Suffering Sucks

Suffering sucks God.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 5:3-5

It sucks, God.  I hate it, even though I know that You will use it.  I know what Your word says about suffering. I know Jesus suffered.  I know David suffered. I know the Apostles suffered. Paul suffered.  And God, I am suffering.

I’m tired from fighting.  It takes so much energy to cope with physical pain.  And, Lord, I feel like I’ve dealt with crisis after crisis for most of my life. I know that lots of people suffer, God, and I am no better or worse than anyone else.  But right now this is about me and You. And I hurt, God.

It’s not even just the physical pain, Lord.  Sometimes, I really think I can live with that stuff.  But the emotional pain is equally hard.  It’s exhausting. Therapy has brought so many horrible things to the surface.

It’s stuff I buried.  Stuff I didn’t want to see again.  Even though it’s festered and rotted inside of me.  Even though it has slowly been killing me, I still feel like it’s too hard to get it out sometimes.  

You showed me a vision of Your steady hand carefully cutting out the dead flesh within me.  Precision isn’t even a good enough word for what You showed me You were doing in my heart. But it hurts, God!  It hurts so bad.

Then there’s all the physical junk.  My knees hurt.  I can barely walk.  And I feel like I’m a breath away from being stuck in my wheelchair again. Why did You allow the doctor to take away my pain meds and my arthritis meds?  I know the medical reasons, God. I even know the spiritual reasons. It draws me closer to You. It helps me have compassion and empathy for others.  It teaches me patience. It shows me a deeper level of Your faithfulness and compassion.

But the process sucks.

I keep thinking about Jesus in the Garden.  He had a serious “it sucks” conversation with You that night.  What He was facing was beyond horrific. I can’t even imagine. You know, though, God.  You know my hurt, my frustration and my fear.  But like Jesus said, “Not my will, but Yours, Father.”  Help me with that, would ya?

I’m afraid.  I’m afraid of what’s next.  I’m afraid of what pain I may have in my future.  I’m afraid of what harder suffering may lie ahead.  I know a lot of people are thinking right now that You didn’t give me a spirit of fear, and believe me, I know it!  But I want to keep things real, God. Only when I acknowledge my fear can I give it to You to turn to courage.

You make strength from my weakness, God, and I am so weak. Take my weakness.  Take my fear. Take my pain and my suffering and my grief and my tears. Take them and use them for Your glory God.  Your glory and Your Kingdom are the only things that keep me going.

Father, my suffering is bringing more and more death to myself and my wickedness.  My suffering has brought me perseverance in You. My pain has taught me endurance. It’s built my character.  It’s done all the things that You said it would.

You are faithful God. My suffering builds my hope in You.  And hope doesn’t suck at all.

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
1 Peter 4:12-13

For my take on depression, see my post: Having A Broken Spirit Sucks

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Is There More, God?

Is there more, God?  My heart echoes those words over and over.  Is there more? More suffering. More fear. More pain. More joy. More healing.  More learning. Lord, I am hungry, but I’m scared of the buffet table. In this world there is so much more, but not all of it is good.  Nor is it all bad. You are here to some degree, Jesus. You are here through Your children. But the world is so broken, and wrapped in seduction, each offering can be more suffering or healing.  And I struggle to know which one until I taste it.

I want more healing, Lord Jesus.  It’s not even about the physical anymore.  It’s so much deeper than that now. I want more knowledge of my sin, and more refining of my heart.  I want more renewing of my mind. I want more, God. Give me more.

But more is so scary, Lord.  I don’t trust myself anymore.  I don’t trust my hearing. I don’t trust my discernment.  Is it You or is it me? Is it light or is it darkness? I want more, God.  But I’m afraid. You haven’t given me a spirit of fear but of a sound mind.  You have given me self control and clear thinking.

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:7

You give me power, God.  But is there more? Give me more, God.  I need more power, love, and self-control.  Why do I fight it? What am I afraid of? Why do I long for more and run from it all at once?  Will I fail You, God? Is that what I’m afraid of? I know that more from You means less of me. Why don’t I want to give You all of me?  Give me more me? Is that what I want?

Wretched (wo)man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Romans 7:24

Deliver me, Jesus!  Give me more of You.  Break me of these horrible desires that causes my flesh to battle against me for death and darkness instead of life and light.  I want more light. I want more life?! Why do I fight it? What am I so afraid of? Is there more darkness, Lord? Is that my fear?  Will I have to face more of my own ugliness to find Your light? I don’t want to see it anymore, Jesus! I hate it! Does that mean I hate myself?  Does that mean I don’t know Your love?

