Posts filed under Suffering

Hope is Hard :: Hope is Tricky

A few months ago, I got a text from a friend with a desire to minister to a specific group of people. She asked me to write some for her site and I immediately jumped on board with few questions. Why? Because there are a lot of blogs out there right now that encourage people in the normal ups and downs of life, but there are few that are willing to go to the dark places of hardship and hopelessness. 

My friend has a BIG heart for those who are fighting for hope and I am SO proud of her for seeing this need and jumping in.

 I'm really thankful for the opportunity to write for her new blog, but I also would like to document them here as well. (I'm trying to keep track of all the places I've been writing lately and have been bad at storing them here... so I apologize in advance for the multiple uploads of old work over the next few weeks).

With that said, these posts aren't for everyone; they were written with a specific audience in mind. So if you're on cloud 9 or tend to see the world with a glass half full and don't really want to "go there," please feel the freedom to take a hard pass. If you see a post that starts with the title "Hope is Hard," that's your cue to move along and come back another day. There is freedom to read as well as freedom to abstain, no judgement from me and only mad respect for knowing your boundaries. 

Here is my first post from Hope is Hard and I'll post my second one here in a few days (but you can go on over to HopeisHard.com if you're just OH SO READY for another dose - the title is Hope Heals). My prayer is that if you're currently wounded these posts will deeply minister to your soul. Know that fighting for hope during dark seasons is a brave and godly venture. Hold on dear one, I'm cheering for you. 

_________________________________

Hope is tricky isn’t it?

I used to think of hope simply as a joyful wide-eyed wonder and belief in something we cannot see. I pictured an exuberant child waiting for beloved parent to return home from a long trip. Sparkling eyes full of expectation with laughter that fills the room, counting down the minutes until the door opens and mom and/or dad appears. Or perhaps a child going to bed hopeful for a snow day the following morning; head on the pillow with eyes wide open staring out the window, heart fluttering with the anticipation of pancakes and no school.

This was what I pictured when I heard pastors and professors talk about hope. And I have to tell you, I was right about the actual definition, but my practical application was lacking.

Severely lacking.

Hope can look like that, but it is also so much more.

One of the things I love about Scripture is how it is living and active, capable of teaching and instruction (aka smacking some sense in my stubborn head). Read Romans 5:1-5.

“Therefore since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:1-5

Do you see what causes us to rejoice in hope of the glory of God? Look closely.

Now look again.

Suffering.

“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and HOPE does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.”

Hope doesn’t look so easy now does it? For those of you who are currently in seasons of suffering, it feels trite to tell you too “count it all joy” because you’re learning how to truly, deeply hope. So I’m not going to belittle your pain by doing that. But I am going to tell you this.

Hope is Hard.

It is messy.

It takes work (endurance + character).

And sometimes it hurts.

You see, quotes about hope can feel cliché because we’ve cheapened hope by making it a feel good mantra. But Gospel-centered hope is so much more than a starry-eyed-happy-go-lucky belief system. Hope has a deep, gut-wrenching, faith-building side that I never acknowledged before. It’s a crying out in a dark wilderness that our God is a God who redeems and restores and will one day right all wrongs, even when we cannot see the road ahead and are weary from the road behind.

The furnace of suffering has the capacity to burn away so much, but amongst the ashes and smoke, a spark of hope comes to life. My life is a testament to the truth that suffering produces some of the fiercest and purist of hopes. And a hope birthed in suffering causes us to rejoice. Not in ourselves. Not in our current circumstances, but in the life and redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

And that work can never be broken, undone, or put to shame.

I love the verses that follow…

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:6-12

Maybe today you find yourself in the midst of suffering, can I encourage you by resonating with you and imploring you to hold on to hope? Perhaps Satan’s lies are too much for you today and you believe that there’s no way out of the pit you’re in. Will you let me be the sister who holds your arms up and proclaims that there is nothing too big or too broken for our God to fix? Our hope is rooted in redemption and reconciliation; it’s the theme of our story and the chorus of our song. You are not too far gone and there is no place you can go to escape our Father’s love. Christ died for the ungodly, for all of us. Today, will you rest in that truth and let it be enough to push you towards hope?

Praying for you & cheering you on!

Posted on March 24, 2017 and filed under Hope is Hard, Suffering.

When 2017 doesn't bring a fresh start

Happy New Year (a few days late)!

I’ve been thinking a lot about fresh starts and new beginnings, but this time of year I also am so heavily burdened for the people who are stuck in situations that a new year isn’t going to change. 

