Tuesday, January 21, 2014

It's a struggle

Warning: I am in a low place today - and though I know there are tribes of folks who would tell me that that means I should probably step away from the keyboard, that's just not who I am. So here I am, at the keyboard in a very low valley. And if you don't want to read about it or if it's going to make you feel uncomfortable, let me direct you to the little "X" in a square somewhere at the top of the page and click it now. If you choose not to and you read on, don't say I didn't warn you, because you have, in fact, been warned.

There are so many opinions out there about what being a Christian ought to look like. "Be real." "Don't be real." "Don't be TOO real." "Be real but always put a positive spin on it." "Always give everything a positive spin."

Bleh. The whole thing exhausts me. It doesn't help that I have those who appreciate my openness, those who counsel against it, and those who judge me for it - both directly and indirectly. I will say though I much better appreciate those who are real and direct with their opinions whatever they may be. That's not to say I always appreciate the opinion, but I do appreciate one's willingness to own it.

I am not "happy" with my life right now. "Right now" being a long season of time that is not so clearly defined. But this right now, today right now, this week right now, this month right now, this year right now - it feels like a particularly low low. Life is just a mess.

If I were going to describe myself in this season I would use words and phrases like "purposeless;" and "ineffective." If I was going to describe circumstances I would use words like "futile;" and "hopeless."

There's lots of good intentioned voices that have or would tell me to get back on the proverbial horse, even the biblical one that says to "press on," but I'm tired. And I feel like I am in a dark hole. God is sovereign - this I know. So what does that mean? Maybe I am supposed to be in this hole. Jesus is in the hole with me after all. Yeah? Maybe so. Right now that brings me no real comfort. I don't want to be here. I want to be with Jesus, but I don't want to be with Jesus in the hole. I can't see Him here in the hole. I know He sees me, but I can't see Him, and when I call out to Him in the hole, he's quiet. I can't see Him; He's not speaking; He doesn't do anything to alleviate the darkness. All I know is He's here because He said He's here. That's good, but sometimes it's hard to feel like that's enough.

Shameful that I would "say" that "out loud." Because EVERYTHING Jesus does is good, and I am supposed to count it ALL joy when I encounter various trials. Sometimes those words, true as they may be, are easier said than done. It's a struggle.

I had someone in a position of authority tell me once that my blog was not the place for me to process my thoughts and feelings. Every time I write here now, I wonder a little if they will read my words - and I wonder not if they are judging them, but to what degree. The thought was as a "Christian" I ought not vent my struggles or my grievances. Then I thought about all the Psalms and an entire book of Lamentations that God saw fit to share. Maybe you think that is an arrogant comparison, but I think that the one or two people who have come back to me and thanked me for being "real" here on the blog and for sharing the anti-Pollyanna side of being a Christ follower make it worth it... even if it disqualifies me in the eyes of someone else. That's truth.

I wish I was someone who didn't think so much or feel so deeply. When Paul in the Bible says "it is better for me that I go, but better for you that I stay," talking about how he looks forward to death, I understand that sentiment, and I hear agony in his "voice" as he says it. Though I think we tend to read over it somewhat passively. I don't think it was said passively - I think it was said with longing in his heart, and perhaps even regret that it were so. Obligation was what kept him going. That's my take on the matter.

I know a woman who is facing death. Though I pray for her not to go, there is a part of me that envies her that she may. I don't want her to go- not for her sake, but for the sake of those who love her. But I envy the idea of being in a state where all the bullshit is bullshit instead of what we have to maneuver through in life. Bills to be paid, chores to be done, anything relational outside of the most critical of connections completely fades in importance. Instead of the tyranny of the urgent, she lives, however weakly, by the predominance of what is truly critical, and that is what I envy.

So we ought to live that way completely anyway, right? Absolutely! But it doesn't happen. Urgent tyrannizes, life demands, crap rises to the surface and time and purpose are consumed. Oh there are some who feel less of it. There are the few fortunate whose purpose is tied into their everyday life - and it's all clearly defined. They are the ones who usually sit in judgment of the rest of us who are not so clearly directed. But in all honesty I know that is only my perspective - my sinful envy of those whose lives I look upon and I see something. Anything really that could be construed as success - whether it's accomplishment or direction, or a sense of purpose, confidence even.

As for me I feel stuck in the struggle. I feel like there is supposed to be "MORE." But that more is not something I can clearly define. Is it a doing or a being, I do not know. Do I feel somewhat guilty in the sense? Yes. Because I know (or maybe I have heard) that I should be satisfied in the sufficiency of Christ. There too lies part of the struggle - another brick in the wall. And yet here I remain feeling like there ought to be something more and yet I am at an absolute loss for what it could be. And when I look around at what should qualify as accomplishment, I see none. What have I done that will matter? I see nothing.

"Seek the Lord." That is a popular piece of advice. You know what I say? Sometimes it feels like He is the best player of "Hide and Go Seek" in all of eternity. I cry "olly olly oxen free" and hidden He remains. Hidden and silent here in the dark hole.

Yes, I have His Word. Remember it is His Word that assures me He is here in the hole. But there are times when it makes His presence no more tangible. Real as He is, even as I declare it and know it to be truth, sometimes grasping for Him simply feels like grasping at vapor. I know it's just a feeling, and though we cannot live by the feelings, neither will they be completely denied. Having them isn't unhealthy, but denying them might be. And being in the word isn't always an instant panacea. Sometimes God allows us to be stuck to wander in deserts or to hide in cave. Sometimes the belly of a whale is EXACTLY where God's purpose is for us to remain. And even being vomited out doesn't necessarily make for a better experience. Sometimes things just suck, and therein lies the struggle. Dark holes are dark places, physically and spiritually - and emotionally too. Even with God - not FOR God, but for us, even when He is with us. At least that's been my experience. That's what I'm feeling right now, and it sucks.

Still I follow. Still I even trust and believe, but struggle still because it is hard, disheartening and lonely. But God is sovereign. God is still good. That's not spin, it's truth, but it's not always plainly seen. Because even as a Christian, darkness is dark. At least for me.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.
Psalm 139:7-12




You're just being honest and honesty is more important to God apparently than being like "other" people who don't experience, or don't admit to experiencing, valleys and pits and stuck places.

Of all those things the Lord calls us to think about (Phil. 4:4?), the first one is "things that are true." Not things that should be true or things that characterize other Christians but not me.

I hear the disillusionment with the shoulds and ought to's and supposed to's. We are what we are. We feel what we feel. Lots of Christians considered great throughout the centuries went through times of--or sometimes lived lives characterized by--deep depression.

I think it's perfectly all right to process thoughts and feelings here, if only because so many of us can identify with them. As you point out, David and Paul processed all kinds of "negative" thoughts and feelings in their writings and far from rejecting them, God included those writings in His word!



I asked a friend who studies Christian history what well-known Christians struggled with depression and he wrote "The only two who come to mind immediately are William Cowper (pronounced 'Cooper') (1731-1800), the English hymnwriter, and Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), the English Baptist preacher."