Reflecting on suffering, and how we should have joy during suffering.
Reflecting on suffering, and how we should have joy during suffering.
There was nobody standing in line. That metaphorical line of men waiting to date. Zilch. Nada. I couldn’t even pay someone. It hurt. I would drive home from a wonderful party with friends and cry the whole ride home. So many times I would pull out a little box I nicknamed my dream box. It had some pretty baby clothes, a series of letters i had written to my future husband, my purity ring, and other special things inside it. I would pull it out and cry. I would weep into the baby clothes, with a deep ache of regret that I may have lost my chance to ever have a child. What did I do wrong?
I learned some things during that period. Firstly, God is still God whether I am single or not. Thank the Lord his love and grace is not dependent on my being married. He is sovereign. I am saved. No matter what happens neither of those two things will change.
I should seek a spouse that God wants, not that I want. Too many times I got caught up in ‘The List’. It’s easy to do when you are so desperate to be with someone who loves you for you. I had a list of things my spouse had to have, be, do, look like, say. It probably bordered on ridiculous. He had to be Mr Darcy, Mr Sully, Prince William, Charles Spurgeon and Mr Miyagi all at the same time. No wonder he didn’t exist. Two years ago I felt my singleness pressing down on me in a big way. I was really burdened by it. I remember taking a walk to the beach and crying into the sunset. Then I took out a notepad, wrote down everything I wanted in a spouse, and then tore it out. I prayed for a long time. Then, I ripped it into hundreds of pieces and held the torn pieces up to the wind. I wrote later in my journal ‘I’m not going to be bound by a list anymore. I know that you will bring him to me, Lord, and that we’ll know each other when we meet.’ It changed me. To let go of that burden I’d been carrying around. Those moments of fear at His silence. To trust that God knew what I needed even before I asked him for it.
I also learned that Singleness is tough. Those who say ‘Things are so much less complicated when you are single’ would make me scoff. If only they knew, I wanted to say. It’s tough being alone. Maybe some people can enjoy it. But I’m not one of them. I would be glad to have sole reign of the remote. Yet, long to have someone to share it with. I would be glad that I didn’t have to clean my house every day to impress someone. Yet, long to have someone help me clean. I would sigh happily in the quietness of my house after a demanding day of fulfiling other’s needs, yet long to have someone break the silence. It seemed I was constantly pulled in two directions. Glad to be standing on my own two feet, yet longing to have someone stand beside me. I was working full time, serving in church, helping my family, trying to have a social life, looking after children, doing extra work and the list went on. Some days I would fall into bed exhausted. Wake up exhausted. Continue to wear myself out, mostly to hide the emptiness that always snuck up on me. It was tough. It was also hard to fight temptation. The temptation to think that you can do it all yourself, that you don’t need God.
I also learned that God’s Grace covers us. There’s not one portion of grace for the married people and another for the singles. God’s Grace is for everyone. Freely given, because we trust Him. And if God’s grace covers us, and it is freely given, it means my identity is found in Him. Not in me. Or Mr Darcy, or whoever else came across my radar. My identity is in Christ. And that changes everything. It gives you joy in the here and now, even when you feel the pain of loneliness. Your heart might be deeply scarred by past relationships you really counted on. But when you find your identity in Christ, He gives you the strength to stand. I find that comforting. Those moments I was paralysed with pain, unsure if I’d ever be able to ‘walk’ again, He came through. He always does. He took my hand and guided my every tiny faltering step. And I found peace. New hope. I found life again.
But eventually I reached a crossroads and a dilemma….
(continued next post)
Havent posted for ages. Sorry to leave you hanging. I’ll return shortly to finish up my series on Singleness and Grace (its awesome- don’t miss it). I recently Got engaged, something I never thought would happen to me. I dreamed about it, and prayed for years. but it seemed so many times that God was silent. Not to go into too much detail, because I’ll expand in my new posts, but I think I started to give up on that dream. So as you can imagine, I am filled with incredible joy. And peace. It’s amazing how both of those emotions go hand-in-hand when you are living God’s plan. Despite the joy, I have been really busy, starting back at work, making crazy wedding plans, and all the rest of the things that accompany a new year. But I wanted to take some time to say. God knows you. He loves you. and even when He feels silent, His plan continues. Back soon!
The next couple posts will be on the same theme and in several parts. They will reflect on a lot of my journey as a single person.
I don’t subscribe to the ‘Singleness is a gift’ millieu. Maybe it’s just me. But I do believe it is a Journey and that God gives us Grace for whatever journey he takes us on.
As I approached my 30s and then was single at 30 (apparently a big curse, where you’ll grow warts and be unattractive to the male species for ever, especially if you have cats, like me), I found it very difficult. It wasn’t my plan. I didn’t want to be single at 30, I wanted to be married, with lots of little children running around. but it hadn’t happened and I was devastated.
