they felt most comforted by God because I didn’t feel that. But, I do now. I am drinking in God’s truth and this time of waiting and illness is more precious than I can describe. Excruciatingly precious. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Thank you, God, for my illness. Thank You for carrying out Your good work in me, no matter how painful. And thank You for making me wait until my heart is ready for the next painful opportunity to run to You. Forgive me for the times I’ve questioned Your perfect timing. Help me lean on Your understanding, not my own. Amen.

Thank you, dear readers, for sharing in my journey and praying for me. I am sure I will need this reminder many times in the days to come as the darkness tries to creep back in and cover God’s truth. I pray God continues to fight it for me, to shine His light on the straight path, and to nourish me with His healthy understanding.

Song I’m feeling: Somewhere in Your Silent Night, by Casting Crowns

“Somewhere in your silent night, Heaven hears the song your broken heart has cried. Hope is here. Just lift your head for Love has come to find you somewhere in your silent night.”

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Healing Through Pain

I was thiiiis close to letting my friend take me to the orthopedic walk-in clinic today. I actually used to joke about that because it seems like that’s the one specialty that hasn’t yet weighed in on my life. Be careful what you joke about! Some of you who follow my shenanigans on Facebook know that I was messing around on the Wii Fit a couple days ago and it told me I was a bodybuilder. It also asked me if I trip over my own feet when I walk but, you win some, you lose some. The excruciating pain in my arm yesterday shattered any bodybuilding delusions as well as my normal life function. I’m not kidding. I thought I tore something. I couldn’t even lift my hand to my mouth to take medicine. There was no way I could sit, stand, or lay that didn’t scream agony. To be fair to the Wii, I had already been experiencing some discomfort for about a week prior and I can only speculate that my dog yanked my shoulder out of socket with the leash but I’m not exactly sure a ten-pound dog doing that much damage is any less sad. Her innocent little ears heard a lot of crying out yesterday as I reached my bad word capacity so I thought I was going to have to make yet another unexpected doctor visit. Thank goodness the pain is a little less curse-worthy today so I’ve decided to tough it out.

I’m discouraged by how broken-down my body has become. I try to exercise even just a little bit and cause myself terrible pain. So I continue to sit around and gain weight because I’m almost always hungry. I should be happy about the hunger and the weight gain and I am pleased that I am actually now capable of it, given the previous nightmare of nausea, rapid weight loss, and concern that I would eventually succumb to a disease I didn’t even know I was fighting. However, I can’t trust that the weight gain is not the medicine I’m on or my thyroid so I’m constantly second-guessing. It certainly couldn’t be all the nuts I constantly consume! Who really wants vegetables for a snack?! It’s a good possibility that I will be wearing yoga pants to Thanksgiving dinner at my in-laws because I finally let go of the weight-gain dream and got rid of my twelve different sizes of clothing quite some time ago. And, side note, I’ll be eating at home prior to Thanksgiving dinner because sometimes you have to adjust to your circumstances for the sake of healing, no matter how lonely it feels.

Having just put more pieces together in the ‘why-I-am-the-way-that-I-am’ department, I’m struck by how parallel all of this is to my mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Every time we uncover something new, it feels like something inside me tears. The pain shatters me for awhile as I grieve. Thankfully, I am learning how necessary the grieving is to the healing.

There are many things I am learning from the transformation of all aspects of my life. The first is that I have to feel the hurt in order to heal properly. I discovered this when I started having tendinitis in my wrist. The pain was so terrible that I kept it in a brace 24/7. Even with the brace, the pain never went away and I could barely move my thumb due to stiffness. I went back to the doctor and he said I had to take the brace off because if I didn’t start moving my thumb, nothing would ever heal or worse, it would heal improperly. Even though the pain was terrible, I had to feel it, to move around in it to loosen its grip on me. I absolutely believe this is true for emotional pain as well. I’ve done my best not to feel it for most of my life and that practice has stiffened me. It has built up walls around my heart. Wrestling behind the walls hurts very much as they crumble jagged with my tossing and turning but, if I keep pushing up against them, they will eventually come down and free my heart to be as God created.

Second, sometimes it takes a total breakdown of what was, before the healing and rebuilding can happen. I wrote about my flu awhile ago, how awful it was and how much I questioned God for not understanding that I couldn’t take it anymore. I thought I wouldn’t survive but, miraculously, it made me stronger. I believe with everything in me that my nine-day fever killed something terrible that was living inside of me and when I healed from that illness, I felt better than I had felt in a very long time. I felt something shift in my body and, while I still have a long way to go, I could allow myself to believe in the possibility of healing again. I think this is also what is happening in my emotional and spiritual life. It certainly feels like a complete and total breakdown and probably looks that way to my closest people. Sometimes I believe I will not survive. I question God when I don’t understand but as I cling to Him, sometimes just by a thread or, as he drags me kicking and screaming, I can see the miraculous healing up ahead. I experience small miracles of healing as we go along together and those are my reminders that He is doing something so beautiful that if I saw it right now all at once, it would hurt my eyes. I don’t want to miss the miracles in and of the process. And just as I am having to relearn that I can’t eat anything I want simply because it’s all healthy (five pounds of healthy nuts is still five pounds) and to adjust to every new restriction my body throws at me, I have to let God teach me the way He created me. I have been asking how it’s possible to relearn something when it’s all I’ve ever known and feels like a permanent part of me, but the only thing permanent is Jesus. Everything else is a shifting, adapting, moving part of the good God will continue working in me until Jesus comes.

