It’s been almost exactly three years since I posted this previously, and I wouldn’t have thought to repost it except for seeing it on a friend’s FB page and remembering all God has done in the past three years. He is so good and faithful! We have walked through some pretty hard things, but God has been so good and gracious to bring us to the other side! We are grateful to be serving in a church together, enjoying our darling little guy, and excited about what lies ahead. If you are walking a tough road, may this post remind you that you are not alone. This journey to heaven is hard, no doubt! But we serve a great God who has overcome all….one passage that I held on to tightly during that tough season was 1 Peter 5:10: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” There will be an end to your struggle. And God will restore!

Adapted from the blog archives…

Perhaps you’ve seen bits and pieces of the story the Divine Author has written across the pages of our one flesh life this year. The job loss, the weeks of travel, the moments of joy and reconnection with family, the darkness of losing a mother I never knew but gave me so much in Paul, the renewed desire to give our lives fully to vocational ministry, the desire for little ones, new and unexpected callings, moving a-g-a-i-n, and the unforgettable brilliance of Grace in the midst of it all. It has been an uphill, tearful, and yet joyful season. I am quickly reminded of the Cross as I write, the Story of Grace in the midst of darkness, as the story His followers thought should be written one way had a dramatic, painful, and yet glorious eternal twist. It was the hardest and best Story ever to be written.

Perhaps you are living a hard story, a painful story that you never wanted and would gladly write yourself out of if you could, yesterday. I know. I’ve been there. In some ways, I am there. And yet, it’s in these dark and confusing moments where we find the deepest Grace, the most profound connections with those we love, and the most dramatic growth possible. There’s no other way to move forward sometimes, except through the darkest valleys. We all live for the happy days, the days when life ‘makes sense’ (at least to us). But we look at our reality and we ache: we see the wicked flourish, the unlikely prosper, the ungrateful and selfish expand their broken families endlessly. Disease abounds, governments make unwise decisions, women make choices that bring death and not the freedom they crave.

And yet. Or rather, but God…. This masterful HIS-story maker and life-story production manager is at work writing an epic story through our brokenness. He is turning the effects of the fall, our sin and the broken systems in which we live into something glorious, beautiful and breathtaking. If you are written into His eternal playbook as His adopted child it’s happening in your home, closer yet, in your very heart. Pretty amazing, I think!!

But it hurts. It really hurts. Some days, who am I kidding, most days, it is easier to distract ourselves from the pain with anything that works… could be something harmless, could be something damaging and deadly. You know what your go-to method is. [To be clear, finding ways to lift our hearts and bring us joy in good and godly ways is not to be denied. In fact, we are called to rest and allow our hearts space to breathe.] But our good God often allows pain to heal our hearts. The pain could be a result of our sin choices, the sin of others, or the brokenness we daily face because of the fall in the Garden (See Genesis 3). Life just doesn’t work the way it was meant to. Are there good and healthy ways to keep our hearts alive but at the same time not ignore the deeper work going on within us?

What happens to our hearts when life hurts? Does our heart stay alive to hope or does it slowing stop beating? Do our relationships die or do they grow stronger? Do our callings become stronger and more obvious, or do our dreams slowly die? This is where the battle lies, and the enemy wants nothing more than to turn our hearts to stone…to kill, steal, and destroy the life that is growing within us as we are daily renewed in Christ. How do we fight for our own hearts, and the hearts of those we love to keep beating with purpose, joy, conviction, and intentional focus on Gospel living?  There are never easy answers. At least I haven’t come up with any! But looking to the ancient paths God gives us are the surest ways to lasting hope and joy. May I humbly encourage…

The Living Word. Ingest it in small amounts, big amounts, listen on audio, read online, read the old-fashioned hardbound, read it in Spanish or Greek. However you can get His words into your soul, please DO. The Psalms bring me relief in hardship like nothing else. Read good Christian books, fiction too!

Prayer and confession. With a friend, as you shower, as you cry, give kisses, wash dishes, or wish the day would end. Pray honestly, one word at a time if needed.

Gratitude. There are apps, there are notebooks, you can text it to your friend, or post it on FaceBook, or across the sky. But thankfulness will breathe life into your otherwise dreary day as few other things will. Ask God to help you when you’re not thankful, and thanking Him for the Grace He gave on the Cross is a good place to start.

Honesty. With your spouse, a friend, yourself. There’s no need to look pretty when life is messy. I’ve tried it – with horrible results!! I like the Day One app for a place to record my thoughts and prayers.

Care for your body + soul. (Romans 12:1-2). Sleep, eat your veggies, take a walk or yoga class. Taking care of yourself, even when you don’t feel like it, will reap huge dividends. I find that taking care of myself physically and emotionally reminds me of my worth in Christ. You are worth the effort, friends! But – ahem – dark chocolate might help too!

Extra grace. Being hard on yourself when life is hard is just…pointless! But we all do it. God is looking at you with deep compassion even if you’ve made bad choices to get you where you are right now. Beating yourself up in the midst of your struggles will just compound the difficulties.

Fellowship. Hold onto friends and family. Tightly. Look for every chance you can to spend a moment together with someone you love, whether on the phone, over coffee, a movie night, doing chores, whatever! Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone new – I’ll bet he/ she needs a friend as much as you do, and sharing your struggles honestly will open up more of your heart as well as theirs.

Look to eternity. If you are His child, all pain and tears will pass away, and our joy in Christ will far outweigh the pain and suffering of this life. I know very well how hard it is to wrap your mind around this truth, so ask God to help you live with eternal hope. Preaching it to myself as I type!

Find rest in the fellowship of His suffering, knowing you will never face the depth of pain and sacrifice that He bore for your sins, but that He is also a gracious High Priest who understands. He will meet you there, in deep and profound ways.

I recently started reading The Hardest Peace and have been so deeply moved and impacted by Kara’s words. One point in particular that blessed me immensely are her comments concerning Proverbs 1:33, and the promise that as we rest in Him, He will remove not the disaster, but the dread of the disaster. Fear causes us to live in agony as we imagine the impossibility of future circumstances (often not imagining the God of Abundant Grace with us there!) But He will keep you in perfect peace as you turn to Him, as you walk the ancient paths… slowly replacing fear of pain, with faith in the One who suffered the deepest pain.

 

Keeping your heart alive to hope

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