Nearly every post I have written the past year starts with this line: “This past year has been so challenging.” It makes me wonder how many of you feel the same way. That sometimes the pain and circumstances we are going through are just too hard to put into words. We don’t know how to explain them except: “This is so challenging.” We may be afraid of opening up because we fear we will be judged or preached to. We question, doubt, and wonder if we did something wrong, or where God is in the midst of the pain. We want answers and explanations for the pain. I get it. Pain and suffering is not easy to talk about. It's hard for me too.
It truly has been the most challenging year of my life and it's hard to find the words to describe the deep pain and disappointment I went through and am now coming out of, one day at a time. Things didn't turn out the way I had hoped for when having my first child and becoming a Mom. I didn't plan and envision an emergency c-section, nearly losing my life, and half of my face going paralyzed from bells palsy with the words: "we will see what happens, take it one day at a time." There are no words for the intense pain, fear, and discouragement I felt as I brought my newborn baby home. "This is not what I had prayed for... Why, God?... Where are you, God?..."
But, in the midst of the pain, I have experienced God's Love, Presence, Healing, and Grace so powerfully, unlike ever before. He has always been there, even when I felt like He wasn't. He was working, even if I couldn't always see it. He has been so so good to me as I have asked tough questions, cried out, and brought the broken pieces to Him. He has done a miraculous healing inside and out, but it hasn't happened overnight. I have learned that God does some of His best work in the difficult, valley seasons, but we must keep our eyes on Him and bring our whole hearts to Him. Bring all the pieces. He wants our whole hearts. He isn't afraid to enter into our mess, but we need to invite Him and others into it with us.
I feel like this is perfect timing for the pandemic we are all walking through too. I know it's hard to talk about suffering, so I wanted to write from a place of vulnerability. I have seen God make something more beautiful with the broken pieces. He is faithful in all seasons and is in control even when everything seems to be falling apart. Walking with Jesus is not always a mountaintop experience, but it's worth it and filled with purpose. You are not alone. We all can relate to pain or disappointments in some shape or form. When your experiences don't match your expectations, there often is pain.
What if we prepare for a birth plan and it goes the opposite of what we prayed and planned for? What if we study for an exam for weeks and land a poor grade? What if we do everything to get the new job and we end up being told ‘sorry, not a good fit’? What if we pray for healing and it seems our prayers are not being heard or answered? What if we raise our children to know the Lord and they are headed down a different path? What if Jesus endures days of torture and pain and ends up dying a brutal death on a cross?
Childbirth, relationships, studying for an exam, interviewing for a new job, raising children, and the greatest painful sacrifice, Jesus dying a brutal death on a cross for us - all involve some level of pain and sacrifice. Pain is hard. It hurts. It’s not something we want to endure. But, pain and disappointments can draw us closer to the loving heart of God.
You see, life is not void of pain. However, God’s Purposes and Heart are often seen more clearly in the pain and He is working it all out for our good and His Glory.
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28.
In the pain, there is refining. There is strengthening. There is a change of heart. There is a surrender to God that happens each day. There is a joy and peace that emerges. There is a closeness to Jesus that develops.
“Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth” Psalm 121:1
So, What if God has a greater plan and purpose as we walk with Him through pain and the waiting? What if He is preparing us for a greater purpose that we can't see in the midst of the pain? What if we gain a greater heart of empathy for others and grow closer to God in the pain? What if God uses our story to change lives?
We won't walk through this life without pain and tears. Jesus even promises we will have trouble. But, He also promises, He will be with us, and that He has overcome the world. We know how our story ends, in Victory!
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."- Matthew 16:33
As Jesus was being whipped, beaten, and ridiculed, he was in tremendous pain and agony. Prior to this betrayal, Jesus prays to the Father for strength and for him to take the cup of suffering away. He ends with, "but if not, let your will be done, not mine." It also says that He was crushed with sorrow to the point of death.
“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Luke 22:42
Have you ever felt that way? Crushed with sorrow? Broken with hurt? Aches so deep that words can’t fully express? Praying fervently that God would take away the suffering and he doesn’t? During this pandemic, I know this is a common question.
As Jesus is being nailed to the cross, He is in tremendous pain. He takes all of what we will go through and have gone through on that cross. He gave Himself for us. God sent His one and only Son because He loves us. There was a greater plan of forgiveness, redemption, and eternal life. It makes whatever pain we are going through, feel a little less impossible. Jesus is with us, will never leave us, and will guide our steps though the Holy Spirit.
Jesus made a way for us. After that cross, he was Resurrected! New life began. Victory. You are victorious in Christ. Your pain can be used for a purpose that far outweighs the pain. Whatever feels dead in your life right now, Jesus can raise it to new life and make it more beautiful! Keep fighting!
“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.” Romans 8:18
As we prepare our hearts for Easter, the day Jesus rose from the dead, let’s set our hearts on the time leading up to this life-changing, humanly impossible miracle! Let’s ask Jesus to prepare our hearts and fix our eyes on Him, even if we don't understand what He is doing.
Because, before the mountaintop, there was a valley.
Nearly everything worth celebrating, comes with some pain, behind-the-scenes heartbreak, and sacrifice. It’s easy to focus on the miracles, the mountaintop experiences, highlight reels on social media, and the greatest miracle of all: the Resurrection of Jesus, and think that it all happened overnight, or was easy. In fact, as we dig deeper, we see that most celebrations and mountaintop experiences, also come with tears, heartbreak, pain, and small, steady steps of obedience.
Before the mountaintop, there is a valley. The miracles stem from being faithful in the mundane moments of life. The seemingly small steps. The breakdowns that no one wants to post on social media. Enduring the valleys and hardships faithfully day-by-day and keeping God first. For Jesus, being fully God and fully human, experiencing the agony in the garden, the mocking and slander, the one-on-one interactions with broken people, the intense suffering throughout His life on earth… the list goes on and on. One small step of obedience and sacrifice at a time.
We celebrate Easter because God sacrificed and loved us first. He endured the pain of the cross set before Him because the joy to come was far greater!
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Hebrews 12:1-2
Let's fix our eyes on Jesus and walk with Him through the valleys and to the mountaintops! Thank you Jesus. You are more than enough.
In this Together with Jesus,
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