I’m writing this for me, to help me grapple with what has been an uncomfortable struggle the past few weeks. If I am transparent, I’d like to pretend that I’m not struggling, that I’m simply peri-menopausal or hormonal, but deep down, I know that I’m lodged deep in a fog, and I seem to have lost my way a bit. I feel stuck and not only find it difficult to move forward, but frankly I don’t know how.
And I’m ashamed, embarrassed, angry with myself for feeling this way. I look around and see those with much greater woes gracefully moving through life with all the balls juggling effortlessly in the air with a certain artistic flair. My balls bounce around aimlessly, some darting directly into oncoming traffic, while others are lodged somewhere underneath the couch. There may be balls rolling around in the backyard that I didn’t even realize I was responsible for. I’ve forgotten how to juggle. And even if I remembered, there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to juggle anymore. I think I’d like to leave the circus and float down a lazy river somewhere under a peaceful canopy of stately oak trees. I’m supposed to be a woman of great faith, so why am I not navigating this with great faith? Why am I struggling to lean into God?
I’ve always been the overachiever who manages to put one foot in front of the other in pursuit of excellence. No matter the circumstances I’ve just sucked it up buttercup and forged ahead with passion and vision. I can’t find that girl anymore. She seems to be buried under a stack of never-ending tasks and to-dos. When my daughter tried to kill herself, and I walked away and left her alone at a psychiatric hospital, something inside me broke, but I didn’t feel it then. Perhaps I was numb from the pain or maybe I found an old princess band aid and slapped it on the pieces, so I could help my daughter put herself back together again. My vision focused on healing her hurts and mending my family, so I ignored my pain.
It’s possible to ignore pain. When I was training for a marathon once, I rolled and fractured my ankle but kept running because I had a goal, and nothing was going to stop me from meeting that goal until the fracture cracked wide open, leaving me in a boot for over eight weeks with a broken ankle. Needless to say that goal was sidelined for the next year. I think that’s what is happening now. The fracture is cracking, but I don’t know how to slap a boot on this. I’ve also lived with the storm clouds of financial uncertainty for five years, and I think the combination of that and of not dealing with my own response to my girl’s trauma is starting to unravel me.
So here I sit with the discomfort of my own emotional crash, overwhelmed by the slightest task. I fell apart in Publix because I didn’t know what to make for dinner. Y’all, a 45-year-old woman crying in the produce aisle because I couldn’t slow my thoughts down long enough to focus on one recipe. It was the one time I was happy for the anonymity of a mask. But I can’t stay stuck. So much depends on me, on moms, on my sanity, on a red wheelbarrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens. See I told you I had cracked.
So I wrestle with myself with my thoughts with my sadness with my uncertainty with my brokenness. And wrestle I do. So I write this to share with anyone else wrestling that it is ok to wrestle. It is ok to feel broken. It is ok to not have all the answers. But, what I think I’m learning in the midst of this is that it is not ok to stay stuck in the fog. At some point, we must decide to move forward toward hope or else we get left behind, stuck in our grief.
For a few days, I mumbled, grumbled, cried, and leaned into the heaviness of it all, but today, I decided to move forward. Whenever I have struggled in the past, I always turn to scripture, and while I have read my Bible every day, I think I was hiding from God. I asked earlier why was I not leaning into God, and as I told a friend this week it’s because in the back of my mind I’m wondering: what if God, though incredibly capable of doing so, chooses not to change my circumstances? What if he chooses never to bring us financial relief? What if He chooses to allow my Annie to struggle through anxiety the rest of her life? And this gets to the crux of my real question: What if God says no? Does it make Him any less faithful? Does it make Him any less good? Does it make Him any less worthy of my praise and devotion?
The hard part of wrestling with these questions is that I don’t question God’s capability. I question His willingness, and I think that is ultimately what I must wrestle through in this moment. Do I have the foresight to see the temporary nature of this world and cling to the promise of eternity? Am I willing to trust that He loves me and is working for my eternal good even if my current circumstances hurt?
I’m so glad to know that I am not the only person who has struggled with these questions. Recently, I have been studying the Psalms and David’s cries of lament before God. Psalm 44:23 has been especially powerful:
Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
For our soul is bowed down to the dust;
our belly clings to the ground.
Rise up; come to our help!
Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!
David even uses phrases like I groan in anguish of heart. While David begins with lament, he always ends with praise, a pattern that I am learning to adopt: but I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. Job, Jeremiah, even Jesus felt the heaviness of life, yet they didn’t stay stuck in the fog. They ultimately stepped forward in trust.
Ultimately, my goal in life is to know God. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. And truly, intimacy with God so often comes through completely depending on Him and nothing drives us to God like pain, discomfort, and heartache. Just today, I picked up an old study I never finished on 2 Corinthians, and I came across chapter 1: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
And I realized that intimacy with God comes through being comforted by God, but I wasn’t allowing God to comfort me because I wanted Him to change my circumstances rather than my heart. I wanted Him to remove me from all discomfort from the hard stuff. Part of it is because I’m tired and burned out because I haven’t been honoring God’s command to Sabbath. Part of it is because I’ve been trying to carry the burden on my own rather than give it to Him. And part of it is in my stubbornness I knew that if I surrendered to God and His comfort and intimacy with Him that I couldn’t walk around the discomfort, I’d have to walk through it. And like a toddler kicking and screaming, I just didn’t want to do the hard work. While I know many of us are struggling with hard things right now, I also know that it is possible to capture our thoughts and renew our minds. Healing our sadness isn’t something we can do complacently; we must be active participants in our own healing.
So here I sit with reality and a decision. Do I continue to writhe in self-pity, whining because life is hard sometimes and people are broken and God isn’t Santa Clause, or do I grow and mature and press in to God with all I have, trusting His love, goodness, and power to heal and transform all the brokenness in my life, understanding that sometimes it is only through pain that the transformation comes? Do I set an example for my children that it’s ok to hurt and cry and feel the brokenness, but understand that God calls us into a beautiful ministry of healing and walking alongside others once He brings us through? Do I model fear or faith? Do I model hopelessness and pity or do I model hope, faith, joy, and love? I think it is time that I choose joy.