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Pain, suffering, loss, grief, despair, hopelessness, sadness, pain and death are not considered very positive words in the English language.  You are probably feeling down right now just reading them!  Can negative emotions and circumstances ever lead to positive outcomes? In the midst of dry places you ponder this question. Experiencing any of the above words, especially for long periods of time can wear heavily upon your body, mind and soul. Why does this happen?

Going through my own trials has catapulted me into asking some extremely difficult questions.  If God loves me why does he allow extreme suffering?  If he’s with me now, how can he watch me feel this deep pain and struggle?  Does He really know what He’s doing up there? Are His promises empty? Can ashes really be transformed to beauty, morning to blessing and despair to gladness?  It’s easy to believe when life is all butterflies and roses but doubt sets in like a pent-up flood in distressing times of life.

Trials create an interesting form of desperation in us.  It can make us more hungry and aware of what we truly need, and desires we might be unacquainted with.  Hard times enlarge our capacity for grace, love, joy and life; if we let it.  This is where it gets tricky, to press on and press into the opportunities that grow our character and faith.  To really trust the One who created us and is for us.  Over the past few years I have wondered if we truly need suffering and why does it seem to be the only path to deep, lasting wisdom? (Trust me I have asked to learn what I have in less agonizing ways!)

Are you in a place where you long for freedom from your unwanted reality?  Do you desire a place where you can breathe and run free?  A safe place.  The longing for this secret place grows in trials.  There were days I wondered if the pain was all worth it.  If life was going to continue as it currently was I didn’t know if I wanted to be in it.  As I lay in bed many nights weeping, wanting it all to go away, I wondered if I could, or wanted, to make it through the night.  Scary, I know.

I didn’t have a clue when the end would come.  Could I hang on?  Was what I was being asked to walk through too much for me? Had I met, or even exceeded the threshold of what I could handle?  The weight of my situation pressed down on me, with each question pushing out every drop of strength I thought I had left.  My mind was becoming weaker and less able to persevere.  Drifting further from life and the promises I’d thought were out there for me.  Was comfort and direction ever going to come my way?

We’re all standing with our backs against the wall, sooner
or later. Waiting on a phone that never calls, at all. 

Heartbreak comes, rolling in like a storm, sooner or
later. Trying to swim but you’re sinking like a stone, alone.  And I can feel the fire in the night waiting here. 

Baby it’s like we’re walking on a wire through the
fire.  We’re all waiting on a dream
that’s hard to own, sooner or later. Trying to feel the high without the low, you know” (Mat Kearney song, “Sooner or Later”)

To “feel the low without the high”….ugh!  It is hard to press on when you feel you are going in the opposite direction of your destination.  Numerous days I wanted to run (probably more than I can count).  Something about us as humans, we want to run as soon as we feel discomfort or pain….or maybe it’s just me. Over the years I lost joy.  It slipped through my hands like a wet noodle and there seemed to be nothing I could do about it.  The tough part is once joy has left your house you wonder if it will ever return home.

Waking up day after day consistently finding yourself battling in the valley of darkness, vacant of positive emotions is not an elated experience.  No matter what you do or advice given to you helps. The rubber meets the road when we are asked to endure.  If the tunnel of darkness you find yourself seems never-ending; I get it. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but a longing fulfilled is like a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12). Experiencing the former without the latter is deflating.

I see now that I needed everything taken away so that I had no distractions and crutches to my opportunities for growth.  The hard places I’ve landed have pressed out a reservoir of grace and strength in me I didn’t think possible.  This thorny process has widened and deepened my character in proportions greater than I could ever comprehend.

“He who suffers most has most to give….. it is the endurance of one believing life that can produce a multitude.” (Streams in the Desert, p. 384)  “Don’t count your life as loss.” (2 Cor. 4:9)

More on this later……Rising Above and Spacious Places, Part 2.

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