This pain is not forever. It will pass away in time, as seasons change. It will be healed, touched by the one who tasted death on our behalf. Or it will be taken away one day in glory, when eternity outshines time.
We cannot now say which it will be, but we can be certain of its end, and its redemption.
My mind disfigured your face in my mind, Painted piercing eyes, uncompassionate, Shaming, in place of those you said I’d find. My view of you and you were disparate Persons, known too well and not well enough. “You” imposed a self-imposed prison cell, Held hopeless standards, always called my bluff. I was always guilty, not free, unwell. Thus I assumed from this false gospel, lie Of law’s freedom. Truth is not so broken. You are love. Your yoke brings rest, peace, a sigh Of relief, rooted in words you’ve spoken: “I have overcome the world.” Now I see Your overcoming work extends to me.
I’ve gotten some good rest this weekend. I ate breakfast at Chick-fil-A (always good). Some artists I love released some new music. Leicester City lost (sad, but normal). All is as it should be.
Also, I’m turning 32.
In some ways, this feels like the first time in my life I’ve got a decent handle on things. I’ve got a better understanding of my health, mentally, spiritually, and physically, and I feel better equipped to manage those areas well. I’ve got a consistent work schedule that allows me room for rest and for study. I’m taking steps academically both in the pursuit of a degree and professionally. I’m in a healthy relationship, and we’re learning how to love each other well day by day. On many levels, things are going well.
In other ways, life feels out of control. The holiday season was full of travel, sickness, and tension in relationships. Finances continue to be a source of stress. Changes in job situations and church families, while not bad things in and of themselves, make life feel different and bring new challenges. On top of these, the future remains unknown, and the uncertainty can feel threatening at times.
I’ve never been one to have detailed plans for the future, so I can’t say I had any expectations for my thirties. I’ve written before that life up to this point hasn’t necessarily looked like I thought it might, but it’s not as if I had a set path in mind that’s been thrown off by my actual experience. Rather, some doors have closed that I thought might stay open while others have opened that I didn’t expect. In some cases, doors I thought I’d never see open again have opened, with blessings beyond any I could have imagined.
Still, the future can feel overwhelming at times, in spite of all the ways the Lord has proven faithful so far. Maybe that’s why Joshua chapter 1 proved such an encouragement to me this weekend. There, God speaks to Joshua in preparation for Israel’s entrance into the promised land. Moses, the legendary leader, has died, and Joshua now stands in his place. Joshua has seen the rebellious nature of the people, the burden of leadership, and the immensity of the task before him. The weight, I’m sure, felt heavy. Yet God’s message to Joshua was not one of impossible standards or increased stress, but of encouragement.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
God meets Joshua with a reminder of his presence with him, giving him reason for strength and courage and peace. He didn’t have to fear or worry.
I don’t know what this next year holds for me. I have questions, fears, doubts, insecurities. I can easily grow overwhelmed. But I’m reminded that I belong to God, and God has not failed me yet. So I enter this year with hope in him, knowing that I need not fear or be dismayed.
The Lord who is my shepherd knows my path. When I was lost in darkness, he was there With purposes of love and not of wrath, Compassionate and kind and full of care. He knew how long the wandering would last And all that would be lost along the way. He sets all seasons—future, present, past— Sustaining through the night, bringing the day. Our Lord is always working, always good, Always aware of us, our faults, our haste. Before him, we are always understood, And with him, there is never any waste. We make our messes. He is not surprised. His purposes will still be realized.
Sure, sickness isn’t fun. It frustrates plans, drains your energy, and introduces all kinds of discomfort to life. If you’re like me, when you begin to feel the early signs of sickness, you don’t rejoice. You dread it a bit, hoping you’ll be able to fight it off but knowing you likely won’t. Sickness, sadly, is often a process you just have to endure. It’ll pass in time, but until it does, you’re stuck with it and with all that it brings.
But one thing I’ve learned to appreciate about sickness is its ability to make me rest.
I seem to remember an illustration from some book I read about a guy who said he wouldn’t mind having a major surgery because it would force him to stop moving for a while. The point I remember taking away from the story was that his life was so filled with work that he couldn’t slow down, couldn’t rest. Honestly, there’s probably more relevance to me there than I’d like to admit. But nevertheless, I’ve found his point to be true. Sickness forces me to stop, to cease from my usual busyness and give my body a chance to heal. And in those moments, I find true rest.
Saturday was one of those days. I’d just been treated for a sinus infection and some bronchitis, and I was feeling it. But I also didn’t have any responsibilities in urgent need of my attention, so I could let myself relax. And I did. I slept in a bit, walked around a holiday market on campus, enjoyed a quiet afternoon by myself, and spent some time with friends that night. I woke up the next morning having slept well, and I felt more rested than I had in a long time.
I know my brain enough to know that a big part of my ability to rest that day was due to me feeling justified in devoting that day to rest and recreation. When I’m busy, even my off days tend to have agendas, which can diminish the amount of restfulness I gain from them. So the mixture of minimal responsibilities and sickness allowed me to embrace more fully the opportunity to relax. I get that, and I’m thankful for it. But as I enjoy the benefits of rest and feel more motivated to do the work set before me, I’m wondering if this is what God had in mind when he set the Sabbath day in place.
My view of the Sabbath typically tends to look like just another agenda item in my week. On some days, I work. On some days, I run errands. On the Sabbath day, I rest. Check, check, check. But viewing it that way takes away from the point of it, I think. While I ought to prioritize rest, disciplining myself to engage in it, I wonder if I’m missing something by treating it as just one more thing to do each week. Maybe the key is to see it like I saw Saturday: a day to enjoy the life God’s given me and to walk in the freedom he provides. Maybe if I did that more often, I’d feel more rested all around. Maybe if I considered this approach more often, I’d learn to walk more closely with God all week long. Maybe if I rested better each week, I’d be more productive at work too.
I’m not sure I’ve got it figured out. I’m sure I still have more to learn about work and rest. But I’m thankful for a day like Saturday and for the sickness that brought it about, and I’m thankful for the way God was able to use it in my life. And I hope, by his grace, to rest better as he gives the opportunity.
Note: I think the illustration I referenced earlier is either from Your Money Counts by Howard Dayton or Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero, if anyone is interested in finding the source.
When you grow anxious at the sense of haste Accomp’nying the work that you must do And worry all your work will be a waste, You overlook some truths that still hold true. Your urgent need in urgency is peace Found not in ragged running but in rest. Responsibility includes release Of self and circumstances. God knows best. And so you must walk slowly, taking time As if it is a gift and not a curse, And find your joy within the steady climb, Steadfast should things grow better or grow worse. The times you feel most restless, then be still, Held by the God who rests and his good will.
When I look back, I do not see successes. At least, I do not see them easily. Instead, I see a mind that second-guesses And find that failure fits more feasibly. When I look back, I do not see your mercies, Or seeing them, still feel they are not true. All good seems covered up in controversies, In all the ways I failed and still fail you. When I look back, I see the circumstances That roll like waves across a wind-swept sea. I do not see the Son, the second-chances, The grace that still abounds for those like me. When I look back, I must distrust the lies That claim truth is determined by my eyes.