For the past month or so, I've noticed a pervasive cloud of misery that has wafted into the lives of some of my friends. It has different nuances...sadness, bad news, relationship trouble, children on the wide path instead of the narrow one, financial issues, health questions, and job worries...all with a side order of fear.
A lot of these friends are Christians. They are either managing through the pain with a brave face and confidence that life will improve or have simply withdrawn into the cloak of silence. They assume that the economy will turn around, that they can brace themselves better for more bad news by keeping others at bay, and that the doctors can figure out the solution to whatever medical mystery is plaguing them...even though they can't understand what is taking so long.
Well, I don't know all the answers, and I don't want to pretend that I do. But I do know this much...there's Someone who does.
I've noticed in my life that when I've really been down, the pain didn't stop until I made a conscious decision to turn it over to God. Sometimes I'd still go back to check if the wound was still open...and if I do that, it just rips off the scab. Not good. I don't know what it is about our nature that makes us want to wallow in pain and misery instead of getting whatever message it is that God is trying to teach us through the experience. Lessons we don't particularly want to learn or thought we had graduated from "with honors" years before.
Sometimes the pain is caused by the fulfillment of the law of reaping and sowing. We spoil our children, and then wonder why they can't make it on their own in this world. We follow our greed, ambition, or lust, and then wonder why...and doubt our intelligence...when everything hits the fan and our motives are exposed. We treat our bodies like they are invincible and then recoil in horror when we realize that there were warnings all along the way that we chose not to heed.
Other times, though, it is because we are blindsided. We are the unwilling victims of someone else's run-in with sin or selfishness. We are left with the baggage of unfulfilled dreams, regret, and anger at our own ignorance. We may have the sympathy of the masses, but that doesn't really translate into anything comforting. Our unforgiveness drains us of confidence and initiative. All we see is the void of the life we thought we had and we feel naked and exposed.
But worst of all seems to be the unexplained. Winning the lottery of cancer instead of the Powerball. Watching a handsome child with potential and remarkable gifts fade into something that is no longer recognizable. Seeing people that we thought were the paragons of virtue head off into the sunset on the express to Hell.
All I know is this. If He brought you to it, He will bring you through it. "Through" is the operative word here. Through implies that we are not making a pitstop on our trip through Death Valley. It is buckle-in-for-the-ride time. Not Kodak-moment time. In fact, the people who want to show me the "pictures" because they refuse to move on are the most frustrating. I'm not talking about the normal grieving time. I'm talking about years later when they point to an event and make it the touchstone of everything that has gone wrong in their lives since then. Will it shape them? Yes. Will it always be a tender and mangled part of their existence? Definitely. But there comes a point where one has to choose to stop and stake a tent...or keep marching forward.
So, if you are living in the land of Misery today, may I suggest that you get out your Bible and start looking for someone who made it through and lived to tell about it. I think a lot of people are confused about the Bible as a book of rules...when it is actually a book about relationships. People messing up. People figuring it out. People like us.
Oh, they may have had names we can't spell...much less pronounce. But isn't that true today as well? Just start reading nametags if you doubt me. They may have been wandering about a desert and living in a tent, but aren't we doing the same in our air conditioned, decorated, too-much-stuff filled homes? Aren't we wandering through the 170 cable channels of reality TV to engage our minds while our hearts remain quiet and scarred and we are content to leave it that way? Are we not "doing lunch," vacationing, and using "stuff" to keep us distracted enough to not deal with the business of dealing with the fear that lurks just below the surface? Are we not surfing from relationship to relationship or from crisis to crisis to provide our lives with a counterfeit version of life? Because life is messy. Real messy.
And we need to stop denying that.
We must to be appreciative for what we have...and quit focusing on what is missing. We need to drop our prejudices, rules that separate us from other people, and our assumption that some people are better or worse than others...and stop acting like we are too big to fail. We must realize that none of us is immune to misery...and that despite popular belief...it doesn't really deserve company. We are to find a way to reach out to people who need us using the gifts that we have as we are directed. We are to try to help people back to firm footing and quit making it possible for them to escape dealing with whatever the problem is. Help them through it.
I pray that each person who wakes up with that dull feeling of misery would be free of it today. I wish for them to be strengthened by whatever the experience they find themselves in...rather than crushed. I hope that they will realize that there is not a person alive that doesn't deal with something horrific at some point in time...and that once we make it across to the other side...we need to help those who believe in their heart of hearts that nobody could possibly understand their pain.
Most of all, we need to trust that God is in control. We may not like His methods, but we need to keep our eyes on Him. Don't waver...don't numb yourself...and don't ever think that you are alone. Ever. Trust when it seems impossible, love in spite of the insanity of it, obey when it might just cost you everything. Because anything you lose...counts as gain to the One that really matters.