And then she immediately regretted clicking publish. Because pressing publish welcomes criticism, judgement and makes my vulnerable thoughts examinable by all who wish to read this. I am choosing to press publish because I am not going to let the fear of my peers triumph over me. I am choosing to push publish because I believe God has pressed something into my heart that he wants me to share. His word over my words, his glory over my fears. This post has been sitting in my draft pile since July and if I would have published it then, it would have read a whole lot differently then it does now. I have been wanting to share what God is revealing in my life, but every time I sit down to type there is something new and I just can’t gather the words to string together sentences for this to make sense. I suppose God is refining and sanding away at my thoughts, paving a way for me to see a bigger picture. I scare easily when sharing my heart, but I call it selfishness to hold back what God is magnifying in my life. He is using every experience and every reflection to sculpt how I view life as we know it. He is allowing me to see the world through a new lens, and it is changing my view on life’s most painful moments. In this post I want to share the theme that has radically transformed the way I am viewing heartache and pain. This isn’t a new idea but it’s a single tagline, if you will, that I am dwelling upon day in, day out. He’s teaching me in his softness, the glory to be had in suffering and though scary to reveal my vulnerability I want God to radically change your view on suffering too.
This all seems to have taken root in January. The cold, bitter winter was getting the best of me, and though it seemed like everything was lining up perfectly, I couldn’t shake the bleakness I felt in my bones. Matt and I named them “blah days” because depressed just seemed too dark and frightening. Depressed meant it was time to seek help, blah gave me a reason to curl up and watch my favourite show that night. Two words, one feeling. I had it all, I was finishing up my practicum where I had fallen in love with twenty-five rascals, I had just landed my first teaching gig, and the sun was coming out to play. It didn’t make sense, yet there was a harsh feeling wearing on me daily. I was a lot more open about it this time around, because I knew it wasn’t my fault. It was a weird, shaky feeling I wanted no part of. There were days where the heaviness rested on my chest, and it made moving from the couch to the bathroom feel like a week’s worth of work. It was hard to see the hope in the unsettlement. I saw my suffering as a punishment, an invisible weight that only I could feel and experience. A no-good gift that made me believe the untrue, the opposite of what God says about me in his Word. I began to listen more to the lies that said I had no longer anything left to give my church, and that pulled me from my friendships. I had to work hard not to allow those lies to creep in deep. I prayed daily to ask God to carry my burden, to ease my anxiety and to calm the voices in my head. The truth is, I think God was using these moments to draw me in. In fact, these lies in my head, and weights on my chest only made me push harder into God’s word. Through the tears in my eyes, I was crying more out to God in the darkness than I sometimes do in a week’s span of daily busy life. He was walking me through the tough stuff, and using this hardship for his glory, I just didn’t know it yet.
A couple of months ago I was out on a walk with my mom and our pup. We talked about lots, from life’s joys to a few ongoing trials. At this point, the good days were outweighing the poor ones. I felt like I was walking more in the light, yet still carrying the pain of others deeply. We were coming to the end of our walk when my mom said this: “God will stop at nothing to be in relationship with you”. Though it probably didn’t seem like it in the moment, those words clung to me like sweet honey. Those eleven words made me think and think about all the trials in my life, and all the tough spots I see others walk through. This line had me looking at my grief as a call for relationship. But how could that be? I am the first person to admit that I have a hard time seeing the greater picture in life’s absurdities, especially those that are tucked away deep because they are too painful to crack open; when worldly tragedies don’t make sense in our minds, even more so, when they hurt like a burning coal deep inside our chests. Pain is something we wish upon no one, because the feeling of it all is too real for our humanness. I am just beginning to scratch the surface of understanding the beauty of God’s greater picture. You see, pain is of this world, but it pales in comparison to what God has set before us in heaven. He has a good, good plan for prosperity in his mighty arms if we can only trust him in the fire. He see’s how our hurt can change the lives of those around us, much more than we can see in the midst of disaster. God doesn’t provoke pain upon us, but he may allow these tragedies to happen for a greater purpose. Our earthly minds have a hard time thinking beyond this life, we can’t see how a death of a child, or how a deathly hurricane could be good. But God does. He knows how to take those very moments and use them for his glory. He knew that it was going to take a hurricane to bring you into his kingdom. He didn’t send the hurricane, but he will use it to seek your heart. He wants you so much so, that he will use these situations to turn your eyes towards Him. He can see the whole picture, he can see that you belong with him. Though we may feel every bit of loss here on earth, God cares more about the billions of years you will spend with him more so then the eighty so years you will spend on earth.
