(I'm not one for hokey Jesus pictures, but today I needed to see this one. )
Most of the time I write about my struggles in general terms, in the hopes and prayers that others will find it relatable and ultimately encouraging. But remove those expectations because this may be a post of a different kind.
Today I'm having one of those dark days. If you've never experienced one, seriously, just stop reading. If you have, you know how low you can feel. My version today was a deadly concoction of depression, sadness, loneliness, anger, frustration, weariness, disappointment and downright melancholy. Brutal and ruthless, my "flesh" was on this war path against my "spirit." It may or may not have been a legitimate attack of the Thief (as I officially now call the Cretan, the father of all lies), but whether it was my flesh or the enemy, I still felt...well, crappy (for lack of a better term). My spirit was putting up a good fight, countering negativity with truth like, "God is good." Yes, I know that, spirit. "HE has not abandoned you." Yes, I know that too. I'm supposed to be this ever-rejoicing Christian, Lord. But somehow it didn't matter to my flesh who just continued bemoaning, and my bag of spiritual tricks was failing.
It's raining today. I could've kissed God for at least allowing the weather to match my sentiments. I don't think I would've handled a sunshiny day very well. I sat outside and smelled it for a while, that wet earth in a place where those scents are rare. It was oddly comforting being reminded that falling water can elicit an aroma from dust. I am dust. Maybe all of these tears competing in a race down my face are doing something like the rain. Unlikely, I think.
Anyway, these tears are different than others. They seem to be coming from somewhere deeper as though the proverbial dam had burst despite all my handy patchwork of each and every hole. Maybe I should "phone a friend," dismissing that though as quickly as it came. "There's too much water and my filters need to be changed before I could do that." What else is there to do but talk to the only One who can do something with this Mess? "But if I talk to Him, He's just going to make me feel better and I think I'm rooting for my flesh this time." Misery and Agony are starting to get cozy. The Spirit starts to whisper things to my weary soul (Hey, when did I invite Him to this party?), "He gives power to the faint, and to Him who has no might He increases strength" and "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest." But, I don't want to spend time with you, Lord, or did you miss that? Just leave me be. Although if you had an urge to let me fast-forward past all of this gruesomeness, I'd be much obliged. Yes, I said, much obliged...smh. I mean, even Paul who knew it was better to stay rather than to depart and be with You felt that way because he had purpose, like You were using Him to actually affect people. You shut yet ANOTHER door yesterday where I could have impacted lives for Your Kingdom. This hallway that I'm standing in grows darker by the day with all that You've closed recently. I guess You just don't want to use me, and if that's the case, which I would COMPLETELY understand (I mean, listen to me), just take me home to you. I'll make a fantastic heavenly Janitor. I'll even whistle while I work. But at least I'll be free.
Fine, I'll read, but I'm not going to like it, and it's not going to apply anyway.
"he reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him." Daniel 2:22
Huh. I am most definitely in a dark place. Yeah, and You are Light. Uh-oh, there's some cross-references.
"[He] declares to man what is his thought,
[he]makes the morning darkness." Amos 4:13
Why would you make the morning darkness, if You're the Light? Aren't you all about bringing Light TO darkness? Maybe you reveal these deep hidden things when I am in darkness by your Light?
"He uncovers the deeps out of darkness
and brings deep darkness to light." Job 12:22
So apparently You can do both things since You're the Creator of both light and darkness. You're trying to show me something in this dark place that I'm in, aren't You? Something that can only be seen by Your light? I can't deal with that stuff unless you show me, Lord.
Enough of this, I'm just going to return to my regularly scheduled Bible reading, it's not like He could have any more to say.
"You have kept count of my tossings,
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?...
You have delivered my soul from death,
yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life." Psalm 56:8, 13
WHAT. IS. HAPPENING. You're telling me you keep these tears? You actually store them in a bottle and record them in a book??? Why? Why would you do that? You would deliver me so that I can walk in the LIGHT? Like this is actually why you have delivered me? So that I would no longer walk around in darkness?
I don't know, Lord. I'll admit You are certainly striking a chord here. Okay, just one more.
"With my voice I cry out to the Lord;
with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord.
I pour out my complaint before him;
I tell my trouble before him.
When my spirit faints within me,
You know my way!...
There is none who takes notice of me;
no refuge remains to me;
no one cares for my soul.
I cry to you, O LORD;
I say, 'You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.'
Attend to my cry,
for I am brought very low!....
Bring me out of prison
that I may give thanks to your name!
The righteous surround me,
for you will deal bountifully with me." Psalm 142
FOR. YOU. WILL. DEAL. BOUNTIFULLY. WITH. ME. David wrote this while he was where? IN A CAVE.
Okay, Lord, okay. I get it. You SEE me. You GET me. You KNOW me. And you know what you did for me today? You CARRIED me. Even in this dark pit, Shepherd, You picked me up like this helpless lamb and held me close as I was trembling.
I think I'll stay here and make my home here with You, Refuge. No one ever cared for me like Jesus.
