Devotional: Applying the Bible to my today.
Read: Isaiah 43:1-15
Read verses 2 and 3 again...
"'When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior...'" Isaiah 43:2-3a (emphasis mine)
Avoiding (or going around) hardships seems so much better than actually going through them. Have you ever tried to sleep it away, shop it away, eat it away, drink it away, travel it away, control it away? Whether it be grief, the effects of abuse, shame, failing health, challenging finances, difficult relationships, etc. - "going around" doesn't produce the same result as "going through". Why?
Carl Jung, psychologist, suggests "what you resist persists" (paraphrased), meaning whatever is not dealt with will be there lingering and waiting to be faced or to sink us as it gains momentum. Trying to "go around" this pain can be a symptom of:
- Denial: Denial of the weight/severity of the situation, which leaves us void of calling out to God. Why cry out to God if everything is "fine"?
- Idolatry: It sounds so strange, but we can idolize our pain and suffering, therefore, leaving no room for worshiping God. Bitterness or sorrow that consumes all our thoughts and energy, isolating from those we love so that we can go drown in it, and pitying ourselves above loving others... this is the life in which we have chosen to worship at the feet of pain and suffering rather than that of God.
- Complacency: When our suffering or shame is long standing, years on end, it can become so familiar that we are not even sure who we'd be without it. It may appear more comforting and "safe" than to traverse the other side. Why even ask God to heal when this way is "fine"?
- Pride: "I am smarter than God." While this statement sounds absurd, it is exactly the statement we are making when we choose anything contrary to the Bible. Statements such as "You are #1, so do what makes you happy", "You'll never be given more than you can handle", "Trust yourself", sound true enough but not one of them stand up biblically. Again, why cry out to God when you have it all under control?
- Loss of Perspective: "I got myself into this mess, so I don't deserve for God to rescue me." Honestly, to me, this again is pride. Who are you to establish your or anyone else's value? God established your value upon creation and then He established it again when He allowed His son to die for you, even in your shortcomings, weaknesses and sinfulness. He said, "it is finished," which means He established it, did it, end of story.
I have dealt with deep grief two different routes:
- After the abuse, abortion and death of my best friend, I chose to "get over it", as if I could create an imaginary bridge over the issues and pain. I relied on self, controlling men relationally and sexually. I worked myself into oblivion to personally prove my value and worth. I shut down what could have been great friendships so that I wouldn't get hurt if I lost someone else to death. It all made logical sense at the time, but it also left destruction - for me, for people I loved, and for strangers. When I finally "woke up" almost 10 years later, the pain from the abuse, abortion and death were still waiting for me, but it was on top of all the new struggles and consequences I had created for myself.
- After the death of our son, my mom, temporary loss of health, and loss of career, I chose to lean into it, feel its full weight and confront my feelings of loss and hopelessness with the truth of God's Word at every turn. I carried my backpack filled with tissues, my Bible and prayer journal EVERYWHERE because it was calling my name. I couldn't breathe, but when I opened God's Word or leaned into someone that would whisper it's truth to me, its as if the oxygen mask had landed squarely on my nose and mouth. The circumstances were more than I could handle; I could not trust myself; nothing could have made me happy, yet somewhere in the midst of all the pain and suffering were glimpses of hope and joy. My relationships were growing rather than being ripped to shreds; I could hear the tiniest whispers from God and I had a perspective of Him that had been impossible for me to see previously. Now, almost 8 years later, while my grief still works within me at times and I don't think my brain has ever fully recovered, the only true aftermath is that of strength and the ability to love better.
When I read verses like Isaiah 43:2-3, I am reminded that I miss out on SO much when I try to go around rather than going through. Once upon a time, looking at the picture of the rushing waters or fire seemed scary and unnecessary to me, but now I know the truth... they can be dangerous, but they spark a tinge of anticipation, "What is He going to pull off that I am not seeing or understanding?". He amazes me; He heals my attitude/perspective, reconciles my past and my future, and gives me abundant life even in the midst of the darkest times.
How are you today, my friend? Are you having any difficulty choosing to go through rather than around? I'm not sure anyone ever feels prepared to take those first steps in. Let me know how I can be praying with you through this journey; you are not alone.
Featured Image Credit: Zhu Hongzhi