Third, the process is much slower than I wanted or ever dreamed it would be. I want quick fixes. I wanted just a few counseling sessions to ‘fix’ me and that was two years ago. I almost jumped the gun about going to the doctor today because I just wanted the pain to go away. But, you know what? The pain tells us something important if we will just sit with it for awhile. Just as I will ‘work out’ my legs today because my arms can’t handle it, sometimes I have to let parts of me rest so I can work on others. It is possible to push too hard, analyze to death, and completely exhaust myself. Guilty! But I cannot even describe how thankful I am that I didn’t quit because after two years, I look back and see growth. I see miracles. I see what pain can accomplish.

And lastly, one of the most difficult lessons I am learning is that we have to be the gentlest with what is weakest or we will cause further damage. Apparently I haven’t yet learned my body’s limit. I thought I was doing a very light activity but I learned that I need to treat my body with even more care. I am clueless when it comes to how gentle I need to be with my weaknesses but I am so thankful that God knows my breaking point. He knows exactly when we are ready to unearth certain things that live inside of us and that’s why I am still learning more about myself each day. I wouldn’t have been ready to hear today’s discoveries two years ago, or even two weeks ago. They would have caused too much damage. God knows how little grace I’ve had for myself. I have thrashed myself over each weakness I discover, punishing myself for all the sins Jesus already died for and working far too hard to make myself stronger in those areas. It has only been very recently that I have started to offer myself grace. I am not perfect and God never expected me to be. I am the one with that expectation. As I slowly, painfully learn how to gently pass my weaknesses into the hands of God, I am experiencing small bits of peace. Peace is a very new experience for me. Overcoming the guilt is still a work in progress but lovingly handling my weaknesses is slowly healing the damage I’ve done by punishing them.

It has been difficult for me to believe that I will survive all of this unmaking but, deep down for many years, I have always known that the beauty at the end will be worth it. That’s what this entire blog is all about – the beauty in the rubble and the beauty OF the rubble. The tearing down of all that’s comfortable but suffocating so that God can breath new life into me. This quote by Annie Downs deeply resonates. “I decided that if I was really going to survive this, it had to be worth it. It had to have some sort of worthy redemption. It had to be beautiful.” If I don’t survive the undoing, I’ll be with Jesus and that will be beautiful. If I do survive, God’s good work in me will be beautiful. But if I don’t let the painful healing happen, I will never get to experience the beautiful miracle.

Song I’m Feeling: The Unmaking, by Nichole Nordeman. This could be my theme song.

“This is where the walls gave way
This is demolition day
All the debris, and all this dust
What is left of what once was
Sorting through what goes and what should stay

Every stone I laid for You
As if You had asked me to
A monument to Holy things
Empty talk and circling
Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?

What happens now
When all I’ve made is torn down?
What happens next
When all of You is all that’s left?

This is the unmaking
The beauty in the breaking
Had to lose myself
To find out who You are
Before each beginning
There must be an ending
Sitting in the rubble
I can see the stars
This is the unmaking

The longer and the tighter that we hold
Only makes it harder to let go
But love will not stay locked inside
A steeple or a tower high
Only when we’re broken, are we whole

I’ll gather the same stones where
Everything came crashing down
I’ll build You an altar there
On the same ground

‘Cause what stood before
Was never Yours.”

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So I’ll Cherish the Old Rugged Cross

The time change has me so messed up! I went to bed early last night, as I have done since it’s started getting dark at dinner, but for some reason I struggled to go to sleep even though I was exhausted. I say “for some reason”, but I know the reason. I had gone down the worry road. I was obsessing about the same things I always obsess about, the things I can’t control but at the same time, wonder if there’s something, anything, I can do to help God hurry it along a bit. As if He needs my help at all.

I’ve been praying a lot lately that God would take over my dreams. My dreams are almost always stressful and it’s exhausting. I have also prayed that He would speak to me in my dreams. During waking hours, I wonder if I’m hearing His voice or mine or a mixture of both. I figured my thoughts might take a back seat while I’m sleeping and I wanted to hear His voice more clearly. Another prayer I have prayed is for God to be more real and important to me than anything or anyone in my life.

Last night as I was obsessing, I drifted off to sleep for just a brief moment and immediately dreamed about the song, “Old Rugged Cross.” I jolted awake knowing that I had received a gift from God since I haven’t thought about that song in years. I believe God was answering my prayers, reminding me to focus on Jesus so the obsessions and worries won’t matter as much. Focusing on Jesus will automatically bring me closer to where God wants me so I can allow Him to solve my problems His way instead of me trying to fix them on my own.