A few years ago I found myself avoiding a lot of social media around the holidays & new year. Pictures & highlight reels were triggers for me as I reflected on my life, disappointed with all that year had broken. The last thing I wanted to do was go check out my Best9 or see the Year in Review that Facebook had so kindly assembled for me to remind me that my year was less than gracious to me. I remember that feeling of hopelessness when you’re stuck in a place you never imagined, unable to see the hope that a new year, even one full of suffering, can bring. 

Listen...I know you’re all WOW BRITTANY, Cynical much? Someone get this girl a cup of coffee and some sunshine!! But I promise you, I'm quite the opposite! Just let me flesh this out. 

You see, many of us have bought the lie that once we trust in Jesus, we’re going to be just fine. Suffering isn’t going to come our way. After all, if we make smart choices and go to church and do the right things, what can go wrong? If we hit a bump in the road, all we have to do is say the name of Jesus and it will get better. The illusion of control comforts us during joyous seasons, but during trials and tribulations it's damning. 

I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but for many, 2017 will be painstakingly difficult. Your year might get better, but it might not. Your child diagnosed with cancer might not be healed. The parent you’re now the caretaker for might get worse. Your marriage might have a really devastating year. You might not have the bravery to RUN from that toxic relationship you’re in. That loved one you lost isn’t coming back. The child you’ve been praying for might not be conceived. And 2017 might not bring that relationship or job you’ve hoped for. And yet, in spite of all of the hard things 2017 might have in store for you (or the WONDERFUL THINGS), I want to tell you that 2017 could be the year that you cling to God like you never have before. It could be the year that grace permeates your every move and your faith comes alive.

I was reading a Bible study on 2 Timothy and came across this quote, 

“Desperation can fertilize our soil and tears can water our seed like no ease could ever hope to.” - Beth Moore

I have to tell you, this was so true of my own life. When my life got desperate, all the cliches I used to say out of habit became lifelines. What I had always professed to be true, now HAD TO BE TRUE in order for my faith to survive suffering. Phrases that I used to say so flippantly when talking about others’ pain like “God is close to the brokenhearted,” became scripture that I would cry out to God in desperation. “God, you said you’re near to the brokenhearted. I NEED YOU TO BE NEAR. I need you to be faithful and true.”

And He was. Is. And forever will be.

Suffering was a catalyst for me. It catapulted me to the feet of Christ and it has kept me there. So here’s my advice to those who find themselves in a year that isn’t anything they hoped for and expected. It isn't a fix all, but it's a simple phrase for you to carry with you through those low moments. 

Look and Live. 

Look to Christ. Cling to what He’s done for you and what He continues to do. Let that consume you instead of despair. Read about it. Sing about it. Pray about it. Write about it. Hang it on your walls. Have friends who will speak it over you and remind you of who you are in Christ & who He is to you. Christ is your great and mighty redeemer and nothing is too far from his reach. Saturate your life with that truth. 

When life gets hard? Look to Christ. 

When you’re at the end of your rope? Look to Christ. 

When you cannot go any further? Look to Christ. 

When you are so angry and hurt and desperate? Look to Christ.

When you have no place to go? Run to Christ. 

When your world falls apart? Look to Christ, the source and perfecter of our faith.

Dear one, He is able to carry your burden. You do not have to do it perfectly; He already has so that you can live freely. Which brings me to my second piece of advice.

LIVE. 

The story you’re living right now has purpose. You might not believe it. Or maybe you do and it still infuriates you that THIS is a part of your story (trust me... I get that). But at some point, you have to stopping fighting the storyline and START LIVING IT. That heartache, the loss, the despair, the pain, the shame. Don't put a bandaid on your pain to hide the scar, LIVE through it. It’s your story to own, and live, and to one day tell. 

Get help, find a good counselor, start taking care of yourself (fuel your body with sleep and good food), and LIVE. Live your story well. Live it imperfectly, walking every step clinging to Christ. Because if you’re looking to Christ, and fighting to LIVE a life that is rooted in Him, there is no storm you’ll face that will be able to sink your ship. There will be days when it might not feel that way, but friend, I can promise you that the Christ you cling to is a GREAT redeemer. There is nothing too broken that He can’t fix. There is no heart too sick for His healing hand. No sinking ship He can't sustain. No suffering is left purposeless & nothing goes unused. He is close to the brokenhearted, and one day the God who walks beside us through the fires of life will extinguish the furnace of suffering for good

This is why we can enter a new year with hope, even when our circumstances seem hopeless.

Whatever 2017 brings, you can still experience deep, unshakeable joy found in knowing Christ... even on your darkest night... especially during your darkest night.  So today I am praying that for you. I am praying for those of you walking into 2017 with heavy hearts and dark skies ahead. I am praying that you will find rest in the one who is faithful and true and that in 2017 you'll find the resolve to LOOK & LIVE, regardless of what the year brings. 

Much love,

Posted on January 13, 2017 and filed under Suffering, Spiritual Journey, Story.

