I haven't blogged in quite a while because I have struggled to find the right words to describe my emotions. Although the last year of my life has been filled with tremendous joy on a personal level, simultaneously I have watched so many friends experience unimaginable loss and the weight of being surrounded by loss, pain and suffering, has broken my heart.
Two weeks ago I watched my childhood best friend marry a pretty cool dude. The last time I had seen this friend was at her father's funeral 3 years ago. In a way, her wedding helped remind me that God is able to bring us through loss and tough times to a place of joy. She has battled multiple sclerosis since we were 18 or 19 years old. Life is tough for her. But she is tougher than life. And despite a devastating medical diagnosis, the loss of her father and a few other stumbling blocks along the way, she is still embracing life. There is still so much joy in the midst of her circumstances. And this little profound realization, is what I have forgotten over this last year.
I think as Christians, it is really hard to deal with tough times because we are supposed to have hope in God and that often translates to the non-Christian world as always being "happy" or "with joy". And although I am first a Christian, I am also well, human. And as humans try to navigate the tougher times in life, we need to remember it is okay to be heartbroken. It is okay to ask God tough questions and be confused when He answers. We aren't going to understand it all and that is okay. We aren't meant to understand it all. So with this context, I'm going to share a blog I wrote several weeks ago but didn't have the courage to share. I hope it serves as a reminder that even Christians get upset, confused and dare I say angry at the circumstances in life. And we can stay grounded in our faith and still ask God really, really tough questions. So here goes...
Sentiments from a Broken Heart...
It's been raining all day. And not just any rain; gloomy, dreary rain. And at the moment, I can't help but feel the rain is a reflection of my soul.
Most of my blogs carry hope and joy and (hopefully!) inspire others. Not today. Today you just get me. For the past several weeks, my soul has been overwhelmed with heartache. For the second time in my life, I have really asked God "Why?". There have been so many prayers to God asking how this is His plan and why so many people in my life are suffering. A couple of weeks ago, a childhood friend announced she is battling stage IV cancer at the young age of 33 (just turned 34!). She is a new mom. A brand new mom. She is my age. We grew up together and literally went to school from Kindergarten straight through college. Our pasts are similar and if I had to guess we share similar dreams, aspirations and hopes in life. I cannot even begin to imagine how her conversations with God go...but I know her battle has impacted my conversation with God in ways I don't even want to admit out loud. My faith does not waiver but my mind certainly has a million questions.
Today I realized the majority of my free freetime was spent checking in on friends who are having a hard time. (To my friends who are having a hard time, I am not complaining...I will always be here for you. I'm just at a loss with God as to why so many of you have to suffer right now.) I have a list of prayer requests written out on my wall so throughout the day I am reminded to cover people in prayer. When I can't sleep at night, I cover someone on my list with focused prayer. And although some of my prayer requests are simple...please encourage so-and-so or help me make wise decisions related to this issue or that issue, the majority of my prayer requests right now are hard core. Praying to comfort a friend who lost her father, praying to heal serious scars another friend got from an abusive relationship, praying to keep my many, many pregnant friends safe and healthy, praying for two mothers who lost their children this past year, and praying that a childhood friend overcomes a horrific battle with cancer that no new mother should ever have to face. It just doesn't seem fair that so many people are suffering and battling and hurting.
As I went through my list of friends to "check in" with them and let them know I am praying for them, I couldn't help but have a heavy, heavy heart. Life is so cruel. And there are just so many things that do not make sense to me. So many times over the last 6 months I've asked God "How is this Your plan?". And I've wondered how other Christians handle overwhelming sorrow. I've wonder if I am just too weak.
I love the book of Psalm for one reason...it makes me realize that I'm not the only who struggles with God's plan for their life. This long book in the bible is host to so many heart cries that resonate with me at the moment.
How long LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, LORD my God. Give light to my eyes or I will sleep in death and my enemy will say "I have overcome him", and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love, my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the LORD's praise, for he has been good to me.
Despite the sorrow in my heart and through the millions of questions, I will trust in God. I will trust in His Sovereignty and the beauty of His plan. And although there is tremendous suffering now, I hold out for the overwhelming joy that is to come one day.
Rain, sorrow and delayed joy,
In the spirit of wrapping up 2016 and starting fresh, I owe my readers a blog on repentance (see #lovethesinnerexperiement from last summer). People, Christ followers and nonbelievers, find it challenging to think about "accepting Jesus" with a simple prayer, having your debt paid and having the freedom to go on and just keep sinning. And that is the problem. Trying to understanding grace and the free will of man and sin. But the concept of salvation and repentance is a lot like New Year resolutions.
Let’s say 2016 was a horrible year for you and you were just hanging on to the fact a new year was right around the corner. When the clock struck midnight on December 31st, a magical transformation did NOT occur. At the stroke of midnight nothing actually changed but you and your mindset.
This year I am setting out to be more intentional in my actions. I feel like I’ve settled into a routine of bad habits. Habits primarily centered on distraction from the things in life that are important. I feel like I’m looking down at my phone more than I am looking out at the world. So I’m attempting to disconnect from all things electronic and reconnect with God and people. It’s a simple resolution but completely reliant on self-discipline and my ability to change.
See when you set New Year resolutions, you are the one that changes. You set out to “change” for the New Year, to be different going forward. And you turn from your ways. You start working out or eating healthy or start getting up earlier…whatever the “resolution”, it involves action on your part. And it often involves slip-ups and subsequent “carry over” resolutions to the next year. You might try and fail so you try again the next year. And occasionally you conquer a change and it sticks.
This is what happens when you accept Jesus as your savior. You are motivated (by the Holy Spirit) to change, to turn from your old habits. You are motivated to try to live like Christ lived. And sure, you may slip up and sin but you keep on trying again and again and again. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you are perfect. In fact Christians are far, far, far from perfect. Being a Christian means you accept God’s grace through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and try to follow in Christ’s footsteps in the same way you try to make (and stick to!) a New Year resolution.
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, not realizing that God's kindness in intended to lead you to repetance?
So when I wrote about separating the sin from the sinner last year, I wasn't trying to convey that everyone has a free pass to sin. Your love and commitment to Christ, provides the drive to keep His commandments. You come to Him broken and trapped by sin, He frees you and gives you a reason to try to avoid sin. You won't always avoid sin because you are still human. However, Jesus provides a reason for you to continually seek Him and turn your back on sin.
And when people debate different sins and say things like you have to "repent" from your sins, I think what they really mean, is that if your commitment to Christ is true you will aim to repent and turn from sin. It doesn't mean that if you fall back into sin, you lose your salvation; sin has a powerful hold on us at times and can be very hard to conquer. But it does mean you claim Christ and recognize the power of sin, the need for salvation and the beauty of grace.
Grace, redemption and New Year resolutions,
Just a few reflections about everything God is teaching me in this life...a journey deeper into His purpose for my life.