Jesus, I want more.  Will You give me more of You?  I’m so scared, Lord. I’m terrified.  What will more of You reveal in me? I want to approach the Throne of Grace with confidence.  I need more grace, Jesus! I need more confidence in You. I want more!

You have given me so much already.  And I want more! There is so much more.  I want it, Jesus. I want more. Let me feast on the joy of Your salvation!  Let me taste and see that You are good! Give me more, Jesus. Break down my fear.  Break down my lust. Break down my doubt and my cowardice and my stubborn pride. Humble me, though I’m so afraid to ask for it!  Humble me and make me more like You.

I want more.  So much more! Give me more!

 

Psalm 51

The Lord has been speaking to me in Psalm 51 for the last few months.  Snippets of it come to mind and are uttered from my mouth when I pray everyday.  I know the Lord is bringing it to my heart to teach me of His love and forgiveness.  For my whole life I have doubted the His love and forgiveness, even as I walked in faith to believe those promises.  Honestly, I’m amazed that such a dichotomy of thinking could be found in my heart, and yet I know very well that it is true.

I doubted God’s love because of shame in my own heart for my sins.  Because of the bad decisions of my past, because of the sin I committed against the Lord, and continue to commit against the Lord each day, I thought there was no way that God could possibly even want to forgive me.  I’d think, “No way. Not this time. This time was bad. God hates sin. He surely hates me. I hate me.”

But thankfully, that’s not how God works at all.  While I would try to tell myself this, and try desperately to trust in the forgiveness of God, I couldn’t marry God’s hate of sin to my own iniquity.  As I keep learning, however, God is not willing to leave us in dark places, or in lies of the enemy, if we are willing and earnestly seeking Him and longing to know His truth.  That’s where the marriage between doubt and hope really come together.

I doubted my own ability to be forgiven.  I hated myself for my sin, and so I couldn’t think of anyone else not hating me as well.  Yet, over and over again, the Lord would speak into my heart that I am forgiven.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
   and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
   and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Psalm 51:5-6

He knows that I was brought forth into the world full of the potential for great sin.  And He is willing to teach me the wisdom of trusting Him in my heart regardless of past, regardless of my circumstances, regardless of my sin.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
   wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51:7

He will and has made me clean!  By the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, I have been purged and made clean in the eyes of God.  I am whiter than snow to Him now, because I have freely accepted His ability to cleanse me and forgive me.  Again, this is where hope comes in. I hope in the promise that God’s salvation is truly mine to receive. And the Lord builds my faith to continue to trust Him regardless of the lies the enemy tells me about how evil I am.  God knows I my heart is evil. And only He can forgive me.

9 Hide your face from my sins,
   and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
   and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
   and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Psalm 51:9-12

When I ask Him, it is His delight to receive and honor my request to be cleansed and forgiven and brought into His Presence.  He can daily restore in me the JOY of His salvation given to me with love. Only then can I see that He truly does love me. He truly does cleanse me.  He truly does forgive me. And because of that, I can move forward, not only in confidence of His forgiveness but also with the experience and faith to share this Good News with others!

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
   and sinners will return to you,
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
   O God of my salvation,
   and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
   and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
   you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
   a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Psalm 51:13-17

Sounds like a pretty solid plan.  I think I’ll take it.

God’s Got a Plan. Really.

There is a way that seems right to a man,
   but its end is the way to death.
Proverbs 16:25

Sometimes I feel like my life could be defined by failure after failure after failure, as I’ve turned away from God and His protection countless times in order to defend myself by my own means.  I didn’t know that’s what I was doing, but it’s the truth nonetheless. Like all people, I have a tendency to think I know best. And honestly I can’t help a bit of sardonic laughter at the thought of that because I’m acting like I know better than the Creator of the Universe.  The One who made all things. The One who made me. And everyday it seems that I can find at least one opportunity to say boldly in the face of the Lord of Hosts, “Nah, I got this one, Jesus. I can handle it.”

This isn’t a new concept for me.  I know this stuff. I know I need a Savior.  I know I’m hopelessly lost without Jesus. And then the whim hits me, and I let sin take charge, and voila: folly.

