Bridges or Barriers: The Beauty in Struggling

Guest Blogger: I have a basic theory on “souls” that I compare a persons inward being to different types of materials.  Based on their drive, their countenance, and their quirks they are cotton, silk,cashmere, velvet, burlap, lace-you get it.  My dear friend, Elizabeth and I have had the opportunity to get to know each other this year, and we quickly found out that our souls are made of the same material.  We think and feel deeply, and love to journal almost as much as we love to laugh. I’ve been so blessed by her thoughts, encouragements, and personality, and I was very excited when she agreed to let me post some of her thoughts in my blog! Elizabeth’s story encourages me to struggle well. She challenges me to delight in my Savior, realizing what a prize He is, and she reminds me that the end will be so worth ANY amount of struggling! Be blessed!

 

“This summer I went on a pretty thrilling hike. In a jungle. In Indonesia. Down to a 300 foot waterfall. Where few had ever been to before. So many thoughts, feelings, and sights are attached to the memory of it.

The struggle it was to get down. The sliding down steep mud and grass. Holding onto ropes and maneuvering down bamboo shoots with small openings cut out for our feet. The hundreds of eagle-sized bats swarming high up in the sky above us. The work that it took to make it there but thinking the whole time about how beautiful it might be at the end. Making my way down, although slightly treacherous, generated in me a feeling of tension but also a deep, excited joy. I didn’t even know what was at the end- our guides thought it was best not to reveal to us what were about to see until we got there ourselves. So I continued down the steep, rough path with anticipation, simply knowing that the end would be good.

I’ve been struggling through the season of life I am in currently. Facing unknowns about my future. Experiencing pain from feeling misunderstood. Battling against weakness. Fighting inward tensions that feel paralyzing. Making my way down a steep, rough path.

Yet at the same time, I almost feel content. Somehow, I am experiencing peace and comfort and incredible joy. And even the pain and struggle, although still present, although still strong, feels almost right.

I think I am supposed to be having this struggle right now. I think God is moving. And He’s leading me somewhere I need to go.

Can pain really ever feel comfortable? I think the closest to it, is knowing- DEEPLY knowing- when in pain, that it ultimately is going to bring about something good that will be worth it. When I have such a deep assurance in my soul that the outcome will be beautiful and will bring a harvest of righteousness, then although pain is still pain, it becomes the closest to comfortable it can be and a quiet, surreal joy follows that is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Heb 12:11).

And what if the path not only feels rough but also feels lonely? Can loneliness, feeling misunderstood, or unknown, ever be seen as a gift?

The past few months, I have collected a number of experiences that have completely changed me and in some senses have thrown me into a tumultuous whirlpool of questions, tensions, emotions, transformations, and new perspectives… It’s all come together in my mind like a big, beautiful secret that makes me feel alone in my inward battles as a result. And that feels painful.

Yet, the inward questions, the silent wrestling, the lack of feeling truly understood, has forced me to scream questions that I have never asked before with such sincerity.

“God, do you hear me?”

“Did you just see what I saw?”

“Do you know the struggles I’m experiencing? Every emotion running through me?”

“Are you really with me, Father?”

The answers to these questions have left me showered in hope and overwhelmed in comfort.

The loneliness in my struggles has been a gateway into recognizing what deep communion with my Father entails. The moments of being richly fed by His Word and His presence have continued to multiply. The peace and sincere satisfaction in knowing Him and being known by Him have overflowed into thankfulness and life that seems too good to even be true. And it’s not that other people haven’t been able to give to me and support me in very meaningful ways. It’s just that my Father’s communion and presence amidst the struggles have been limitless, rich, deep, and beautiful beyond comparison.

God, have you given me so much grace that I can honestly say that the quiet war I am experiencing right now is a gift from you? That the struggles, the moments of weakness, the anxiety, the steep and rough path I am walking is-no question-the perfect path for me right now?

