Unredeemed Brokenness

I happened to hear Pastor Matt Bays on my favorite radio show yesterday (Live the Promise with Susie Larson) and was really taken with what he had to say.  He spoke with shocking honesty about the wretched pain of his past and his turbulent path of faith- fraught with doubts and addiction.

His pain spoke so much to my pain.  I (being the impulsive sort that I am) bought his book, Finding God in the Ruins, with amazon one click.

Tonight I sat down and read through a third of it in one sitting.

It really speaks to where I am, the dilemma I face.

I’ve loved and followed God (not always well, but I’m still here) for ten years and yet I still feel broken in so many ways.  My son still deals with daily pain as we struggle to keep the eczema and resulting staph infections at bay.  I still deal with so much internally that never sees the light of day.

I, like Pastor Matt, got to a point where I just couldn’t pray and believe anymore.  How could I tell people about a Great God that loves them and has a great plan for them- when I found those promises so lacking in my own life?

The truth is that so many of us struggle with a disproportionate amount of pain.  A quick, pretty verse isn’t going to bandage wounded hearts sufficiently. The faith formulas don’t always add up as they should.

I went to a MOPS meeting recently and… felt awful the whole time.  The women there were really nice, they were genuine believers.  But I got the sense that these were the type of women that came from great families.  Women that have never labored under the shame of utter brokenness.  Women that knew how to match boot socks to their purses.  I felt so horribly out of place.

See, there are those of us who don’t come from the best families.  Those of us who deal with the anguish of shame.  Those of us who need much more than an inspirational service or two to get us out of our funk.

I think my theology has been woefully inadequate to address my reality.

God is good but a significant part of our journey here, our walk of faith, is going to be hard and at times, agonizing.  Much more so than we’d prefer.

Early on in my faith journey I was a good faith-filled believer and believed 100% that God was going to quickly and miraculously deliver me from my emotional pain.  That definitely hasn’t happened.  For years I thought it was because I was falling short somewhere.  The teaching I listened to had me worried that there was some hidden sin or offense lurking in me that was keeping the tidal wave of healing and deliverance back.  Maybe that wasn’t it at all.

Maybe there are just things that got broken so badly and profoundly early on, that healed so wrong, that they only way to get it right again is to re-break it.  To wrench away what is wrong before it can be set right and begin to truly heal.  Not a bandaid but a surgery.

So I am embracing the pain in my life and looking for God’s purpose in it.  I still believe.

 

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Brokenness is His Tool

As experienced by so many, I had a ‘mountain top’ experience with God followed by an extended time in the ‘wilderness’.  I’ll try to summarize as much as possible.  My teen years were really rough.  I was very depressed and dealing with all sorts of problems.  My parents divorced.  I had an eating disorder.  I was sneaking alcohol and living off of diet coke.  I dropped out of high school.  Well, you get the picture.  I was a mess and things got more complicated when I became pregnant at 17.  I never even entertained the thought of an abortion.  Which, looking back, was God’s protection over me as far away from Him as I was.  It was tough though.  I felt very much alone.  And then God stepped in.  He was always there.  I was just living so far in enemy territory I couldn’t hear his voice calling me home.  But suffice to say, his arm is not too short to save.  Even those at the bottom of the pit.  I was saved and born again and on an extreme Holy Spirit high.  The depression was gone and I met and married my wonderful husband in a whirlwind (2 months!) courtship.  Everything was looking up and life was great.

…. but then I slowly started to realize that all my ‘issues’ weren’t gone.  That healing is a long journey not always rendered in one altar call.  In 2008 my husband and I became pregnant (ok I was pregnant, he helped that happen!).  We were overjoyed.  But the pregnancy seemed to trigger some genetic health problems.  Debilitating digestive problems (which I later realized was caused by a gluten intolerance) insomnia and crushing exhaustion.  Then the father of my first child took us to court to try to gain custody of my son.  There were painful and untrue things said about me.  I was consumed with anxiety and fear.  I couldn’t sleep at night.  The depression was back.  That was the start of my journey into the wilderness.

What do I mean by the wilderness?  Well, there is a biblical precedence of God using tough times and trials to do a deep work in his people.  Joseph got his call but spent years as a slave and then was wrongfully imprisoned before he was elevated to save many lives through a 7 year famine.  Moses spent 40 years as a nobody shepherd before God used him to mightily deliver his people from slavery…who then spent 40 years wandering in the desert.  “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.”  Deuteronomy 8:2  The Bible is full of the stories of ordinary people who overcame extraordinary obstacles with a faithful God.  Thousands of years later we still have the same stubborn human nature and God still uses this tough process of refinement and testing to prepare us for His call on our life. 

I know what it’s like to have trouble getting out of bed.  To wonder how you are going to get through the day.  To be painfully rejected by a friend.  To feel angry with God.  To feel abandoned.  To feel like your problems are swallowing you alive.  Why does God allow his children to suffer?  I feel there is a dual part answer.  Firstly, after the fall of mankind every single part of creation was subjected to the curse.  Life is hard.  Things go wrong.  Murphy’s law, right?  Bad things happen to good people.  But… somehow in the midst of the resulting chaos God is working.  Firstly, he sent his Son Jesus Christ into our broken world.  “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.” Hebrews 4:15  Jesus was our ‘Man of Sorrows’ who felt the full crushing weight of all this brokenness and conquered it.  He is coming back, (the original sequel!) to finish the job.  He is going to take time to personally wipe away our tears before he puts everything back to how it should be.  That day is going to be indescribably, epic-ly awesome and I can’t wait…but in the mean time….

God has a plan.  He knew you before you were born. (Jeremiah 1:5)  The presence of pain and obstacles is not the absence of God’s love and favor.  “This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.'” Zechariah 13:9  When we feel most forgotten God is busy at work.  Allow me to fire off some ‘cat poster’-esque but true sayings- You don’t get the rainbow without the storm.  You don’t get the testimony without the test.  The most brilliant and joyful dawn follows the darkest and longest night.

We are all apart of human history…His-story that is being written with our lives in response to our Savior.  Your life matters.  “for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.”  Romans 11:29  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28  Your story, your struggle is so much bigger than your own life.  God is molding your life, like an expert potter, to prepare you for mighty works.  (Jeremiah 18:6)  potter

So my charge (to myself and all who want to be faithful and see God be glorified) is don’t give up.  Sometimes we are just called to stand.  “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13  The day of evil is here.  The Devil is angry cause he knows his time is short.  God is equipping and preparing his Saints for the coming showdown between good and evil.  Stay faithful.  Don’t give up.  We know how the story ends.