I’m sitting here looking at my keyboard, waiting for God to start this post. I know the thought He’s put in my heart, but I don’t know where to start. So this may be a little disjointed.
I’m disjointed a lot. There are times I lay down at night in the bed and my brain starts doing cartwheels. I’m trying to finish my day with my Savior and there are ping-pong balls bouncing back and forth in my head. It’s ridiculous. I’ve apologized to God so many times, because I just can’t keep a coherent stream of thought. I know what I want to say, I know what I should say. And somehow I just can’t keep ahold of it.
I want to be honest with God. I’ve learned that I’m handcuffing myself if I’m not. I think it has taken me a lot of time to learn this, and I still don’t have a handle on it.
I have a thorny little problem at work. Personality differences between my boss and myself. It’s not an every day thing, not unbearable, just one of those frustrating things that can so quickly take me out of my preferred joy-space with Jesus. My comfort zone. My happy place.
I so want to please God in dealing with this, so want to keep my heart soft before Him, to demonstrate His love, and to not allow my frustration to overwhelm me and take over my day.
The last time the issue came up was last week. It was a very small, very minor thing, but it frustrated me to no end. I struggled with it. I struggled with being irritated, angry. With feelings of injustice.
I stopped and prayed before I continued my work. I spoke to God about how I wanted to please Him, and that I didn’t want to let the frustration from this circumstance steal my joy. I referred to a verse in Isaiah about receiving a garment of praise instead of a spirit of heaviness. I spent a few moments genuinely praising my Father, worshipping Him. He and He alone is worthy of all praise.
I did the things. I did all the things I have learned to do.
And I was still frustrated. Still annoyed. And it still impacted my entire day.
I probably would have sat and sulked all evening if God hadn’t intervened. (He sent me to a friend’s house…it was very much a gift.)
So why did the things not work? I wondered about that. I mean, I did A, B, and C…I followed the formula. Why didn’t it work?
I was able to put it out of my mind thanks to the redirection and another really intriguing message series I began listening to. The next day was much better, no problems or issues to speak of.
But you know, I know it will come back. I know this is an issue that I’m going to have to deal with or it’s going to deal with me. And by deal with it, I mean in my own heart. I will have to get it resolved in my heart, or I’ll end up doing or saying something, or acting in a way I will regret. It’s inevitable. It’s human nature.
So if following the formula didn’t work, did I do it wrong? Get it out of order? Forget something? Did I just not mean what I was saying?
I think that my Father is fantastically marvelously wonderful, and His timing is exquisite. That may seem disjointed (told ya) but it’s true, and I have to add that in here just because of how He spoke to my heart about this.
I started a new message series Saturday evening. It’s called “Leaving a Legacy that Lasts Forever” by Chip Ingram. The first message is titled “Teach Them to Suffer Well.” Not a very bright and cheerful thought, but he brought out some really salient points. His thoughts and biblical references on the subject of suffering started me thinking. You should really listen to it…there’s a lot of wisdom there.
I started thinking about the legacy I am leaving to my daughter, my grandsons, my friends. Have I taught my daughter to suffer well? Have I actually suffered well? I can look back over my lifetime and know that I, just like most of the rest of the human race, have done everything in my power to get out of suffering. And when I have experienced it I’m extremely, nauseatingly whiny about it. Angry and sulking.
I have had some suffering come into my life, some knock-your-feet-out-from-under-you times. And I have to say I am not proud of how I handled it. The example I have shown on how to handle suffering has been pretty poor.
So I know that I have some work to do on leaving an example of suffering worth following.
I started to think then about times I have suffered after coming back to Christ. There have been a few in this short time, and I know there will be more. The last time was a hurt so profound that I couldn’t even speak, all I could do was just cry and say His name over and over. There were no words for it, nothing I could say.
I know that Jesus got me through that time. I know it in the deepest part of my soul. And it’s a building block, a rock laid in the foundation of my life. I know He was there with me when my heart was breaking. I know He comforted me. He didn’t take the pain away, but He was with me in it. And I know He will be the next time. And the time after that.