It’s throwing me into Your presence. It’s grounding me deep in your Word. It’s granting me a view of Your plan. Your purpose. Your desires. It’s nudging me to pursue Your wisdom. To hear Your voice. It’s establishing for me a stronger confidence in the hope of one day seeing the prize. Seeing Jesus. It’s a challenging, treacherous path that is taking me somewhere beautiful.

So yes, I have struggles. I ask questions about the unknown that leaves me with an inward tension. I often feel like it’s a burden that I have to carry alone. And it takes work to keep walking.

But I’m discovering that these things, although not comprising an easy and effortless hike, are proving to be bridges rather than barriers that are taking me exactly where I need to go. The path is tough, but there is comfort in deeply knowing the path is being carved out by my loving Father. And that leaves me gracefully struggling through it with peace and joy that is priceless.

And who knows, maybe it will lead to something as incredible as a beautiful, massive waterfall in the middle of the jungle of an unchartered area on an island in Indonesia.”

indo

When I Doubt His Love

When I doubt his love

When my Love seems far away

When his gentle touch I cannot feel

When my heart, alone it longs

For me his voice to hear

 

I look through our old photographs

Through fondly journaled memories

I meet with friends who love him too

And my heart is warmed

by the fire of our recollections.

 

In those pages, pictures, stories

I remember with a smile

And a sigh of relief

The days I knew He loved me so

Proofs of delight listed miles upon miles

Upon miles upon miles.

 

He has not changed.

 

We are one.

Have I forgotten?

He is closer than my own soul.

Question his love, commitment, intentions?

A more foolish doubt, I’ll never know.

 

What a sweet gift

This love that answers my fears with more Love.

A protective father’s love.

That answers my doubts with more Love.

A faithful king’s love.

That answers my pains with more Love.

A powerful Lord’s love.

 

He steadfastly pursues my affection

He never left my side.

He’s not done a single thing to earn this mistrust

Yet he patiently resides

in my insecure heart.

While I question and miss his presence,

A presence that is more real than my own.

In my once wicked-now perfected- heart that he chooses to call his little home.

 

Guest Blog: My Sister’s Truth

If you only read ONE of my blogs this year-PLEASE READ THIS ONE. My sister, Glenda, beautifully wrote about the hardest year of her life-and tells us what she’s learned. If you want to be encouraged by honest struggles and God’s grace-read on and know that “God is faithful. He is good, and He’s got you!”

If I Had a Blog….

Summer is coming to an end. Warm is becoming cool. Leaves are turning brilliant shades and falling to ground. The season of hoodies and all things pumpkin (can I get an amen?!?) is upon us. Beautiful! If you haven’t guessed yet fall is my favorite season! Along with the changing season I find it has become a season of reflection in my life; a time to look back and see where the seasons of the last year have taken me. And let me tell you, the last four seasons have brought on more raging storms, blizzards, and drought in my life than I thought could ever be possible! But these same four seasons have also brought calming winds, warm sun kissed skies and brilliant rainbows of promise,

The past year was hands down the hardest year of my life. I have cried (more than I thought humanly possible), yelled, cursed and then cried some more. I even felt like giving up and walking away from every thing I believed. I was so angry with God. I felt like He had abandoned me. I was going through this crap day after day; tear after tear with no end in sight. Where was God? Why wasn’t he fixing it? When was this stormy season going to be over?

Here is what I learned….

God hadn’t forsaken me! He heard every prayer, caught every tear and walked every step with me and even carried me when I was at my worst. No, He didn’t instantly fix things. But when I looked up through my tear filled eyes, He was there! He showed up in big ways! Not in the ways I wanted or thought I needed, but in ways that He knew I needed. See, I learned that God actually knows me better than I know myself and loves me far more than I could possibly comprehend!

