Have you acknowledged to yourself that, despite your best efforts and optimistic overlook, there are seasons that are astonishingly hard? Despite the happy face we deliberately choose to encourage other people, or even the perhaps less well-intentioned social media posts presenting the highlight reels of our lives, there are days, episodes, even entire seasons when we live anywhere but Easy Street.
This week my daughterRachel Carpenter and I were texting about the winter of the soul we both had experienced in the last year, made bleaker by the significant struggles and hurts of those we care about so deeply. Her texts were so...well, I can't describe them. But they were mightily on point, and I asked her if she would type them up and let me share. She agreed. Here they are. I'm going to reflect a moment at the end. Please know these come from a very difficult head and heart space, but not a depressed one.
There are people in my life, people very close and dear to me, experiencing repeated struggles, losses, and disappointments.
I feel it with them.
I hate when people I love struggle.
It's a pit in my stomach and a weight on my chest.
Both have just seemed to get bigger and heavier the last few years.
I often face the fact that I haven't felt "light" in longer than I can remember.
Just today I was contemplating it -
because I believe I am stronger with and closer to Jesus than ever in my whole life; but I'm failing all the time to experience joy the way I used to.
So I was questioning whether that's a symptom of the world in me -
or a side effect that the more like Jesus I become…
the closer my spirit gets to true heaven...
the more heavy and out of place I feel anywhere but there.
I've realized, in continuing evolutions, that I am grossly ill-equipped to make life for myself
or others exactly as I want it to be.
And maybe that isn't even best anyway.
Maybe the best comes packaged really hard most of the time.
If I think about that too long, though, it becomes difficult to breathe.
You see, I hope to live a long life, but I can't imagine living 50 more years where everyday sort of feels as though I’m trying to skip like I used to - but now my shoes are cinder blocks.
And speaking of shoes…
all the while, waiting for the other shoe to drop on the next loss/disappointing circumstance/heartache/cinder block I will need to carry for a lifetime.
Like the "lasts”.
There are so many lasts in this life,
and so often I am woefully unaware that it's the last.
Like the last time I felt light-hearted about life and just joy in a normal day with sunshine and no cares. I don't know when the last time was. I didn't know to hold on to it and cherish it.
Like the last time it was just me, my parents, and my brothers.
On vacation. Or some other family memory-making.
I couldn't tell you what the last one was.
Because I didn't know it was the last.
I didn't know how to treasure it.
And now I miss it.
There’s a wonderful family friend that places prominently throughout my growing up years.
He's in such a struggling place.
My heart hurts because I know the man from my childhood is gone.
This life is short,
and there is no time or ability for him to go back to being that person
with those opportunities.
I'm desperate to have as few pains and regrets as possible in this way with my boys.
But I fear, no matter how good a mom I manage to be, it's inevitable to have heartfuls of aching when I realize I already experienced the last time they will crawl in my lap, ask to snuggle, hold my hand, want me most…
And I didn't know it was the last.
My multi-layered thoughts can be overwhelming.
Especially the fact that they don't come with any answers, really.
Maybe I just keep pursuing Jesus.
When I'm hit with circumstances and realities that knock me to the floor,
I'm figuring out ways to go to him with it.
Let his truth trump my reality.
Get grace and strength just for that day.
To just take the next best step…
Confident God is with me.
I mean maybe the truth that I have to leave people with is that it is all just going to be really hard. And somehow try to convince them that the really hard is still
PROFOUNDLY WORTH IT.
Whew. If that didn't hit you where you live, maybe you aren't grown up yet. I feel every aching, stretching line of that to my core. But since I am Rachel's Mom, with several more decades of walking with Jesus, I can add this.
Happiness masquerades as joy for moments, but they are fleeting. You will find as life moves on that you ENJOY happiness, but rely on JOY. Joy is when "his truth trump(s)my reality." I "get grace and strength just for that day. To just take the next best step...Confident God is with me." Every season like this you pass through with Jesus, every time you are knocked to the floor and there is no answer for it, but you pursue Jesus through it, you discover more and more that answers are overrated, but the Presence is irreplaceable.
Yes, my darling, it is absolutely true. The closer my spirit gets to true heaven, the more heavy and out of place I feel anywhere but there. You will never experience the happiness you felt at one time in the same way you once did. It is impossible to hold on to that forever. The first time you live through unutterable loss, suffer the unmerited and cutting wind of betrayal swooping in out of nowhere, you lose your innocence. You realize that harsh, bad, evil, uncontrollable things happen, and they happen to you, too. No amount of goodness can opt you out. We have an Enemy who comes to steal and destroy. He succeeds too much of the time. You were created for heaven, not for here. One of our dear elderly friends whose heart has been exactly where you are so many times wrote today, "Please Jesus, take me home where I belong as soon as possible, please."
But in the midst of being here, we discover he can never steal forever the precious treasures we put in God's hands. Our God is a Sustainer and Restorer. There will be a day. A day when every God-inspired hope and dream will find perfect fulfillment.
Until then. Until then, we have some, even many, glorious days when sunshine sparkles and for a moment the battle stops. Until then, we have some days when the losses take us to our knees, when the injustice and pain of life is suffocating. But always we have Jesus. He said, "In this world you will have trouble, but don't be afraid, I have overcome the world."
And because we have Jesus, we do have irrepressible joy. You KNOW that he is with you. You know the things given to him can never be destroyed. And so, this season will slowly and almost unannounced, come to an end. You will wake up some morning and you willknow everything you know now, but you will also feel the "happy" stealing slowly over you like sunshine streaming through your window warming you to wake up on a June morning. Anticipation of what is ahead will fill your heart again. Not reckless, naive excitement, but hope and satisfaction. You will recognize the happiness...she will look a lot like her mother, JOY. And you know her very well. She never goes away. I can hear her softly singing right now.
It will be really hard. Really wonderful. Really worth it.
Profoundly worth it.