If you've never had to be away from family and friends during the holiday season, know that it's probably more emotionally difficult than you imagine. My empathy for those who've gone through this has grown, now that I'm in the throes of such a time. So, you may find yourself apathetic toward this post, but for those who have endured, this one's for you.
I've become more keenly aware of the pain of separation, experienced the loneliness, felt the agony of observing others connecting and laughing with family and friends while I remain on the outside. Longing for the familial, while still certain that God's good plans for me include me being exactly where I am leads to a conflicted state of being. It really makes me question whether I do love Him more than mother or brothers, and oh how I want to be found worthy of Him (Matthew 10:37)! I'm not saying it's a sin to miss them, but I must put them as second priority as hard as that is, ESPECIALLY at this time of year. It's often felt like more than enough combating the Christmas "isms" (materialism, consumerism and the like) but adding "separation anxiety" to it is like a Supreme Court level of a trial.
And yet, in this weakened state, He pierces through the ever-growing obscurity with His light and life-giving truth that I can wear around my waist like the belt that it is. And here's the shiny solid beam: In Himself, God is complete. The Father has relationship with the Son, the Son with the Spirit, and all perfectly relate to each other. They are where the whole concept of family begins and never ends. The beautiful, tear-inducing truth is that as a part of His family, I now share in relating to Him as family. I now share the family inheritance (which is an absolutely POIGNANT truth to cling to when you're poor), I have constant access to my Father, and know what it is to be embraced by Him who lovingly wraps His arms around me. It means I am never alone, always protected by the One who is not ashamed to call me his brother (sister) (Hebrews 2:11). No one better mess with any of His kids, those who preciously belong to Him.
So, let me encourage you, friend, Christ knows exactly how you feel. He knows because He was for a time separated from His family. He understands because He was removed from His earthly family, prioritizing the ministry of His Father. HE HAD SOMETHING MORE IMPORTANT TO BE DOING. That didn't mean it wasn't hard, but it meant He kept His focus, His eternal focus, and that separation from His family was merely a temporary state. He persevered by staying connected with His Heavenly Father, Who, remember, He had always been with up until He left His throne above to come to Earth. He is well-aware of your sadness, and here are His solutions:
I pray for you, my struggling friend, because I KNOW AND FEEL what you do, and so does HE. Let us, as brothers and sisters, earnestly lift each other up before our the One who is our FAMILY, because He can actually do something about the state of our heart.
Let me know how I can pray for you.
It would seem that we do everything in our power to avoid being lonely. We seek out relationships constantly--whether they are healthy or not--we pursue interaction. Obviously the media, (cough, SOCIAL media, cough) bolsters our desire for it every way it can, practically yelling the message that to be lonely is to be sad. Well, either sadness or that prideful, "I-am-human-hear-me-roar-and-I-don't-need-anyone-to-make-me-happy" cover we create aids our coping. Not only to we chase social satisfaction, but we shovel activity into the mouths of our clocks so every moment is engorged with busyness. How can we be lonely if we don't have time for it, right? Fear keeps us from drinking that perceived "toxin" of solitude, for doing so might yield vulnerability, quiet, and possibly reflection. Yes, the extrovert has their gregarious tendencies, but they are not the only ones who dread a life of seclusion. Since we know that God has created us ALL for relationship and community, this applies to all of us.
And once again, we see the enemy's distortion of God's image in us. We have forgotten that He created us for relationships because of the even greater truth that HE WANTS TO BE IN COMMUNITY WITH US. All of the contact we yearn for can only be truly and completely satisfied in Him. He's either everything to us or He's nothing. Certainly He desires us to be in community with others for countless reasons, but far too often we try and fill the loneliness void with everything except for Him. In so doing, we miss out on the way that He has REDEEMED loneliness. He redeemed loneliness with the most amazing, beautiful, matchless gift of HIS NEARNESS. "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:18). I firmly believe that He allows loneliness to grant us a level of His nearness that draws us into deeper intimacy with Him, the kind of closeness that overflows into the exclamation that "as for me it is good to be near God" (Psalm 73:28) The rest of that verse gives us another clue to the art of loneliness. "I have made the LORD God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works." He's all about promoting His Name and getting us to a position that we can proclaim His marvelous deeds. So, I encourage you the next time you are lonely, make the Sovereign God your refuge, and discover the riches of His presence.
Sovereign Lord, We praise you for never ever leaving us alone, even though sometimes we feel lonely. Thank you for the ways you teach us how to work through our loneliness so that you get the glory. We would do anything so that you get the glory. May Your Holy Spirit help us understand more facets of Your nearness, for You are infinite, and there is still so much to learn about Your most lovely closeness. Thank you for allowing us to feel lonely, and thank you Jesus for experiencing loneliness here on earth so You can comfort us more effectively by Your Holy Spirit. Thank You for being our remedy for loneliness. Oh, how we love you Lord. Amen.
When was the last time you thought that loneliness was a good thing?
Brittany Van Ryn
Working out thoughts with HIM.