I had A DAY. Like, one of those days where EVERYTHING IN FREAKING THE UNIVERSE THAT COULD GO WRONG, DOES.
It was a day where my heart ached so deep, that I didn’t know if I could bear the weight of it. A day where old wounds mixed with new ones, served on a plate full of insecurity and self-doubt. A day when everything inside of me screamed to crawl inward (with a tub of ice cream) and not come out again – like ever.
Yet, the older I get, the more I learn to embrace the idea to expect that life will be hard. But, it will (and can be) equally full of joy.
There is this belief that says, I’m a Christian so I’m supposed to suffer. I’m supposed to experience trials and persecution (a dramatic use of the word there, but you get the gist). It also says, but because I’m a Christian I’m supposed to feel joy in the middle of the trials. This is God’s plan for me.
I used to believe this.
I even embraced it.
But, two powerful little lies are intertwined in this belief:
- If you’re a Christian, suffering should be pretty continual
- If you’re a Christian, the primary purpose of joy is to carry you through the suffering.
OH. MY. WORD.
THIS IS RIDICULOUS.
My issues with those two beliefs…
First, if you view God willing suffering as a part of the Christian life, you will look at God as one of the culprits of your misery. And that is a terrible way to view God, let alone enable you to trust him to be good.
God doesn’t will pain and suffering. It just isn’t in his character. Father God – the most loving, kind, adoring, gift-giving, safest presence in the universe – is only here to give life and give it to the fullest.
But what about the verses that say I have to pick up my cross and share in Christ’s suffering??
Jesus carried a cross once during his life on earth: once. It was awful. Brutal. But, it was part of his mission; something he knew he needed to do and was firmly committed to.
Friends, there may be a time when you experience pain and suffering for the sake of your faith. But, Jesus didn’t bear his cross on a daily basis. He did it once. And, I also venture to say, he didn’t appear to be joyful during that event.
Moving onto the whole joy-in-the-middle-of-suffering-idea.
If you believe having a smile plastered on your face during heartbreak is what makes you a strong Christian, you have just removed your permission to feel.
(SWEET BABY JESUS this is one area that Christians sincerely could improve on. Did I just say that out loud?? OOPS.)
EMOTION is one of the most powerful tools God gave to mankind.
He designed us with all the feels.
EVERY SINGLE ONE.
My sweet brother and sister friends, hear me on this: sadness isn’t from satan. Neither is anger.
Both are important. They equip your mind and body to process pain and move towards healing, in a healthy way.
On my terrible day, I pressed into the feels.
LIKE EVERY SINGLE ONE.
I let myself feel sad. Really, really sad. I soaked up every ounce of it. I allowed myself to press into the anger too. I felt it to my core. It shook me. Rattled me. And, left me feeling a whole lotta fear.
Yep. That’s a fun one. (Can I just say, what’s up with that?? Like, why the heck is fear always what creeps in after a long crying sad session?)
I HATE FEAR.
But, I’m not digging into that topic here…maybe that will be my next blog. BUT FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS SACRED, I HATE FEAR. SERIOUSLY. LET IT DIE ALREADY.
I think fear comes in because of our natural drive to self-protect.
We are hard-wired to survive.
And survival comes from being safe and protected.
When we experience intense feelings of sadness and anger, self-protection kicks in which inevitably comes with fear. Fear of experiencing that amount of pain again, fear of feeling….it all comes laced with self-protection.
But, I’m learning to push that fear aside, and press into the feels…
I remember on that day, sitting with God and through tears asking him, Why did you take this from me?? WHY are you doing this to me??
In the most gentle loving way, I heard that tender voice that I know so well, Anna I’m not a taker. I’m a giver. I’m giving you good gifts…even in the middle of this.
My heart quieted. Because even in the middle of a terribly trying day, I was reminded of the gifts that God was clearly giving to me.
And, THIS is where joy steps in. THE REAL AWESOME JOY.
Joy is not meant to just appear as a relief for sadness, equipping you to somehow manage to survive.
No, JOY can come through amazing blessings.
a good friend.
silliness with your kids.
– all because God is speaking to you through them.
Ministering little nuggets of joy to your soul.
When I took an honest look at the good gifts God was giving in the middle of my heartache, my whole being swelled with joy. Loads and loads of it.
And just like I allowed myself to press into the feelings of sadness and anger, I gave myself permission to press into all the feelings of joy.
I sat in it.
FOR A LONG TIME.
I allowed my heart to open, to smile, to grin and be moved. I held onto that joy for dear life. And you know what often accompanies joy?
The most powerful thing on earth: hope.
Hope is a game changer. Hope is what propels you out of a pit of isolation and pushes you back into the world around you. A good, beautiful world that needs you in it.
Hope is what keeps your heart open, your feet moving, and bridges the conversation gap between you and God. Hope is it.
So, what if we allowed ourselves to feel life – really feel it?
Every heartache, every joy, sorrow, tear, smile and belly laugh? What if we didn’t hide in shame or fear – but instead we embraced every emotion and strived to gain everything we could from it?
I believe this is where the richest, most beautiful parts of life are experienced; where the most authentic version of ourselves can be known.
My friends, we will all feel the weight of sadness and pain in this life. It’s just part of it. But, we all have the opportunity to feel just as much joy. If we’re brave enough to look for it.
GOD. IS. GOOD.