Do you ever find yourself reminiscing back to days when life was carefree and, dare I say, easy? Maybe for you those days were high school, maybe college, maybe your mid-20s. Either way, it seems most of us have a time in our life that we refer to as the good old days. Chances are they weren't really that great, but when we compare them to where we're at now, sometimes anything is better than our current situation.
After my last post about pausing, I must admit I started to drop the ball a bit. I was feeling good, I had basically gone through almost an entire month of "better days" and started to take those days for granted. People have been telling me how strong I was, how much I had grown- and I was starting to really believe it. I was starting to feel like I had this. How foolish of me.
Now, I'm not saying I haven't shown strength in my situation at times, or that I haven't grown over the last 6 months. In fact, I was recently thanking God for just that- not necessarily for how much I've grown but for how much my relationship with him had grown. Six months ago I was angry, I was doubting God's very existence at times. I was determined to stay rooted and pick up my bible every night, but when I did I would find myself with more questions. I kept reading and kept questioning, and soon enough began finding the answers I was so desperately looking for- maybe not all of them were being answered exactly as I thought they would be, but I was finding comfort and peace that I hadn't felt in a long time.
I was feeling so much better that I actually asked God to give me a little glimmer of the sadness back.
Why on earth would anyone want to be sad?
I should clarify -It's not that I wanted to be sad, but the sadness was one of those feelings that made me feel close to Olive. Having so many days in a row without that desperate sadness was making me feel like I was losing a piece of her. And, if we're being honest, it's in my empty moments that I feel I learn and grow the most. I was beginning to think that dealing with her loss was getting easier, and that made me uncomfortable.
Last week I was brought to my knees. What a week. Emotionally, physically, professionally and mentally I was rocked to the core. Now, do I believe that God granted my wish of heartache and sadness because I asked for it? Not exactly, but I do believe he knew what was coming. Most of what I experienced last week was self-induced. I didn't have to let the stress of work come home with me. I didn't have to let the not so nice things said by someone close to me linger on as long as they did. When I woke up on the wrong side of the bed I chose to carry those feelings with me throughout the rest of my day. I allowed so many of the feelings and emotions that I could control get in the way, that when the circumstances that were out of my control came, I was already a mess and feeling defeated.
God, in his infinite wisdom, did throw me some extra curveballs this week. Ones that left me, once again, asking all of the "why" questions that I just so recently reminded myself aren't the the right things to ask. It's just human nature, I suppose, needing to have all the answers. The need for justification, thinking that we are owed explanations, it's all a part of the sinful way we lack faith that God is still in control, still working to our advantage even when the circumstances would seem to tell us otherwise.
I laid in bed this morning thinking about life before loss, how much easier it all seemed. A couple years ago I was excelling at work, had success like I had never experienced before, my husband and I were traveling, I was in the best shape and health of my life and we were planning and preparing for what our future would look like. Those were also days when I was dutifully going to church on Sunday's and felt my relationship with God was in a good place- I was working my tail off and he was staying out of my way. How could I complain? Life was grand.
How many of us find ourselves there so often? We never need God when times are good. But boy oh boy do we let him have it when our good old days come to a screeching halt. We turn our backs to him when times get rough because a good and gracious God would never let these bad things happen. And if he did, well then, he's just a jerk.
We pray for for health and healing. We pray for success and blessing. No one prays for cancer or that they continue to live paycheck to paycheck. We pray for world peace and strong leaders. No one prays for terrorism or calamity. We pray for strong healthy babies and moms. No one prays that their pregnancy ends with a funeral. It's not that those are the wrong things to pray for- God tells us to bring our requests before him. He does not promise to give us everything we ask for though.
I've been trying to change the way I pray. Rather than being so specific and almost demanding in my requests, I've begun to change it up a bit. Nancy Guthrie writes this in her book, The One Year Book of Hope:
"Often I see the body of Christ put so much into pursuing God for physical healing. With great boldness and passion and persistence, we cry out to God, begging for healing of the body. And in these prayers, there is often a tiny P.S. added at the end where we say, "If it be your will." But shouldn't we cry out to God with boldness and passion and persistence in a prayer that says, "God, would you please accomplish your will? Would you give me a willing heart to embrace your plan and your purpose? Would you mold me into an instrument that you can use to accomplish what you have in mind?" And then, perhaps, we could add a tiny P.S. that says, "If that includes healing, we will be grateful."
My good old days feel a long ways away at times, especially when I've never felt this much emptiness, heartache and doubt all at once. This past week I found myself on my knees once again, faith shaken and mind stretching to understand what God was doing in my life. I had just asked God for what I wanted - more emotion, feelings that would help me grow more and experiences I could continue to learn from. I got just that- just not the way I wanted. I guess I hadn't been clearer with my instructions to God. Been there?
In response to what he brought to my life this past week I tried something different. Instead of asking for what I wanted (after already asking and not getting what I wanted in the way I wanted it) I tried the above way of praying instead. I was tempted to pray, "Ok God, that's not what I meant- thanks for the quick little test, but now I need you to make it all better. You can heal this, I need a miracle". Instead I got on my kees and thanked him for the blessing he had provided. I asked him for understanding and patience. I told him that I trusted him with my life and my death, and with the lives and deaths of those I love. I asked him to open my heart to what he has planned for us, for our present and our future.
But I found you can't just pray it once and expect results, it's a prayer that needs to be prayed every day. If it's not, you fall right back into the woe is me mentality that I so quickly found myself in, once again, today.
I'm hurt. I'm confused. I don't get how much one person has to continue to endure for it to be enough. But then I'm reminded of how much He loves me, and that this life is just a small piece of the puzzle. I'm reminded that my suffering is understood by the One who suffered much more that me so that I wouldn't have to suffer forever. Oh, what a difficult truth to live though.
If you're there, if you're in this same place - I understand. Our stories are different, I'm sure, but your suffering- your circumstances don't define you. They don't mean that God is ignoring you or picking on you. But He very well may be testing you. That doesn't make him a jerk, it doesn't mean he no longer cares. In fact, it's just the opposite - He is in control even when you feel like it's all crumbling before you. It's not your circumstances that matter, but how you respond to them. This world's version of the good old days have nothing on what's to come. Hang in there, friend.
And if you're not sure how to get there, you can pray Nancy's prayer:
Lord, so often I run ahead of you, insistent that I know what is best and what you would want for my life. Teach me to trust in your love for me and your great wisdom so I will want your will for my life, no matter what. Amen.