Learning these truths did not make all storms stop. I still cry. I still get angry. But God is always there, showing up. Being God, loving on me! Maybe it comes in the form of a still small voice. Maybe it’s a sweet friend showing up at your doorstep with the perfect pair of brand new black boots just for you! Maybe it’s the kind lady in line a head of you, who sees you with two crying kids and she simply starts to unload your groceries. Maybe it’s talking and laughing with your sister. Maybe it’s snuggles from your kiddos. Maybe it’s coffee! Maybe it is all these things and more!

I am now in a season of waiting (boo!) I don’t know why God has me here. I am ready to move on! But clearly God has me here for a reason! And no matter what comes along in this season, I know that my God is faithful, that He is good and that He’s got me!

No matter what season your life is in, God has not forsaken you! He knows you! He loves you! And He knows what is needed at the exact moment it is needed. And He shows up!

Thank you, Glenda-for being an example of strength in my life. Thank you for being transparent in your wrestling with God and your pain. Thank you for always listening to and praying for my burdens and trials and heartaches-even when you had plenty of your own to worry about. Thank you for laughing with me and encouraging me so many days and nights when I know you were running on empty. Thank you for loving your children well and being an example in prayer and steadfastness to them. You were the big sister that God chose to be mine, and He did so perfectly. I love you, Glenda Elizabeth!

Talk Yourself Out of Lies

I was recently praying to the Lord about my future-my desires, my heartaches, my deeps hope that only He and I know about. After expressing them to Him, I ended with “not my will, but yours be done” and I started to cry. I cried because I was scared that God’s will looks very different than what I hoped for my life. I cried because I feared God’s will would be difficult and painful and possibly opposite of me getting what I want so badly.

And then I stopped myself, and asked God to search my heart.

I was quietly speaking and believing lies to myself. My tears said: “My desire is for my comfort and happiness. If God is good and loves me deeply, then He should go after that for me because I know what’s best for me. But I fear that God is not good and his love for me not deep enough to care about my heartache or my pains. He might, in fact, PURPOSEFULLY make it difficult or opposite if what I want”.  That’s what my heart believed in that moment!

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit who resides in me fought those lies with truth from Scripture. I then thought:

“…YOU God, are the ultimate joy, prize, and satisfaction (Ps. 16:11). Getting ____________ is NOT what will “make or break” my life-KNOWING AND LOVING YOU will. If I seek you-I WILL find you (Matt. 7:7), and in finding you, getting to know how amazing you are will be ABOVE and beyond all I could imagine (Eph. 3:20). And you’ve already promised me you’ll be here-you’ll never leave me (Heb. 13:5). You’ll not stop loving me, and everything you do is good and right (Rom. 8:28-19). Your will is PERFECT! (Ps. 18:30) You’ll fulfill and satisfy me, direct me, and give me EVERYTHING I need (Phil. 4:19)”.

This is the Word of the Lord; thanks be to God.

One of my burdens right now in life is singleness. Maybe yours is a wayward child, or a jobless future, or an unloving spouse. As you run to God with your desires for the future, remember to combat any lies that sneak into your heart. Any doubts that creeps in that tells you God isn’t good, or isn’t working-need to be immediately fought with truth from Scripture and a reminder of the eternity to come. I ended my prayer like this:

“Oh dear Father. Please help me not to get tangled up in lies and distracted by thoughts about a possible (but not guaranteed) future marriage. Because I AM guaranteed a wedding and a groom-a PERFECT one-Christ in glory. I have salvation! Forgiveness of sins! I am your daughter! Knowing, believing, and clinging to THAT truth will propel me through all seasons of doubt, loneliness, rejection, or whatever else. Because even if you see fit to allow me to endure suffering through singleness for the rest of my life-I’ll choose to believe that you always give what is best for me. YOU ARE ENOUGH. YOU ARE WORTH IT. YOU WILL SATISFY.”

“There are no disappointments to those who wills are buried in the will of God.” Frederick William Faber

When you go through a trial, the sovereignty of God is the pillow upon which you lay your head. ~ Charles Spurgeon: When you go through a trial, the sovereignty of God is the pillow upon which you lay your head. ~ Charles Spurgeon