I have been following the story of a young, American pastor’s wife who recently lost her husband to suicide. It has received a lot of media coverage, but she has chosen to use this event to bring others to God and to share how despite her pain, God is working in her in miraculous ways. Her answer is not self-love, and to turn to the world to take care of her heart. Her answer is Jesus, knowing he is the only one who can mend and repair. This event itself has left a hole in her shattered heart but she is choosing to let God turn her story into one of hope for those around her. The aching loss of her husband will likely never subside, but you see, God knew her husband would be with him forever, and perhaps through his sudden death, the ones who were lost will now find the kingdom of heaven. We mourn the loss and can’t fathom life beyond this broken earth, but God is using our brokenness to pull in his people. He’s turning our darkest hours into victories. He cares more about our salvation than our temporary, earthly turmoil. If you are living in a big picture mindset, where you are so sure that God has a good plan for you, you can walk with confidence knowing that he has something bigger for you beyond this earth. We weren’t meant to live a perfect, easy life, in fact why would we need God if our lives were perfect. We live such imperfect lives, where we need God to make a way for us. We need to adhere to his promises of salvation, even in the face of our nightmares.
I roll my eyes a little when a hit Christian song becomes an anthem for every Pinterest picture, for every Instagram bio and for every camp theme song. That being said, I am humbled by the words of Cory Asbury’s “Reckless Love” as he belts out about the lost sheep as mentioned in Matthew and Luke. He sings of God’s overwhelming love for his lost sheep, as he will climb any mountain and tear down every twisted lie to go after him. I can’t even say it is my favourite song out there right now, but it strikes a chord as I learn about the nature of my great God. A God so in love with his people that he will do everything in his might to come for me. He wants to do the same for you. The thing you love most in your life may be being ripped out of your life at this moment, but God will allow it all to fall for a relationship for you. It is all for the bigger picture, to see you in heaven with him, rejoicing in his name. Our worldly minds don’t understand depression, they don’t understand divorce, death, illness, and anxiety because we don’t understand why a loving God would allow pain. Rest assured that God is a good God, who is good at being God. He is not afflicting pain on you but wants to turn your pain of this world into something beautiful; something beautiful that shouts his name, not yours. Turn your hurt over to him, let God make a way in your life and rest in knowing that God is after you. He wants your salvation so much so that he will come after you with everything He’s got.
I am oh so thankful that my hardships pale in comparison to the headlines of the nightly news however I am choosing to stand tall in the face of depression, in the face of anxiety and in the face of the enemy when he comes to attack. I am choosing to look at every troublesome piece of my life, and every painful piece of others with anticipation that God is going to move in a bigger way. I choosing to press publish, even though everything in me wants to hide away. I am handing over this past season of grief because I want God to have the final word. This mindset is changing my view of the world and is allowing me to look past the hurt onto something much greater.
Lysa TerKeurst says this in her novel Uninvited:
“The Devil is vicious, but he’s not victorious. And you, my friend, have everything you need to defeat him”
I know, with every bit of my soul that God is all powerful, almighty and stronger than it all but too often I rest in my hurt rather than in his embrace. I look to others to heal me and I disregard the fact that my testimony, whether joyous or tear-filled, can bring others to Him. That God can take the cracked version of me and pull me in until I am made whole. The enemy can come in to my home like a raging flood, but he will tremble when I choose to let God have the final word. This season of bleakness has been different from the last because of my reliance on the Lord. Rather than rejecting him when my life is a mess, I am humbled and weathered standing at his feet ready for him to move in his timing. I am allowing my anxieties to be turned over in faith, knowing that God is using it all in his name. I want to leave you with this question: Do you trust God enough that in the midst of your pain, you will hand over your mess and allow him to turn it into a masterpiece? As hard as it will be, and as unfair as it seems, choose to view your hurt with new eyes, trusting that God will take the cracked pieces and use them for his kingdom. Your painful testimony could be a victory for his kingdom if you allow it to be.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1 2-4