I woke up yesterday morning with an overwhelming sense of deep joy and gratitude. On the car ride to work, I felt the Spirit telling me that God loves me and that I am not alone and that I need to hold on. This is significant because I have been going through maybe the darkest time of my life emotionally--feeling like God is distant and feeling very alone, discouraged, and disillusioned. I think the otherwise inexplicable shift in my mood yesterday had something to do with the fact that people have been praying for me a lot. Also, the day before, I read a soul feeding sermon by Charles Spurgeon on the joy of the Lord. That article truly spoke to me. I will post it here sometime soon.
Anyway, I have experienced much worse in my life circumstantially, and even the cirumstances in which I find myself today are not new to me. In the scheme of suffering in the world, my trials are quite small. And yet, to me, they have felt overwhelming to me. And I have felt so very alone. It has been hard to see God and it has been hard to feel the support of those around me--even though I KNOW I am blessed with an amazing network of family and friends. I debated whether to write about all of this on my public blog. But ultimately, I want to walk in the light--in sincerity and in truth. And also, I suspect there are many others out there who have felt this way--perhaps everyone has felt this way at some point in their life. Maybe my writing could show even one person that they are not alone.
To tell you the truth, even after yesterday's high, I am feeling pretty deflated again today. One of the things that is exaccerbating how I feel about this season of my life is the fact that I turned 35 yesterday! There are so many ways I expected a different life at this age. Almost 5 years ago, I quit a career I loved as a lawyer because Kristian and I wanted to pursue having children. We have been married for 8 years (at the end of this month), and we have been unable to have kids. It seems like most of our friends and family have moved onto the parenting stage of their lives, and in many ways, it feels like we don't fit in. I am working a job I love for a lot of reasons (namely the people and getting to be a part of building something with my family--it's a family business), but it is not in the field for which I went to school and for which I have the same passion. I don't have that feeling of knowing that what I am doing is directly making a difference in someone's life. I find myself struggling with sins and weaknesses in my life that keep resurfacing and causing damage. I miss friends who have disappeared for one reason or another, some gradually and some abruptly. I am grieved over brokeness and sin that has resulted in unreconciled and abandoned relationships in the Body of Christ and the apathy that allows this to continue uninterrupted. And I am facing other struggles in life that I cannot write about here.
So there it is. That is where I have been and where I am at. It is not pretty, I know. But it is real. I know there are some who will simply think I am whiny and grumbling. And I freely confess that I have done some of that.
But what my real problem is is that I am losing focus on my identity in Christ. I am after all, a branch in the vine. Jesus is the vine and I need to be connected to Him to live and thrive. The things to which Christ calls me are counter-intuitive to my flesh--they are humble and quiet and not about my own glory or pride or selfish gratification or popularity. Christ has called me to do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him. He has called me to love others sacrificially, to pursue the lonely, broken, lost, and outcaste, to endure through suffering and hardship, to love and serve those who hurt me, to seek to be filled with Him ultimately and not the things and people of this world, to keep my eyes on Him--not on this world or what this world calls "success". The thing is that I cannot live this way without complete and constant reliance on Christ! I cannot live this way without constantly going to His feet in prayer--pouring out my heart to Him and listening to His words in His Word--which reveals His heart, and His heart for me! And yet, that is exactly what I do. I withdraw from Him. I stop speaking to Him. I stop letting Him speak to me through His Word. I stop letting Him speak to me through His people through isolation. There is absolutely nothing wrong with mourning and grieving, there is a time for this and life is difficult. But rather than simply mourning and grieving, instead I wallow. I no longer let my mind steep in the things of God (see Philippians 4 "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise"), instead I steep in my circumstances, negative thoughts, failures, the world around me, etc.
And the truth is, I have truly tasted deep joy that supercedes the darkest circumstances of my life. I know it is there. I know it is no saccrine fake "joy" that is rooted in denial or blind optimism. It is a joy that is not afraid of the truth, but rather it is actually rooted in deep precious truth. It is a joy that is supernatural. It is the joy I experienced yesterday. It is the joy I will fight for today and tomorrow.
Yesterday, I was overwhelmed with such kind birthday wishes. One of the sweetest wishes included a description of me as "optimistic"--that might be hard to believe after this post. What I hope that person actually saw in me and will continue to see in me is hope and joy--not in my circumstances, not in my accomplishments, not in my abilities, but in my Jesus who has never failed me and who has never left me (even when I could not feel His presence) and who is unchanging, faithful and true to all of His promises!! AMEN! And I hope those of you who have been praying for me will continue to pray.