The last year and a half has been pretty <expletive> (feel free to pick your favorite). It’s the kind of <expletive> that upends all your belief systems and makes you ask questions that you aren’t supposed to ask about God and about yourself. It’s brought out the kind of nasty introspection that has led to some hopeless and downright lost moments.
Who am I? Who was I before this? Who do I want to be? How do I even become her or get back to her?
Just some light hearted soul searching by me, chicken little. I’d get it back together for a few days just in time for that pit in my stomach and weight on my chest to come back. Or I’d wake up, heart racing, thoughts racing, tortured until sunrise.
That sounds so healthy! Said no one ever.
After a year of this, my body began to fail under the pressure and so did my stamina for chosen joy. I’ve always been the biggest believer that love, joy, forgiveness, are all choices. I thought and still think that we are more powerful, and our minds more capable than our loud little emotions give them credit for. But I, the believer, was drowning. I was losing.
No amount of obedience or quiet time could fix it. Jesus was close. But even though my head knew how to walk this out, and I was consciously choosing all the right things, my heart was flailing.
I knew God must have something for me in this because I know Him to be a good father who gives good gifts to his kids. I have counseled people in this place and asked them the same thing I was asking myself. Where is the invitation? (Because I don’t believe in going through hell without coming out holding a new key against the devil. Mama don’t play.)
The important thing is, I know that I won’t always be here. I’m in the process of being scarred and having been scarred but my wounds are slowly healing. And I know that this season is something I will carry with me always. But I won’t always be this girl.
There are moments of hope that have sprung up and I can go a few days without feeling despair. But then it creeps back in again when the relief I hoped in doesn’t come through or the expectation isn’t met. And I find myself back in a spiral.
Until a couple weeks ago.
The week had begun optimistically, I was in a good place of faith. But as the week went on, my old friends Fear and Anxiety began throwing their well-rehearsed lies and threats at me and I began to beg God to help me. I was in my car, driving to pick my kids up from school, when a question popped into my head/spirit:
“Why did you feel so much hope at the beginning of the week?”
“I thought _____ would happen.”
“Why did the hope leave?”
“Because _____ didn't happen.”
“Hmm. Where should your hope be?”
It makes sense. Hope deferred makes the heart sick. We know this. But honestly…I didn’t know how to do that. I felt like I had kept saying my hope was in God, but it kept slipping, and I realized that I didn’t know how to put my hope in God.
I had made my choices for months. Walking out my hopelessness as well as Danny Silk, Bill Johnson, Brad Mclendon, Lisa Bevere, and a bunch of others had taught me. My plan always in my mind: I would find the invitation, learn what I needed, and get the hell outta there. And as I told the Lord many times, I was doing everything as well and right as I knew how. But the pain and the season weren’t stopping. I was past the end of my strength and the reality seemed bleak and God didn’t feel like He was in charge.
He subtly began showing me how the Pharisees followed a checklist of righteousness and how it kept them from walking with Jesus. Again, things we learn in Sunday school. Pharisee bad. Disciple good. But religion is such a tricky trap, it feels and looks so right. I began to see that although my outward actions had helped me through past heartache and hard seasons, depending on them to be my salvation was just religion in meme-worthy clothes.
I was making good choices, I was working my hardest to carry my heart well. But I was after the exit key when He wasn’t trying to teach me something, He was trying to walk with me through something.
If there was a key out of every hard season, then there would be a formula of exit and we would have no need for God. And fortunately for us, our God is all about relationship. HE WILL DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO BE WITH US. It’s why he sent His son; it’s why Jesus died. And every time I turn him into a formula I am saying that I don’t need him and what he did on the cross.
Now, every time an anxious or fearful thought has come in trying to have its way with me, (cause they are sticky and they can feel so smart and good to entertain) I immediately counter and even say aloud to it, “My hope is in God.” I don’t even let the thought finish. At first it is hard and takes a lot of concentration and will. But over the last few weeks it has gotten easier and joy comes more swiftly. It is my anchor in my storm that I hold to as my Jesus sleeps beside me. Perhaps He knows that the storm and it’s waves are catapulting me from one bank to another rather than me having to row and toil on a calm sea for double the time.
This hard season is helping me refine what I thought I wanted and who I thought I was and wanted to be.
And suddenly, my peace is strong and my hope is contagious. I am not out of the hard place yet, but I am walking in peace with Peace himself. He is near, He is victorious, and He is my hope. And the enemy sees, and he trembles, because there is no fear in my love.