In the depth of human suffering…

In the depth of human suffering
In the depth of human suffering we discover the reality of God.  It’s here we learn to cry Abba Father.  It’s the cry we make when we can make no other cry.  I’ve felt a little like this lately, okay, a lot like this.  Not so long ago I struggled with things.  Things that are hard to put into words.  Day in and day out I try to meld my internal struggles, eternal truth, and hopefully the product of that will be a life that is honoring to God.  Recently my thoughts became overwhelming.  Crushing.  They stole my happiness.

My to-do list became more than I could bear.  My morning sickness didn’t let up no matter what I tried.  I was tired.  Emotionally and physically exhausted.  The emails and calls of people who were counting on me for this or that slowly drowned in the background of a huge white static.  I don’t know where this static came from but it overpowered my thoughts and replaced them with a feeling that I can only describe as a numb feeling.  I distanced myself from my blogs, from email, and from most phone calls.  I lost a ridiculous amount of money because I didn’t follow through on several campaigns I had said that I would complete.  I wasn’t myself.  I wasn’t faithfully serving God.  I was barely providing food for my family.

I prayed, and prayed, and prayed.  I didn’t even cry because I was numb.  I think professionals might say that I was experiencing “burnout.”  I’ve been stressed out before but I’ve never been burntout at all.  Before experiencing it I thought burnout was just something someone said when they were over committed and decided to quit several things at once.

I went to the She Speaks conference just as I had planned to go even though my heart wasn’t in it.  My husband’s high school reunion was the same weekend so I tried to get out of it the conference and give my ticket to my pastor’s wife but my husband insisted that I go.  I packed my bags to meet a roommate I didn’t know, mentally prepared myself to kindly force myself in dozens of conversations because I didn’t know another lady there (except a few hosting the event which I thought were surely too busy for me this weekend), and braced myself to walk much more than my pregnant body wanted to.

The conference was lovely, well decorated, ran smoother than any conference I’ve ever been to, and had incredibly friendly staff to help out at every turn.  Before the conference was over God broke my heart and gave me my happiness back.  I don’t know what it was that changed my heart.  It was probably a combination of things that God perfectly orchestrated to bring me back to Him.  I’m thankful for God’s love and that He lifted the fog from around me.  I don’t know why God allowed me to go through that and maybe I’ll never know on this side of eternity.

Truthfully, I feel pretty foolish sharing this with you and pouring my heart out as tears stream down my face.  I’m not even sure this makes sense really but I was challenged at the conference to share with my readers the “real” side of me.  I don’t exactly put up a facade on any of my blogs, at least I try not too but I do avoid sharing the embarrassing, not so fabulous moments of my life.  I’ve always thought that if I could share happy things things then I would be uplifting you and encouraging you.  Almost as if I could protect you from the bad things in life.  Saying that now I can see how foolish that way of thinking was.  I don’t want to follow someone who is perfect or pretends to have it all together.  I would much rather follow someone who goes through tragedies and comes out on the other side more in love with their God than before.

I’ve thought a lot about sharing this post with you since the conference and the other day it dawned on me…How can I identify with those who are suffering when I want to put my best face on and pretend that I’m not suffering?  To do so is to violate what we find in the NT.  Multiple times Paul talked about how we can have joy in our trials.  Joy can exist contemporaneously with tears and with sadness.  It’s not a joy that says I’m so joyful that I don’t cry but  it’s the strange paradox that says even though tears are streaming down my face I know there is a joy that transcends what I’m experiencing.

I think one of the challenges we face, as those who profess to be followers of Jesus, is the challenge to show the world how to be sad.  At least I know I struggle with this.  I’ve never given this much thought until this until my recent circumstances and conversations with godly women who shared their struggles with me at the conference.  Christians seem to have it backwards when we think the way to be spiritual is to say that “Everything is okay, I’m not sad.”  If someone’s mom just died and they said that they weren’t sad but joyful because of where she is I would think they were either crazy or lying.  While joy may still be present, sadness is there too.  Sorrowing in the reality of joy isn’t a marginalized suffering.  Grief is grief.  Sadness is sadness.  Nicholas Wolterstorff once said, “Grief is existential testimony to the worth of the one loved.  That worth abides.”  Grief, sorrow, and tears are all things that we have to experience on this earth but I find it very comforting to know that The Comforter has experienced them too.  He loves me and can give me indescribable peace.  He loves you too!

About Ashley

Ashley is very happily married and the mother to a beautiful little girl and sweet baby boy, and she is the main voice behind Embracing Grace.

Comments

  1. I agree, Ashley, sometimes it is hard to show the real “us” to the world so I thank you for opening up and sharing of yourself in this post. I totally agree that God gives incredible peace, even on days when I am overwhelmed and sad if I depend on him.

  2. Daisy Tremorev says:

    Some days are hard and overwhelming. Thanks for reminding us that we aren’t alone.

  3. Jennifer Clay says:

    When I am sad, I always tend to hide the fact that I am sad. I am the type of person that doesn’t like showing feeling in front of other people…even my husband. Unless it is something huge, I push my feelings way down. I know I need to work on this. Thanks for this great post!

  4. I think we women put it on ourselves to put a brave face forward and not embrace the sadness. It’s one of our gifts from God- the sad, the grief- all of those emotions are ours (humans) and even when we’re in dark hours, we can remember the joy and happiness, you know? I’m glad things are looking brighter for you

  5. I think I do feel this way too – that I can’t share anything too sad or negative on my blog b/c I don’t want to be a discouragement to readers. But I also know that it helps to hear that other people are as “real” as you are, and that they aren’t living “Pinterest perfect” lives (as I call it!) – that we’re all in the same boat so to speak, and how can we support each other through it. I’ve been planning to write some more personal posts this fall and dig a little deeper into my motherhood experiences to share more of my heart with readers. Seeing this post just affirms that decision!

  6. It’s great to know and show that you are real, just like the rest of us. I’ve had many experiences of sorrow and hints of joy all at the same time. I’m very sorry for your “funk” but so glad it turned into a learning experience for you.

    Your first comment about people turning to God in their times of sorrow.. certainly that is absolutely true. I have been reading a book this week though that talks about helping those that are more well off that may not have the “need” of God in their live to see that the way they can come to Christ is by serving and helping those in need and that we can invite them to help us with others and it helps them to see that they are needed and important. Just a cool thought that I really liked. 🙂

  7. Denise Taylor-Dennis says:

    What a wonderful post. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have felt burned out. It does help to read about other peoples struggles it helps to know your not alone and not crazy to feel the way you do. Being a Christian certainly doesn’t mean everything would be perfect, if it was perfect we wouldn’t have much to learn.

  8. Jo-Ann Brightman says:

    I am so glad that you were able to get through your burnout with prayers and the help of other people. One has to remember that everyone has difficult times. I am glad that your husband convinced you to go to the conference.

  9. Patty Stogsdill says:

    I stumbled across this site, and I feel like God led me here. This morning in Bible Study, were were learning about how Naomi, in the Book of Ruth, grieved when her 2 “children” passed and she started on her journey back to Judah with her 2 daughters in law. When she arrived in Judah with Ruth, after sending her other daughter in law back to the land she came from, Naomi was asking to be called Mara, and pointed the blame of her sorrow to God, being bitter of her circumstances. To know that God wept for his Son, and to know that it is okay to grieve is a wonderful blessing. Thank you for sharing your story, and I look forward to reading more on this site.

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