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!