Living Hope: Choosing Light in Darkness
Disappointment always hits the gut first. Inhale ... Exhale. Unwanted news blows its first punch like lightning, but the reality of grief creeps its way up from the gut like thunder. Cause and effect are intertwined yet separated. The theory that nothing travels faster than light is wrong, pain travels twice as fast.
So, you lean back to the reality of bad news and heartburn. And then the questions come. Why...? What if...? How did...? Different scenarios haunt the mind relentlessly. I no longer wonder why "hope deferred makes the heart sick" (Proverbs 13:12). When hope seems beyond deferred, my heart aches in pandemonium. Unmet expectations. Rejection. Disappointment. Failure.
It's fascinating how quickly our minds begin to calculate a backup plan the minute devastation pounces in on our circumstances. What was once so hopeful and planned is now shaky and unsure. Temperamental balance is called into question. Deep breaths are hard to push through and our body needs centering; it's why we naturally crouch down to the ground. Bearings are essential in times of pain, but the question arises: what foundational truths have we cultivated in order to cling to during times of despair? My go-to sin is usually wrapped up in packages in times like this. Instead of going to God, I go elsewhere. Anything that provides relief. I oftentimes think I need comfort in unnatural resources instead of choosing the supernatural Spirit of God. Why do we so easily give our lives over to a state of temporal false-blissness in the midst of turmoil? Food, alcohol, shopping, sex, entertainment, pills, etc ... Unmet desires are sometimes meant to be unmet for a while. You mix that in with a dose of rejection, hurt, abandonment, or neglect and our sin becomes painstakingly clear. And as humans living in the 21st century, the struggle is REAL with so many quick fixes available 24/7. I'm learning (very, slowly, and with LOTS of grace) that it is IN the midst of failure, rejection, bad news, and disappointment that lies the most imperative, half-second response of wild-abandoned faith or habitual comfort. I've chosen the latter most of my life.
The crux of the problem always comes around to trust: Is God in this? Will the power of the Holy Spirit really show up in me? Can I choose to walk in the light? I've committed my plan A & B to opening Scripture and saying a prayer. Or the other way around. Or both at the same time. Here’s why: When I have unexpected traumatic heartburn (and learn to take a moment for it to resonate) the impulsive feelings that scream for my attention start to die down. I can then choose wise activities that focus my attention on Jesus. Immediately, singing a hymn or reading Scripture ushers hope into context. What I mean is that I am reminded that Jesus (and His promises) are eternal and my disappointment is temporal. Kingdom living comes back in the equation of living. My focus shifts and my heart learns to anchor there.
*This takes a lifetime of futile attempts, practice, failing, starting over again, and again and again. Immediate gratification still rears its ugly head, but my habits (and I would argue ultimately: character) change when I bravely choose wild-abandoned faith over habitual comfort. Listen to me friends … this is never fun in the beginning. Ever. It's just like learning to run or work out. It’s tough in the beginning. But with fresh, sober, steadfast determination, good muscles grow and I find peace and progress that illuminates in the dark. I met with a sister-friend the other day. She told me her story with joy and tears and all the adjectives that describe life on a hard journey. Her story has parts of mine and yours and all the women who have walked this life with God.
While she is honest about her pain, what comes through is the hope that carries her through. Yes, she acknowledges the devastation of yesterday, knowing Jesus is her today. My friend is a beautiful example of what an honest, God-fearing woman who is comfortable in admitting her displeasure in crappy circumstances and unmet expectations (how I wish more women could buck the system and say truth like this out-loud), WHILE testifying about the love of God that does not waiver. Because she believes, and her comfort is not the top priority ... but becoming more like Jesus absolutely is.
The road is narrow. Against all hope, IN hope she believes that God has a plan specifically for her and loves her, despite the heartburn and pain. She has gotten familiar with giving her sadness and unmet expectations over to Jesus. She chooses to walk in the light amidst the disappointments of dreams of a different life. Her countenance rests squarely on doing and being IN the will of God.
And I want to be just like her. "Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure" (Ecclesiastes 7:3-4, NIV). Here's the thing I’m realizing: I don't get the chance at an eternally significant story if I can't learn to respond in choosing Jesus while facing the pain and discomfort of today. We get less and less Spirit-led happenstance if we keep choosing comfort in unnatural resources for our soul than the supernatural presence of the Living God. If we want to experience soul-hope when the heart's sick then we must commit to ditching everything that helps us escape the discomfort of our countenance and choose to walk in the light. And be there, IN IT. He won't show up when YOU want Him too, because He's already there. Unmet expectations? Trust in the One who created your heart. Rejection? Believe God works all things for the good of those that love Him. Disappointment? Choose light while walking in darkness. Failure? Pray. Seek. Knock. Do it over and over again. Let’s watch what happens to our stories when we allow the Holy Spirit to (work) and (move) and (change) our hard circumstances to a living, breathing testimony of hope. Because we are courageous enough to choose Jesus today, and tomorrow, and the day after that. When we find ourselves in the hallways of anger and the shadows of doubt, may our response be to call upon the Lord and use our collective voice as candles to blot out evil. Because we are His workmanship, created for good things and all the powers of hell cannot and will not overcome.
Because IT-IS-FINISHED. Friends, we have GOT to learn not to be afraid of the dark and the heartburn that comes with it. We have to believe when we sit there, IN IT, and pray:
"God, this is awful, but, I trust you. I choose you Jesus and I welcome your presence in this hard moment. Holy Spirit, come and help. I believe you love me and you have a plan for my life. I know you need my cooperation. I choose you today, because you chose me that day on the cross."
If anyone knows pain, rejection, hurt, abuse, and neglect, it's God who took our sin and made it His to bear. Jesus died so that we might live. Anchor your hope in a God that takes your shakiness in choosing Him and changes into a testimony of fire, ablaze for His glory and His cause; immovable. Because friends, He will wipe away every tear and He is bringing you to a good place.
A place where God will restore all things to His compete glory and honor.
So, rejoice my friends! Our suffering means that God is not done. He is still working and making all things new.