A Post for The Fallen & The Shamed :: There's Room at Our Table for You.

STORIES.jpg

I’ve noticed a trend on the interwebs as of late. Many feel-good blog posts are for folks who have been wounded or walked through immense suffering. Don’t get me wrong, as someone who has seen grey days, I resonate 110%. But lately God has opened my eyes not only to the wounded, but to the wounders as well. 

So today I have a message for those of you with BIG mistakes. To those of you weighed down with guilt, shame, and regret… 

You are wanted, you are loved, and there is room for you in our homes. There is room for you in our churches. There is room for you in our social circles. There is a seat waiting for you at the table of grace.

Did you mess up big? Have you fallen from society’s good grace? 

No worries, me too.

And I have a word for you today.

Get back up and come sit with us at the table. You might believe that you’ve utterly messed up your life, but I’m here to tell you that a feast is just around the corner. 

“No, you don’t understand what I’ve done,” you say. And you’re right, I don’t know the details of your shame. But what I do know is that God does His greatest work in the most broken places, during the darkest hour. Redemption has always been His strong suit. 

Our hodgepodge heroes of the faith were prostitutes, liars, doubters, adulterers, and murderers (just to name a few), and trust me when I tell you that there’s nothing you can do to out-sin some of God’s best. Not to mention, when Jesus walked this earth, He ate with tax collectors and sinners, people like you and me. And when Pharisees, the religious rule followers, rolled their eyes about the company He kept, Jesus replied, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick… I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

You see, it feels good to sit in church and hear how David, a man after God’s own heart cheated, manipulated, and killed. But it’s much more difficult to do the hard work and say, “I am David, and He loves me still,” or equally hard to be like Joseph and say, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. I forgive you.” 

This is the Gospel and the table of grace you’re welcome to. It’s a table full of misfits and mistake makers, rebels with restored hearts, and I want you to know that today, there’s a seat for you here. 

But before you sit down, let me first say this. 

I’m sorry.

You see the church has this beautiful messy job of being the hands and feet of Jesus, and sometimes, (ahem most of the time), we don’t do it perfectly. But in spite of our brokenness, Jesus left the keys to His kingdom in the hands of a bunch of zealous misfits who rarely get it right. 

And sometimes, in pursuit of holiness we get caught up in our self-righteousness, instead of His righteousness. We “do good” to those it feels good to “do good” to, and forget that the greatest good we could ever do is love our neighbors as ourselves, even if... no, especially if our neighbor is that guy who was charged with embezzling, or that girl who has a reputation. Or what about that brother or sister who wounded us? We can forgive others, but not them; the wound is too deep. Instead of grace upon grace, we heap coals of shame and cries for justice upon each other’s failed shoulders as we pridefully thank God that we’re not like that person.

 Jesus loved the outsider, the doubter, the guy who stole money from others, the woman who had been with multiple men. The broken, messed up people that religious folk turned away, these were the people God-incarnate sought out. Yet we hide our reputations behind the appearance of holiness and keep the folks Jesus loved most at arms length.

We forget that it’s not our reputation we boast in, rather it’s in the one we’ve been given. Not earned by any good deed we’ve accomplished, but by one good deed done once and for ALL. We bought the lie - hook, line, and sinker - that we aren't one of you. We believe the lie that we're all better now, and that the sin nature we were born with is gone now that we've said a prayer. 

And for that, I say, We Are SORRY. I am sorry. We have failed you by making you feel like you aren’t good enough or cleaned up enough or like you don't belong here. The truth is, none of us ever were good enough and we still aren’t.

We’re sorry for creating A-teams and B-teams, varsity and jv, when the gospel says ALL of us are big sinners in need of a BIGGER Savior.

We are sorry for pushing you out, rather than drawing you in. 

But that’s the thing about this beautiful messy table of grace, we all are wounded and wound each other. And all at the table must learn to both dish out and receive forgiveness like it's Thanksgiving Pie. 

So today, I’m begging you. Come sit with us, forgive us, find your place of rest here amongst other sinners like you. Start the journey of healing with us by your side and a God who is fighting for you always, because we’re all healing from something. And by sitting with us, sharing your story, letting us walk these messy days with you, you bless us. You help us see Jesus better by letting us sit with you in your broken story, as we ask you to sit with us in ours. Because make no mistake, regardless of pretense, everyone at the table of grace has a broken story and our common denominator is that we are all deeply loved by a gracious God.   

So today, if you’ve fallen, get back up.

Have you messed up big? Redemption awaits. 

There’s room for you at this table, always has been, always will be. Have a seat and enjoy the feast. Be known, be loved, you are welcome here. 

Posted on September 1, 2016 and filed under Story, Spiritual Journey, Suffering.