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
   and shrewd in their own sight!
Isaiah 5:21

Yep, that’s me.  Everyday. I get so darn cocky about how wise I am and how smart or safe or satisfied I will be making choices for myself.  God doesn’t need to be bothered with this little stuff. God’s busy running things in the world, He doesn’t have time for this sort of thing.  And he gave me an intellect, I should use it. That’s how He helps me, right? After all, it’s my life, so it’s my choice. Right? Sure, ok. And the Lord says to me, “How’s that working out for you, Daisy?”

In a word: badly.

I find myself in a constant state of repentance with that kind of behavior.  I approach the throne of grace with hat in hand, embarrassed and ashamed, ready to sing out the Britney Spears line, “Oops I did it again!” to the Lord.  And the Lord shakes his head at me and responds with open arms and a forgiving smile. He isn’t asking for me to be ashamed. He isn’t asking me to be afraid.  He just wants me to believe Him when He says He knows best for me.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:16

But, God, I screwed up.  I knew the truth and I stubbornly chose to act against it.  I deserve to be punished. I need to be humbled. I need to be chastised.  I need. I need. I need.

And God responds with a solid and resounding, “Nope, nope, and nope. Look to the cross, my silly little daughter.  Punishment paid in full. Now stop whining, pick yourself up and let’s try this again. Only listen to me this time, would ya?”

And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. 22 For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.
1 Samuel 12:20-22

Sounds like a good plan, Jesus.  Help me trust You this time.

 

Lost in the Land of Shadows and Dirt

The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years. 2 And the hand of Midian overpowered Israel, and because of Midian the people of Israel made for themselves the dens that are in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds.
Judges 6:1-2

It’s crazy what disobedience can do to people.  Disobedience fills us with fear, shame, and guilt, and drives us out of all the good things God wants to give us.  Disobedience causes us to stop trusting in God’s provision and start trusting in fear. We let fear become our leader instead of God.  And it takes us nowhere good. For the Israelites, disobedience to God led them to do evil in the sight of God, which ultimately led to their self inflicted exile out of the Promised Land and into the mountains to hide in caves.  They went from the Land of Milk and Honey to the Land of Shadows and Dirt.

“For whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. 4 They would encamp against them and devour the produce of the land, as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel and no sheep or ox or donkey. 5 For they would come up with their livestock and their tents; they would come like locusts in number—both they and their camels could not be counted—so that they laid waste the land as they came in.
Judges 6:3-5

God allowed the Israelite’s enemies to take over the land He had given to them so that they would repent and recognize that the Land and God’s protection were by His sovereign hand alone.  As the people of God walked away from the worship and trust of Yahweh, The One True God, they also walked away from His blessing and provision. The people began to worship the false idols and put their trust in those things to provide for them and it had them living in the dark in caves!  How often have I found myself living in a cave because of my own lack of trust in God. I fall into fear and doubt and worry, and then there I am: in the dark instead of the light, afraid and hungry.

And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord.
Judges 6:6

So, what do we do when we have thrown ourselves into the dark? We cry out to God!  He is our rescuer and our salvation. If we know God, then we are all too familiar with His love and mercy and His longing to restore us into a right relationship with Him.  But God isn’t content to just save us, though that would surely be enough for us! Instead, He lovingly teaches us and guides us, so that we will understand how to avoid going into the dark again.  

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
   his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
   great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23

For the Israelites, God’s compassion and deliverance came from a curious source.  And over and over again we see God do this. As it says in 1 Corinthians 1:27, “God chose the foolish things to confound the wise.”  That’s just how God rolls. And the Israelites needed to see that even though they were weak and afraid and living in caves, He could rescue them from their own failings and bring them back into the inheritance that He had planned for them from the beginning.

And so God chooses Gideon whom He calls “a mighty man of valor”. Gideon who hid from his enemies in a wine press to beat out his wheat. Gideon, who doubted and questioned even after the miraculous sign of the appearance of the “Angel of the Lord”.  Gideon, who even after he agreed to do as Yahweh commanded, took it upon himself to do it under cover of darkness so no one would see him do it! (reference Judges 6:11-40)

Yes, God chose Gideon, because Gideon bodily encompassed everything that the Israelites had become.  Gideon was afraid, in the dark, and doubted God. And don’t we all do the same thing? Don’t we all fall short a thousand times a day?  Don’t we all fall back on fear and hide in the dark? Thankfully, our God knows that about us, and just like Gideon, He will patiently teach us again and again that He is faithful and He will save us.  Our inheritance is ours for the taking if we will simply cry out to Him from the darkness and trust Him.