I felt like I was failing somehow, constantly analysing myself for a fatal flaw that must be a big turn off to all the young men I knew. I had a house, car, good job, I was highly educated, I went to church every sunday, I read the Bible and studied the word. I participated in church events- I should be a catch right?
Why exactly was that wrong? Why was I uninteresting to the male species? It felt like a burden at times.
Looking back I know I put too much pressure on myself. And yet I can still remember the deep sadness within me, the strange feeling of grief that I was missing something I never knew. Like children. Marriage.
People would tell me, just have more faith. Go meet more people. embrace your singleness and be all that you can be. I even met people who told me, ‘Singleness is the best, it allows you to be more Godly.’I was told to support marriage, even when I wasn’t married. Support children, even when I didn’t have any. While both of those things were crucially important, they almost served to rub salt into an already raw wound.
I searched the scriptures doggedly. I prayed every day with all the deep longings of my heart welling in my words. I felt like the verses from Psalm 77:7-9.
“Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”
When I would come home to my little house, empty, with only cats to keep me company, I would feel those verses most keenly.
And then about 3 years ago. I learned some things……
When I was a child I loved those Choose-your-own-adventure stories. Anyone, remember those?
I loved that I could choose my own ending, if I wasn’t happy with the original. Being a writer, I would often go away and rewrite my own ending anyway. I wanted an ending that satisfied my needs.
I think sometimes our lives are like that. That we pick and choose what adventures we want, hoping that our ending will satisfy us and then we wonder if maybe there was something better we could have chosen.
Ever feel that way? Where you wake up and think “this can’t be my life. I had so many other plans. So many good and wonderful things planned. And yet, how did I get here? This life isn’t what I had planned.”
When my parents were trying to grapple with the loss of their son, and I, in small childish ways, also tried to cope with the absence of a sibling, death was a very deep and painful adventure. Weeping, grief, anger, questioning, they became the new reality. It wasn’t planned. My brother’s death was spontaneous. It happened within 24 hours. Nobody could have (or would have) planned that. My parents would have given anything to rewrite that adventure.
I made a lot of bad and terrible decisions as a young person, many times fuelled by the ‘missing-ness’ I still felt in my heart. Even later when I was getting my life back together I had days where I wished I could choose a different life.
Don’t you wish there was another adventure you could choose? That these present circumstances were changeable? That you could easily turn to a new page, and write your own story instead?
See, the problem with made up stories is they are just that- made up. They appeal to us because they aren’t real. They never were.
But reality is fact. It causes us to be real. It causes us to take all the small increments of our lives and make them count for something, otherwise there is nothing to live for- count for. If our lives count for nothing, then what on earth are we here for? Why do we go through such terrible, hurtful things if our lives don’t count for anything? If there truly was no purpose to our lives, then what is the point of so much suffering?
These are philosophical questions that have been debated for centuries. And I’m not going to get into a philosophical discussion.
But I do know, that my heart is not satisfied. And as a human I am bent on walking away from God.
If you don’t believe in Him, then hear me out for just a second.
If there were a way out of the pain of reality would you choose it?
If there were a way to be happy again would you choose that?
If you could have a joyful satisfying life, with peace and hope, wouldn’t you want that instead?
For you to choose all of these things, then you have to recognize that there needs to be a greater purpose for our lives. There has be something that our realities count towards. Otherwise it is pointless.
I know I would rather choose an adventure, where I may not always know what twists and turns are waiting for me, but I do know how it ends.
I confess I used the read the ending of books first. I needed to know how it ended, if it was worth the reading journey.
When I was attending some writing classes the tutor said, “make sure you know how the story ends and write that first”.
He has written it. He has written our ending, and for Christians it isn’t an ending- it’s an eternal life of hope and joy and praising God, ultimate satisfaction in the one we call King.
But if it only ends with death, and there is nothing after that, it seems a pretty lame ending to me.
If you go to see a movie and it has taken you on an amazing, thrilling adventure only to have all the characters die at the end for no good reason, wouldn’t you feel a little ripped off? I would. I hate movies like that. If you’re going to make me sit through 2 hours of fight scenes at least let them get somewhere in the end. ‘Please let them, finally destroy the ring…’ LOL
So, go ahead and choose your adventure. But make sure you know how it ends. Because ultimately it’s the ending that really counts.
God entrusts us with the gift of suffering, so we can share his grace with others.
