*I started writing this post in the very beginning of February, but only had the first paragraph and a couple sentences of the second written before I got any farther. So, it's so interesting to me, that just a couple of days later at our Ladies' Seminar a couple of the speakers touched on some of the same ideas I was thinking of for this post. And then Wednesday night's sermon did the same. Which was pretty cool!*
**As I'm trying to finish the post, I'm realizing it is getting pretty long, so I have decided to break it up into two parts, so stay tuned for part two. :)**
This has been on my heart quite a bit lately, and I've even shared these thoughts with others, but I think I have been hesitant to write it, though I'm not exactly sure why. Sometimes it seems the words just don't want to come, but then I think sometimes it may be somewhere inside they are a bit afraid to come because of the fear of how they will be perceived. But my blog has been a wonderful place for me to share dealing with the loss of my parents, to share little glimpses of my school life, to vent about things, to share some current events that have moved me, to help me with the loss of friends and loved ones, and sometimes just to share some silly things. Well, as I write this post, honestly, I'm struggling. It's hard to admit that, because I fear people may just automatically assume it's because I am not spiritually where I need to be. But if we were honest with ourselves...are any of us? We all have things to work on to be where we should be spiritually. None of us have it all together. I have to say it has helped me so much lately to talk to some real people, some that have struggled with loss, or loneliness, or fear, or heartache over loved ones, or concern for the future, and other hardships. We shared some real and honest struggles we have felt, and it was a blessing. And some of the best, most helpful blogs I have read lately are some where the bloggers didn't try to act like they had it all together. They were just honest and put some of their real feelings out there. And what a help and encouragement they were to my soul!
I would love for this post to be an encouragement to someone else. But that would mean some real talk, and possibly even some transparency. And as I stated earlier, sometimes that makes me a little timid. But as I said I have been thinking of this for a while, and even after talking to some of those friends recently, it has brought it even more to mind to go ahead and share this.
I have been struggling lately....struggling with sadness, discontentment, fear, jealousy, loneliness, frustration, and other things. I'm sure the proper Christian responses are already forming in some minds to help me "fix" this, but I know them, too. I know- the joy of the Lord is my strength; that in whatever state I'm in, I need to learn to be content; that when I'm afraid I need to trust Him; He hasn't given me the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind; I shouldn't covet, or want what others have, God has a plan for me, I need to rest in that, I just need to trust Him and wait on Him, and again be content; He promises never to leave me or forsake me, He is always there; when my mind is stayed on Him, He gives perfect peace. I know these things, many of us do, and they are wonderful, and spiritual, and can be extremely helpful. But sometimes when a person is really struggling and hurting and in so much pain, these can be more harmful than helpful. Sometimes these thoughts just make the person going through some hard struggles feel worse...like they are wrong for not having it all together...for not being that perfect Christian who wouldn't dare let these things get to them. That's hard to live up to, and many times that is how we turn people away.
Melinda Cazis, one of the speakers at our Ladies' Seminar said something that was just so good. In one of her workshop sessions she said one of the things that is really dangerous, and really hurts a church is perfect people...people that act like they have it all together. She said that is what often keeps people out of our churches because they feel as if they can't measure up. That is also what sometimes discourages new or young Christians, and even some older ones for that matter. But then, I also have been thinking lately that this is what many times turns our kids off. Now I know we don't want to glorify our struggles to kids, but letting them know that we do have struggles, too, might just help them feel a bit normal. It's hard enough to feel that with so many pressures from all around them each day. It might also help them to realize we are normal, we're not super Christians that they have to work so hard to "catch up" to. We are very similar to them in some of our struggles. I know that's what I enjoyed about the other blog posts I mentioned earlier, it was just so comforting to know that someone else felt, thought, and struggled like I did. It helped so much. So, instead of throwing the proper Christian phrases and verses at people, first just really listen to them...really listen, listen with an open heart, then seek the Lord and listen again, carefully, to know what He might have you say or not say to someone. Remember Job's friends, at one point Job called them "miserable comforters", let's strive not to be like them. I talked to one young person recently who was struggling because of circumstances, but ended up struggling more just from people around them. They have been told they can't be mad at God, that they need to just pray more and read their Bible more, that they have to be thankful even in their tough situation, that they need to get over being upset and hurt, that it's time to move on, etc. Believe me, I understand the good intentions and ideas behind where these thoughts came from. I get that they were meant to help and encourage. But they didn't, they hurt them. Were people really listening to this young person? Were they really seeking the Lord about how to properly respond to them? This person is already mad and upset with God, someone telling them they can't be isn't going to change that, no matter how many times you say it or whatever way you say it. And doesn't the Lord already know this, too? He knows the heart. This person wasn't trying to or even necessarily wanting to be upset with God, so that advice just made them more upset. This person is obviously struggling, they are not feeling thankful right now, and cannot just easily get over what they are feeling. I talked to this young person and heard...that they were upset with God because of their situation. I told them that I couldn't tell them not to be upset because they already were, I couldn't change that, and that God already knew that, too. But I did tell them that I would pray for them...that they would feel the Lord's love embracing them. They also told me that they didn't really want to pray, they said when they are upset with people (friends and family), they usually don't want to talk to them, and since they were upset with God they didn't want to talk to Him or pray to Him. Through God's wisdom I shared with them that if they didn't want to talk, then they could yell or just simply cry out, just like they would sometimes if they decided to finally talk to that friend. He is our friend, and He can handle it, but at least that way the line of communication stays open, which is so important because Satan doesn't want us to keep that line open. So I told them, just keep communicating, even if it's not the "traditional" way. I told them I had done it, I don't like doing it, and don't make it a habit, but it has happened. I think it shocked them, but it seemed to relax them a little bit. I think it made them feel sort of normal. Even with Bible reading, maybe it's not about having them read and find all the answers, but to start them off reading some of the struggles people had first, then let the Lord take over and show Himself to them, and how He helped those people make it through. There are so many stories of struggles and heartaches that God put in His Word for us to read, and to learn from. It wasn't to show us how "all-together" these people were, because they certainly weren't, but it was to show us what He could make of their messes, and their struggles. He wants to do the same for us, but if we have it all together, then we don't need Him. He uses these examples to remind us of how much we do need Him. But I also think He shows us that not every one comes to that same point, at the same time or in the same way. And He didn't always say the things that it was thought that He should say. He was a great example at meeting people at their point of need. May we strive to be like Him.
Lord, You know I desire for the things I write in this post to honor You. I know you've put this on my heart, and I pray that I shared this first part in the way You would have me to. And I pray the next post will do the same.