 

  

Ugly Cry

Last night a younger couple came over to our house for some prayer time.  They are newlyweds. When we were done praying the wife asked me how I was able to be so strong in the Lord when I’ve endured so many trials.  I had to smile.  Most people know I’ve dealt with a lot of debilitating health struggles, but she had no idea what I’d gone through that very day.

I’d spent almost the entire day alone at home.  My spirit was in turmoil. I was beyond overwhelmed.  I literally found myself ugly crying multiple times throughout the day.  I screamed so loud in my anguish that I was afraid the neighbors would think I was being murdered and call the police.  I screamed until my throat was raw. My body shuddered. Snot and tears and saliva gushed out of my face in a torrent of grief.  To say that life lately has been a struggle wouldn’t begin to do it justice.

The enemy hates me.  He hates us. He hates anyone who is actively seeking to serve the King of Kings.  And the enemy doesn’t want to see us free. He wants to see us remain in bondage forever, torn apart by the deeds of our past, and the sins the world has committed against us.  But I’m done with that. I decided that fighting through the pain and torment and fear and anguish were worth enduring for the sake of what lay beyond that.

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2

If Jesus could walk out suffering for the sake of the world, I can walk out suffering for the sake of myself.  Honestly, it’s the simplest concept, isn’t it? Endure the pain to receive the reward. And for me the reward is to finally be free of the haunting memories of past abuse and torment.  I am working, through the help of a profoundly gifted Christian therapist, by prayer and by tenacity, to move beyond the scars of my past that bind me and into the life of freedom that Jesus gave me on the cross.

So, when my sweet young friend asked me how I manage to be strong and courageous in the Lord when I’ve endured so much, I had to smile.  I looked right in her eyes and said, “Ugly cry.” She chuckled, maybe even a little awkwardly. And I continued, “Ugly cry through the pain and suffering, trusting that the promises of God are true.  That in this world we will have trials. But they do indeed build our faith and strengthen us.”  At that very moment I was shrouded in peace and endurance that only the Lord could provide me.  I was a living testament to God’s ability to comfort through the trial and hold me up by His power.  I’d say that’s worth a little bit of ugly crying…maybe even a lot of it.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Romans 8:18

 

When It’s Hard to Read the Bible

Over the years I have fallen in love with reading the Word of God.  I love the truth that I find there, the promises, the grace, the freedom.  But when my heart is heavy and I get depressed, I feel a war on my spirit that tries to keep me from the Word.  I get caught up in sadness and loneliness.  I know that in the Word I can find truth and comfort, and yet I get so sad that I don’t want to read.  And I sure don’t want to write about it.

I’ve been in that place over the last few weeks.  I have days when I want to read and write and pray, and other days when I can’t even hardly look at the Bible on the table, let alone read it.  There is life there and I push it away in frustration, anger, hurt, sadness, or doubt.  Why?

Because the Bible is no more an instant fix to my problems than Jesus.  While it is a comfort and it holds truth and life, it doesn’t change the situations I’m in.  It doesn’t fix all the worry or struggles I’m facing.  It doesn’t shoot out twenty dollar bills when I open it, or cause wars to cease in the world or in my heart.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12

Because the Bible is only a glimpse of God.  It’s only a taste of things to come.  It offers the answer to life’s biggest problem: what can be done about the evil in the world, and how can we be saved from the evil in our own hearts.  But the final judgement is yet to come.  And until then, I’m stuck in this world, with the promises of God warring with the evil in my own heart.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
Romans 7:18-20

So my sin will keep acting within me.  I know the promises of God are true.  I know that my only salvation from the evil of my own heart and the world is found in Jesus.  And I know that He has given me the promise of His salvation by putting a deposit of His own Spirit within me.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Ephesians 1:13-14

And until that day that Jesus returns and I receive that full inheritance promised me.  I must accept the fact that I’m going to have bad days.  I’m going to have days of sin and doubt.  Then enemy continues to war against me.  My own sin wars against me.  The sin of others wars against me.  All of the things of this world war against me.  I’ve got to be patient.  I’ve got to wait it out.  I’m not alone.  We suffer together, struggling with the war that rages all around us.  And we’ll all get through it.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
1 Peter 5:6-10

So, have hope.  It’s not over yet.  And Jesus will restore us.  That’s a promise.