It was almost a year ago that my pastor stopped me in the middle of a big church-wide event to ask how I was doing. It wasn’t the kind of, “How’s it going” comment you say in passing. It was a real, heartfelt question, “How are you?”
I answered him honestly. I was barely holding it together. My cousin Kenny had left Santa Cruz leaving me with no friends. I had just been hurt fairly deeply by another good friend which resulted in a drastic change in our friendship. And I had just said goodbye to two of my best friends in the world who were leaving for Lebanon to pursue full time missions. I blamed it all on God. He was the one that led me here. He was the one that convicted me allow my friend to get close enough to hurt me. He was the one that was taking my friends to the mission field. I felt like He had failed me. I had done nothing but follow Him…and this was what I got in return.
In short, I was mad at God.
My pastor saw through my tears and could tell that growing behind the tears in my eyes was anger. He asked, “So, how long do you want to be miserable for? Or when are you going to turn to God and let Him comfort you?”
In a sense I knew he was right, but I just felt like I couldn’t not be mad. God had failed me. He let me down. I was reeling from the pain of losing so much and I didn’t even know how to begin to let God comfort me because I felt like it was all His fault.
A year later, all I can say is that suffering poorly makes you miserable.
You see, a few years ago I went through a break up that pretty much devastated me. That’s the only word I can think of to describe it. But the week of the break up I heard a message on James 1 (from a friend who was in a preaching class, of all places) and it became my goal to let the trial have it’s perfect result. Through the trial that was that heartbreak, I filled up the pages of 6 journals with prayers. I could barely get enough time with God. I needed Him. I learned what the gospel was in new and fresh ways. I grew in my love for the church. I pressed into God…and found He was reliable. He could uphold me through one of the darkest seasons I’ve weathered. I think, by God’s grace alone, I suffered well during that season.
That is not what I’ve done with this season of loneliness in Santa Cruz. I think I just hit a point where my heart hurt too much. It didn’t seem worth it to love anyone anymore. My tactic this time has been more akin to what C.S. Lewis describes in his book, Four Loves:
“Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
I’ve wrapped my heart with hobbies, luxuries, and I’ve avoided getting entangled. I’ve been afraid to become real, true friends with people here for fear that I will only end up being hurt in the end, weather by relational circumstances, or by distance, or by our respective callings. I’m afraid that if I dig roots, they will only be uprooted and I don’t know that I can bare that any longer. So instead I’ve locked myself in a loveless casket of selfishness. And those little hobbies and luxuries have kept God at bay, as well (hence my previous post).
And you know what? I’ve been miserable. I’ve been miserable to be around (just ask Brandon & Jared!) I’ve been vicious & defensive. I’ve been selfish & thoughtless. I’ve taken much more than I’ve given. I’ve been lonely. I’ve been a bad friend & example of Christlike love. I’ve settled for cheap pleasures that fade quickly. I’ve been greedy. I’ve been insecure & self-focused. That’s the core of my heart for the past year.
All I have to show for it is a year I wish I could take back. I wish I was closer to God now as a result. I wish I had a list of answered prayer to look to to increase my faith. I wish I had journals full of dependence on Christ. I wish I had been learning and growing this whole time, and I had passed that along to the girls I’ve been meeting with. I wish my understanding and love for the gospel was deeper, instead of having to relearn it. I wish I was coming out of this trial being so thankful for it, instead of just regretting the way I’ve chosen to handle it.
I am thankful in a sense, because God hasn’t let this time be wasted, but at the same time I know I could have benefited so much more from it if I had submitted to God’s will and if I had let Him uphold me instead of trying to do it myself, if I had run to Him instead of away from Him.
But, I didn’t. So let my failure be a lesson to you. Don’t waste your suffering. Don’t make your life miserable. Let Christ uphold you. It’s so much better than trying to do it on your own.
Or if you’re like me and you’re looking back on a suffering that you did everything in your power to waste, remember Christ. He is your life. He is your righteousness. Your life (including your failure, your wasted suffering, your anger & pride) is hidden in Him, by Him, for Him. There is no condemnation for you because Christ faced it on your behalf. Stop wallowing in your failure & worship Him for the good news of the gospel.
“Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.”
– Psalm 103:1-14