I thought then about another time I suffered after coming back to Him. This was a time where He taught me a valuable lesson, but one I have trouble remembering.
I got some news one day, less than a month after coming back to Jesus, that was hard for me to hear, to know. There were a lot of layers to it, a lot of reasons it was such a difficult thing for me to get through. It awakened feelings of rejection, of abandonment, of loneliness, and fear of always feeling rejected, abandoned, and alone.
Jesus had already become my constant companion, so of course I talked to Him about it. At that time, I was still relating to Him in a way that was totally different from anything I had ever experienced. (That hasn’t completely changed, by the way.) I was coming back to Him from years of being away from church and other believers, and my way of relating, of talking with Him was more raw, real, honest, down-to-earth. It bore very little resemblance to the prayers you hear in church or in a Bible study.
It was real.
I lived with the hurt in my head for a day, then the next morning I sat down to write out my prayer in my journal. It’s a way for me to literally get the words out of my head, and it helps me a lot.
What I wrote was not pretty, not tied up in a neat bow, not bracketed between praises and confessions. It was deeply hurt, coming from a place of despair, and had very little hope or joy in it. It was me telling God that I was always going to feel that way. That I felt it was unfair to stick me here with this miserable life (the only thing I could envision) and make me stay here when I knew things would be so much better with Him. I told Him that I knew I would be miserable and alone for the rest of my life, that this was just something I would have to get through until I could be home with Him. On and on for 6 pages (I counted).
Here’s a quote from that entry that may surprise you, and, if you’ve been a believer for any length of time, may cause your eyebrows to disappear into your hairline. I wrote “I believe that You want what is best for me. But I don’t believe that even Your best will meet my needs.” A little further on I wrote “All I can do is give all this to You and pray that You will work a miracle and change my heart and mind. I’ve tried everything else. Nothing works. So all I can do is just talk to You, listen to Your teachers, read Your word. It’s up to you to have it make a difference. I can’t do it.”
I can go back and read that entry now and literally see how God moved me from a place of pain to a place of quiet submission to Him.
I told Him in that prayer that I love Him with my imperfect, incomplete, self centered person, that I had nothing to offer Him in return for His love but a blackened, damaged heart. But what I had I would give to Him.
It was the day I submitted to Him. It came out of pain, it came out of fear and hurt and anger. It came out of me holding up my damaged heart, letting Him see it all, have it all, holding nothing back.
He did change my heart and mind. And He has met and far exceeded my needs, better than anything I could have done on my own.
While listening to that message on suffering well, and reflecting on those two particular times, God reminded me about that prayer and spoke to my heart about my work situation.
I forgot that I needed to be real and raw and honest with God, even in such a “minor” situation. I forgot that “apart from Me you can do nothing.” I was trying to do it in my own strength.
I wasn’t bringing Him my feelings and letting Him touch them. I wasn’t sitting before Him and letting Him see my frustration, my sense of injustice. I wasn’t venting my feelings to Him. I was wrapping them up in a nice neat, carefully contained and sanitized package and telling Him what I needed to do.
But He made us human, didn’t He? He made us passionate and full of feelings that don’t always make sense. He called David a man after His own heart, and the Psalms are full of David’s real, raw feelings. Not just deep and genuine praise, but angst and anger and hurt and bewilderment and injustice.
I love that He loves us, that He created us to feel. I love that He is our true safe space. The One who can touch our deepest hurt and turn it into utter joy, even (maybe especially) when we’ve told Him there’s no way He can. I love that He wants all of us, even the just plain irritating situations.
He is so good. He is so patient with us. He’s a good, good Father.
I pray that I will be able to bring my irritations to Him, let Him see my feelings, and remember that there’s nothing too ugly for Him to touch. I pray that I will remember it is truth that sets me free. His truth, definitely, but mine as well. He wants truth from me, even when it’s ugly, so He can set me free.
Let there be truth.