[I normally try not to use a lot of scripture in my posts, because I have a lot of readers who do not relate to it. Please bear with me. This post, unlike most others, was written not primarily for my readers, but for me. Still, I really hope it speaks to someone.]
This summer, for me and my family, and for various reasons, has been a summer of loss, of emotional devastation, of gripping fear and loneliness, and of confusion, mixed liberally with parts guilt, regret, and anger. And the deepest sense of love and appreciation for one another that I think we have ever experienced.
I do not write as one who has survived all these things and lived to tell about it. I write as one still in the storm, who still cannot see daylight, who remains uncertain where the road leads. I do not write from a place of victory. I haven’t been able to fix what is broken (and no, it’s not a moral issue) or bring healing to gaping wounds that seem like they must be obvious, despite my considerable attempts to conceal them most of the time.
I cannot articulate what I am experiencing. But I know one thing. It is a good place to be. No matter how painful life may be, it is always a good thing to feel like you have lost most of what matters most. Because the truth is that you never had it to begin with. The truth is that no amount of effort — from you, or me, or anyone else — can keep the people we love from dying, from suffering, from leaving us, from slinging hurtful words our way, from embarrassing or shaming us. Nothing can shield us permanently from failure, since the very refusal to take risks is, in itself, a huge failure. Nothing can prevent aging and infirmity. We brought nothing into this world, and we will take nothing out.
In times of sorrow and loss — even despair — we can be reminded that all we think we have is an illusion to begin with. The truth is we have nothing that will not one day be taken away from us. This seems depressing, but if we can get in touch with its truth, it can shape us to live well. No one who lives in light of this reality will waste his life. No one who remembers that life is short will squander her opportunities. No one who remembers that little children grow to become adults will fail to snuggle them a bit tighter.
As a believer in the reality of God, I believe there is only one thing we can never lose, and to me it is the one thing that matters most.
Romans 8:35; 37-39 (NIV)
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
For me, this makes a difference in how I live, even in how I suffer.
Psalm 46:1-10 (NIV)
1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
This is the witness of nearly every major religion — that God is alive, that God is good, that God is love, and that you and I are products of that love. This truth is affirmed not only in good times but — even more important — in bad.
Psalm 46:10 (NIV) 10 “Be still, and know that I am God…
So how will I wrap up my broken-hearted summer that appears like it will be turning into a broken-hearted fall and winter? A lot of stillness. I will remember that I am loved. I will affirm that there is meaning and purpose in what appears to be brutal meaninglessness. I will learn unrelenting love and courage, in the face of what seems like unrelenting discouragement and fear. I will sit in quiet daily, giving up the crippling illusion that by some great merit that is in me, I deserve better than what I have. As I do this, I will remember that this life is a gift, even when it hurts. And when I remember that, I will be grateful, not for pain or suffering, but that I am blessed with a choice — the choice to allow these seasons to embitter me, or to shape me for greater love, greater humility, and greater service to the world.
I choose the latter in this broken-hearted season, and in every other, as long as God gives me breath.
Isaiah 40:28-31 (NIV)
28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Question: What do you do in your broken-hearted seasons?