The song holds treasured memories for me because, if I’m not mistaken, it was my great grandma’s favorite and we used to sing it to her while we visited her in the nursing home. I never understood why people love the song so much until Jesus became so precious to me. Honestly, I don’t like to think about the cross. It’s too gruesome for me and very hard to think about Someone dying for me like that. The love is difficult to absorb so, instead of allowing it to consume me, I look away. But God wants me to see, to know deep in the depths of myself that He loves me… insignificant, worrying, fixing-obsessed me… more than my mind can comprehend. But He wants my heart to feel it, and to rest in it. He wants me to lay all those worries at the foot of the cross because, while focusing on Him, those worries are exactly where they should be.

I have been singing the Old Rugged Cross all day long, praying the worries drift away with the melody. I pray for the strength to deny myself, to deny my control, to deny my desire for things to be better, to embrace the overwhelming love pouring from the cross, and to cling to the One who died there. He will lead me on a better path than I can walk myself. Thank You, Jesus.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”- Mark 8:34

Song I’m feeling: This beautiful cross medley. https://youtu.be/GLeHDfCGKM0

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The Gift of Tears (Part 3) – Don’t Forget to Laugh

Make sure you click here to read Part 1 and here to read Part 2.

Well, I already sobbed my eyes out at 6:00 this morning… how about you? Please don’t hear me making light of depression. There is such a thing as excessive crying and, who knows? Maybe I’ve reached that point. I’ve been stuck in sadness plenty of times but I also believe if I have the feelings, they should be expressed. And I’ve got a lot going on right now, from my illness to loneliness to missing my friend to loved ones who are going through so much. I’m sure I’ll be able to share more as time goes by and test results come back. Sometimes abundant tears are warranted but if you ever experience excessive sadness, I definitely encourage you to seek a counselor. I have one who has helped me through so much (Thank you, Wendi!). Actually, I don’t think it’s a bad idea for everyone to have a counselor. Many of us try to hide our feelings and do life on our own but it helps to speak them out loud to someone we trust. It helps the thoughts and feelings to lose some of their power over us.

Sadness has been following me for quite awhile, sometimes consuming me and sometimes just poking me where it hurts. My depression was quite a bit better for about a week (taking it one day at a time, friends) but for some reason it’s been especially lurk-y the last few days. I’ve tried so hard to stay out of the pit by ignoring it but, as we’ve already established, it doesn’t work that way. So I just keep pouring it out to God and trusting that He hears and holds me. And He has been faithful to help me cry, but miraculously faithful to help me laugh in the midst of it all. It’s important not to forget that part. I have been guilty of forgetting that joy is allowed in the midst of sorrow. I haven’t been able to experience joy in a very long time, but I also haven’t prayed that God would help my joy either. I was neglecting that important step.

Lately, God has given me glimpses of my previously silly self and I kind of miss her. It is definitely amusing my husband and a nice change to hear laughter in this house and realize it’s coming out of me. I’m not even kidding you, I was trying to test our bark collar (the citronella kind, not the mean, electrocuting kind) so I was barking… and then my dog started to bark too… and I’m glad no one had a video camera. Then last night Jason and I were watching something on TV and it was so hilarious that I couldn’t stop laughing, and he was mostly laughing at me! It’s been awhile since my stomach hurt from laughing. In the midst of so much weeping, God has helped me find laughter again. Allowing ourselves to experience emotion without holding back doesn’t just allow the negative emotions to pour in and out of us, but the positive ones as well. We can’t let God help us cry while skipping the laughter. Blocking one emotion blocks all the others. All emotions are His gift to us and He wants us to fully experience them.

I love the passage that non-coincidentally showed up in my reading the other day so I will include the whole thing:

“When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men 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, O Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” – Psalm 126

I wrote about dreaming in several recent blog posts so I found this amazing. The footnote in my Bible says “men who dreamed” could also be translated as, “men restored to health.” It’s just another God-wink for me, underlining the importance and health of allowing God to help us dream and hope. But the last two verses are my current focus. They highlight the benefit of allowing ourselves to weep. The passage is also careful to point out that we still have a job to do while weeping. There are two important messages I receive from this Scripture. First, we cannot completely give up in times of sorrow. Sowing may mean resisting Satan’s lies, continuing to serve others, talking to a counselor, or even just clinging to God instead of letting go and walking away from Him. Second, we need to sow our actual tears, to bury our faces in God’s loving shoulder, allowing ourselves to cry to Him. In doing this, the tears that we sow will grow into a bountiful harvest of joy one day. It is often a precious ministry to continue clinging to God while weeping. It can lead to a harvest of joy for other people as well as for ourselves. But we absolutely cannot experience the sheaves (the bundles, the heaps) of joy without allowing ourselves to feel the sorrow. We can’t have one without the other. Perhaps I should start looking at my sensitive heart as a beautiful gift, one that will eventually bring me heaps of joy.

Jesus Himself said, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh” (Luke 6:21b). Jesus blesses our tears and, one day, will fill the ache with laughter. I wonder if that’s why God keeps our tears in a bottle. Maybe one day He will rain them back down on our dry, thirsty ground. They will water and grow our fruit (Galatians 5:22), not the least of which is… JOY.

"I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing" (Ezekiel 34:26b).
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