We say it as a joke, a snide comment, a way to relate to others, but it’s true. Struggles are real. We can dress them up in pretty smiles and say we know it will all work out, but that trudging through the mud of disappointment and questions is not really very funny. It’s kind of hard.
Kris and I have been through the wringer over the past few years. Some of the things that have hurt us have been our own fault, but most of it has just been a steep incline on the path marked for us. We didn’t choose it as much as God choosing it for us, and we’ve been a little tired.
I haven’t handled it well. I have been a little careless with my comments, I’ve been angry, blaming, discouraged and unmotivated. I haven’t given up, and I haven’t lost my bearing, but I’ve lost hope a time or two. It’s been a long hike in the fog.
I read my Bible. I saw verses of hope, but no comfort came.
Does that sound unchristian of me? I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t mean it. It seemed the dark was so thick I couldn’t press in to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. That’s not a good feeling.
In it all I knew. I knew something beyond what I didn’t hear, see or feel. I knew that God had been part of it. I knew He was ordaining this path, that He saw it from the beginning and would be waiting at the end. I KNEW it. I didn’t have to pump myself up to know it, I just knew.
I didn’t know how long the path was.
The discouragement was in trying so hard to be a good wife, when I felt like a burden. To be a good mom, when I felt like a child. To be a good friend when I felt like I had nothing to offer.
But, I applied a few things along the way.
I kept walking: Even when my legs felt like lead weights and my eyes couldn’t see the next step, keep walking. Every day is another step closer to wherever God is taking us, and sitting down in a heap to feel sorry for myself, is a waste of time. I wasn’t exempt from ministry, from responsibility, from service or relationships. I had work to do, and I did it. I admit that I slacked on some housework, but in the daily challenges, like homeschooling, I was focused and determined to walk worthy of the calling I have received.
I kept talking: Communication is a wide road and it encompasses our thoughts and ideas, our joys and reflections, as well as our pain and our prisons. We can’t stop talking. Even if it feels like there’s nothing left to say, but what we said the day before. Sometimes it’s in saying it again with a new day’s light, that we finally hear what we’ve been missing. Every painful conversation is a candle shone from a new angle. Keep talking, until the truth is revealed.
I kept reading: My Bible was not as inspirational to me during this time. It felt like I was reading a book I couldn’t understand, but I kept reading it. I have a firm belief that reading the Word of God, especially reading out loud, will bring a truth and a perspective into my life that I don’t receive any other way. I didn’t feel the changes that God was working in my life during that time, but I know that His Word was at work, and I believe it was crucial to walking out of the valley we were in.
I kept praying: I hated praying. Is that unchristian again? I’m willing to be honest here. I felt like I was hitting a wall. It wasn’t an immersion into the warmth of my Redeemer’s arms. It was more like push-ups. I hate push-ups. Normally, I love my prayer time. I love the confidence I feel, the assurance I gain. The assurance that whatever is going on, He is now the caretaker of all my problems as well as pursuits. Praying in the valley wasn’t like that. It was an exercise that I had to have faith was working. Again, like push-ups. The enemy was actively against my prayer life. I had to resist the deception that I was a lost cause, that I had somehow so radically messed up that He no longer looked at me as a daughter, but more as a rodent. I pushed through time and again, sometimes in tears, sometimes in the middle of the night, and most times with nothing to show for it, I told God how I felt, what I needed, what His Word says and how sorry I was that I wasn’t having a good time. He was there. He heard, and He was working on things I couldn’t quite imagine.
God’s love for me didn’t change. Before I walked into that dark valley, and all the way through it, I was still His (favorite *wink*) daughter. I see it as the light gets clearer on the other side, I see His favor again. He offers me gifts now and then, little glimpses into His joy over me, but it wasn’t that way in the valley. I want to be very clear, lest someone comes along and tries to sugarcoat what I’m saying, I do NOT look back and see that he was offering me that all along. He wasn’t. He was quiet. He wasn’t absent, but He was not revealing Himself. I had to have a faith I’ve never had to have before. I had to believe that He was everything He’s ever said He was, even when I couldn’t see Him being that for me. Not only that, I had to believe that and teach it, and encourage others, and let it sink in that they were getting it and receiving it right in front of me while I felt so left behind.
The idea of being His daughter isn’t an adoption into a perfect life. It’s an agreement. It’s a trust between us both, that He will do everything He’s promised, and I will trust Him no matter what. No matter what. I used to think I could do that, but I had never been through a valley this deep or this dark before. I have seen a much clearer vision of my own weaknesses, and if I’ve gained anything from this experience it’s a humble acknowledgment that I have a lot of work to do on me. I am susceptible to the enemies lies. I wouldn’t have believed that before, but I do now. I have a healthy respect for his cunning, and I cannot let my guard down.
The struggle isn’t just a broken shoestring. The struggle is much bigger than a car that won’t start. The struggle is faith. Having faith to believe that God is good, righteous, holy, just and LOVING at every miserable turn. This is the core of the struggle, and though the victory is ours over that struggle, we cannot think that any hurdle we leave behind is the last one we’ll face. The struggle will continue to be real, but faith will prove again and again, that He is real too.