Pain, an Invitation to Hope

I’m compelled by the beauty of those who have walked down broken pathways but still lift their eyes to a horizon of hope before them. I’m compelled by the people that have shaped their scars into stories that tell of a merciful, loving, compassionate God in the midst of a weary and broken world. Their light humbles me, because it shines the light of a love that’s far greater than anything life could hand us. It’s something grown, something tended, and something far greater than anything we stumble upon. Yes, it’s far more than that, it’s something formed.

Pain changes things. Even more, pain changes how we see things. Pain, I’m learning, can be the greatest invitation to hope that we’ve ever received. Pain is loud and its presence cannot be overlooked, but it’s amazing the way it responds to hope. Pain doesn’t scream and shout in the midst of hope, it speaks kindly of a healing and redemption and love. Pain heals when it meets hope. Pain isn’t the completion of things, pain isn’t the end of the story. I see it in the light of those who walk through dark valleys but know they’re only passing through. I see it in the light of those who are not afraid when the winds and waves rush through their lives, for they know that love can never be shaken or taken or diluted. I see it in the people who use their scars as invitations to others with fresh wounds, letting them know that healing exists even in the midst of brokenness and pain. Pain, I’ve found, isn’t always lifted this side of heaven. But pain is never useless. It’s not the pain itself so much as the way it’s shaped our stories. It’s not the pain we feel so much as the lessons and the growth and the healing that it opens us up into. Maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising that some of the greatest fruits –compassion, and forgiveness, and love, and hope—are the things that are not found, but grown. They’re rare because of the process we must grow them through. I’ve found that heartache and loss and sickness and grief don’t stop there, they grow to become empathy, and compassion, and love, and gentleness, and patience, and understanding, and generosity, and selflessness, if only we let them. And when you stumble upon a person who lets them, my goodness, they will take your breath away. You will be knocked off of your feet in the midst of their beauty, because they are shining the beauty of our Lord.

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Week 4: It’s Okay to Rest; It’s Okay to Need Care

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. ~1 Peter 5:7

In her book, “You’re Already Amazing”, Holley Gerth dedicates a chapter to why it’s okay for us to care for ourselves. She gives us permission to release the lie that “it’s selfish to care for ourselves” and instead, guides us to the truth that we need to care for ourselves so that we have the inner resources to care for those around us. She gives us the imagery of an “emotional bank account” and talks about how it’s so important to balance our deposits and withdrawals. I find her simple explanation so refreshing. It clicks in the way that lights up the eyes and an understanding “ohhhh!” escapes the lips (or, the more comical light-bulb flicking on above the head). When I took time to reflect on this, I noticed just how out of sync my “balance” was, and I fear that you may find the same. It is so easy to overextend our energy balance when each movement costs us valuable energy, but in a way, it is such a powerful little reminder about prioritizing, simplifying, and accepting the here and now so we can return to a state of balance.

I believe, with such joy, that spending time with Christ with an open heart and surrendered spirit leads to us finding true balance. He’s the God of radiant redemption. It’s time to let Him gently take off our masks that say, “I’m fine” and “I should be able to do more”, to let Him lovingly draw near to us and intimately look into the face of His child. Let Him see your authentic soul, He longs to. He knows you need care, and He isn’t disappointed. There is no shame in Christ. No guilt, no earning, no striving, and no condemnation. Especially not for the weak, for it’s the weak He came to rescue (Mark 2:17). We believe many lies that steal our rest and joy, and I believe this deeply saddens our Lord. Our all-loving Jesus knows just how to cleanse us from these lies. He knows how to help us see that it’s not selfish to rest (Matthew 11:28). He knows we don’t need to “do more” because He has already accomplished the true victory (Romans 5:6). He knows how to help us stop striving to please others so vigorously that it leaves us empty (Galatians 1:10-11), and He knows how to fill us up again (John 16:26). He knows how to remove our doubts, insecurities, and anxieties and replace them with peace (John 14:27). And the most beautiful thing He knows how to do is simply to care for you (Luke 12:6-7). I pray that you will let speak truth into your life and spread peace throughout your soul.

{If you’d like to read the original post 5 Truths Your Heart Needs to be Reminded, please click here!)

When Loss is Gain

A few weeks ago, one of my closest friends and I went on a tiny adventure to a church in a neighboring town. It was a night of worship and a message for college aged kids, and the large and lovely church was filled to the brim with twenty-somethings. The summer series had just begun, and it was all about Godly relationships.

The speakers were a married couple, and they spoke about the significance of self-sacrificial relationships. Kemper began with the example of a fuse; the component of a structure that is designed to fail so that the rest of the machine doesn’t. He spoke about how when an overwhelming electrical current hits, the fuse is designed to take that current so that the other parts of the mechanism don’t have to. The fuse gives itself up, by design, for the sake of the machine. He then turned this example to us and spoke about how we need to let go of certain parts of ourselves for the sake of our relationships. Both he and Laura were careful to explain that we need to be attentive to what we are willing to sacrifice. We need to let go of the negatives, not the positives. We need to let go of the things that hinder God’s glory in the relationship, not make decisions just to please the other person. I couldn’t have worded it any more beautifully and cleverly as they did that night. Their words deeply touched my heart. The truth was so refreshing; so soothing. It’s stayed with me, and it’s reached toward other parts of my life, as well. Because I can’t help but think that if we need to let go of negative things like selfishness, fears, and control to have graceful, nurtured, and healthy relationships with others (and we know we do!), don’t we need to do the same for our own well-being, too?

It may seem to be a strange question. How can we be selfless, for the sake of ourselves? But let’s put it another way:

“…Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” ~Hebrews 12:1

Because when the stress hits, and the choices come, and the days ache, what are we releasing and what are we gripping? Because, my dear friend, if we are clenching our pride and we are releasing our peace, we really must reconsider our choice. What is it that hinders, that so easily entangles us? Are we willing to let go?

Are we willing to let go of the fear of the unknown, so that we can hold on our faith in our unfailing, all-loving Christ?

Are we willing to let go of our prideful desire to do everything ourselves, so that we can accept the grace and hospitality of others?

Are we willing to let go of trying to accomplish tasks we know we are not well enough to, so that we can spare ourselves energy much needed for the things we can do?

Are we willing to let go of the lies that we are incapable, so that we can rejoice over our accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem?

I pray that our view of our relationships and ourselves would be refreshed with the gentle and powerful reminder. We are designed with a vast, intimate potential for intentional, faithful, redeemed relationships and that comes from letting ourselves be freed from all the lies that have stood in the way. This starts in our own hearts. Let us be kinder to ourselves today.

May I ask you this: what are you willing to give up today? And what will you gain when you lose it?

(If you would like to learn more about the message I referenced, please view the “Vintage Ministries” podcast: Love and Nunchuck’s #2 by Kemper and Laura Lewis.)