"but that really hurt, God . . .
. . . & I can't figure out how a God who is said to be so loving would allow that to be a part of my story"
I have no idea where you may find yourself this morning, friend, but I have a few things that may lend a bit of clarity to this from my own story.
Right now, I am working my way through a devotional called, '21 Days to Cultivate a Grateful Heart'. Gratitude can literally shift our thinking and can be such a good thing, if we will only take the time to be thankful. Well, this morning's devotional took a bit of a turn, and was about the sacrifice of giving thanks. In other words, being willing to be grateful for even the hard things in life, the things that have caused us pain.
I had to journal 5 things that I'm thankful for . . . things that hurt a little (or a lot), and praise Him for them. It would've been super easy to thank God for the beautiful sun that is shining this morning, for healthy kiddos, for the forecast of 60 degree weather, etc, etc. But instead, I had to think of 5 things that were hard. And thank Him for them.
I thought back to 12+ years ago, and I thanked God for a lost job of Mark's. It was one of the most difficult things we ever had to walk through, but looking back now, I see God's hand using it to write a part of our story. It led us to the church where we are today, and to the friendships we have grown in these past 12 years. And I'm grateful that even though it was painful and required us choosing to forgive over and over . . . what God has done in our hearts in the process was something I would not want to miss or rewrite.
I thanked God for a comment made by a friend in passing, "wow, so cynical". I'm sure she doesn't even remember saying it, and even though that comment totally knocked me down for a bit, it was what I needed to open my eyes. It was truth that the way I was acting & seeing others needed to change. I'm grateful that she called me out on it, because I desperately needed something that stung a bit to make me realize something I needed to work on.
I thanked God for another situation that happened at our current church, because even though it brought a whole avalanche of memories back from our job loss years ago, it also has led me to where I am today. Close friends of ours had an eeringly similar situation as ours (being let go from a church), & I think I struggled more with THEIR loss than I did with ours. All of the painful hurts came knocking right back at the door of my heart, and even though I had been living in forgiveness, this time I felt like I was angry at everything having to do with church and church leadership . . . whether it affected me directly or not. If THIS is the way church leaders were going to act, then I was never going to trust ANY of them again (sounds like a really healthy perspective to be living with as a Christian, right?) I built walls around my heart that no army could've penetrated. No one was ever going to hurt me again, especially in the church.
But you know what? Those walls around my heart that I had built as a way of "protecting" me ended up also being the things that isolated me. Never have I experienced so much loneliness as I did at that time in my life. After over a year of living sequestered inside those walls, I knew that I could not live that way any more. Those walls were not helping me at all, and what I needed more than anything else was to let those walls fall, brick by brick. Forgive. Ask for forgiveness. I needed my community again. I needed friends praying for me. Satan wanted me to stay in my self-built fortress because I was such an easy target for his attacks. But God. I am so grateful that He didn't let me stay there. And after He rescued me from that pit, I can look back now . . . several years later . . . and see so much good that He brought from that pain. I don't know when I have ever lived with so much peace.
So, I am grateful for where God has brought me. I wouldn't be where I am today if He hadn't allowed me to walk through those dark days.
Freedom wouldn't feel near as free if I wouldn't have first experienced the darkness of those prison walls.
Why do I share these things with all of you? Because I fully believe that our stories matter. Yours is totally different than mine. Our hurts and losses are not the same. But when we live as if God is somehow a tyrant for allowing us to go through what we do, we miss seeing the beauty that can come as a result of it.
He does not miss a thing. Nothing is wasted in His story for our lives. Someone needs to hear your story, because theirs has a similar twist or turn. I don't for a minute believe that He purposefully writes these difficult things into our story. But, on the flip side, He allows us to be human and make our own choices. Same with all of the other humans living around us on this beautiful thing we call Earth. We are not robots, programmed to only make right choices. No, we make mistakes. We sin. We do ugly things and say ugly things.
But there is such a beautiful thing that He also has as a part of our lives . . . redemption. He is able to take the ugly and weave it all together to bring beauty from the ashes. He is able to use our pain, our tears, and bring hope to someone else who may be walking a similar journey.
It's been just a little over a month since I lost one of my best friends to cancer. Erin battled it for over 10 years. But you know what? I never remember her being angry at God for her diagnosis. She chose joy, she was constantly comforting those of us around her, and she battled it like a champion to the very end.
After she passed away, I found a clip from one of our video chats . . . it was soon after she was diagnosed with brain cancer last year in January, and it just shows the kind of attitude she had towards facing hard things.
Click here to see the video (it was too long to post here, so I uploaded it to Youtube)
This girl's heart was spot on. She knew the God she worshipped. And she trusted that His plan was the best. Hearing her say this just reiterated the trust I knew she had in the God she lived for every day.
"God, I've been praying for certain people's salvation for so long, and if taking me out of the game is a way to do it, then I will do it."
Was it always easy? No. Life was never about being easy or pain free for any of us. Do I have questions for why God can allow so much evil and pain in the world around us? Absolutely. But at the same time, I was thinking about when I will first see Him face to face like my friend Erin got to. And I immediately was overwhelmed with the thought that instead of being ready to fire some of my questions at Him, I am not going to be able to hit my knees fast enough.
Nothing else is going to matter when I see Him face to face in all of His glory. I am going to be so melted by His incredible love for me that the hurts, pains, and difficulties from this life are no longer going to be important.
Worship. Adoration. Amazement. Awe. His perfect holiness that covers me and makes me perfectly whole & holy. Those are what I am going to be left with. Those are the only things that will matter.
So today, I have tears of gratefulness. Because I honestly wouldn't change a thing about my story. It's all led me to here . . . where I am today. Not perfect by any means. But at peace with the One Who writes the most beautiful stories every written.