In my blog surfing, and website trawling, I came across the above quote on Desiring God. It really spoke to me. in early 2012, I went through an experience that made me feel like my world had fallen to pieces. At the time I was so lost in the pain, it was hard to think about even the smallest things, like cooking dinner, brushing my hair, or buying food for my cats. I remember being at the shopping centre trying to buy cat food. I could barely even remember what brand it was I usually buy. I couldn’t calculate the difference in prices between brands (I’m such a nerd shopper sometimes!) and I couldn’t even remember what aisle the pet food was in. I remember having to tell myself to breathe, and realizing I was in the laundry aisle. I’d been standing in the laundry aisle for about 5 minutes. And a sad song came on the radio. My throat was so constricted I found it hard to breathe, almost like I was suffocating. A moment of panic seized me as I realized I couldn’t find the cat food, but I couldn’t standing here listening to this song and silently suffocating. I’m not sure in the moment I was even thinking about whether or not my pain had a purpose. There is much written on the topic of suffering and we can’t even scratch the surface in one blog post. BUt I know I was in survival mode at the point of my greatest pain. I had spent a lot of time reading the word, surrounding myself with family and friends, but at the end of the day the greatest pain found me when I was alone. When I wasn’t thinking of anything in particular. When i was simply trying to muddle through one day at a time. But slowly as the pieces of my heart began to heal and I drew more and more from scriptures, I began to ponder about suffering.
I found a quote by GK Chesterton.
The one thing that would make suffering intolerable would be the thought that it was systematically inflicted upon sinners. On the other hand, the doctrine which makes it most endurable is exactly the opposite doctrine, that suffering may be a strange honour and not a vulgar punishment.
G. K. Chesterton
My suffering was a strange honour. It had a purpose. I would live through it to share it with others. This was a magnanimous discovery for me. And then I was reminded of times I spent sitting with friends in Cafes. Sharing with them my love and tears when their hearts were devastated by similar things. The deep kinship that helped them get through it, the same way I would. The knowledge of true empathy of one who has shared pain was precious to them.
Maybe that’s why I loved the Desiring God quote. Why it resonated with my heart and experience. Perhaps because it is a picture of Jesus. His suffering. His heart of empathy that has walked the road before us.
So if you are suffering now, and you feel like you have nothing left to give take comfort in the knowledge that God knows it and shares it. And He gives you grace for the journey. The following poem by Annie Flint really sums up what I have been considering in this post.
HE GIVETH MORE GRACE
He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added affliction He addeth His mercy;
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.
His love has no limit; His grace has no measure.
His pow’r has no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!
*disclaimer: no linked websites in this post have paid me to post this. I just linked them to be helpful. 🙂
I have thoroughly enjoyed the Christmas season this year, despite a little sadness from being away from my immediate family. However, my boyfriend’s family has been more than welcoming so I have immensely enjoyed the new Christmas memories (and cooler weather!). I’m blessed indeed.
It’s been a while since I did a tea post and I’m well over due for one. One of my many wonderful gifts was a new pretty tea cup. Its very japanese inspired with big blooms of camellias (I think), and lots of Blue and gold markings. Its really beautiful. I’ve nicknamed it Dandy. because, well, its a dandy. hehe
I was itching to try it out and decided to use one of my new teas, another gift. English Strawberry and Cream is a black large leaf tea, from Jeffersons Tea in Hobart, Tasmania. When you open the packet there is a delightful strawberry and cream scent. Reminds me of those strawberry and cream lollies you could get when I was a kid. The leaf tea (I adore leaf tea!) features a natural strawberry and cream flavour with delightful little strawberry chunks. It gives the tea nice berry over tones. And the colour is not the usual caramel colour, but a nice reddish strawberry coloured beverage. I added just the smallest amount of sweetener and this gave it a slight nostalgic sweetness (those lollies again), perfect for the flavouring. And of course no tea is complete without some festive shortbread to
I’m giving English Strawberry and Cream a 4 Star zing rating.
I’m a sceptic. I have the ability to look at all sides of the argument and I’m not usually satisfied til I have exhausted every avenue. Even then I’m wary of making a decision about something unless I have all the facts. I hate being one- sided and if I can’t find information for all sides if an argument it bugs me. I mean really bugs me. Sometimes it drives me to seek. To find. To use canine instinct to hunt some info down. But my natural scepticism often kicks in when I don’t want it to. Basically if you told me something, I wouldn’t believe it. I would probably batt my eyelids and nod in agreement but underneath the girly facade is a brain thinking through every tiny bit of your argument. I need proof. Cold hard proof.
But I’m also very good at thinking fast and making a quick decision. I’m even scared of this trait myself. Sometimes it appears to be a rash decision. Impulsive. Thoughtless. But somehow I have logically weighed up the decision very quickly. I still don’t understand this ability. While others are carefully weighing up the options I have thought it through and made a decision, while they are still on option 1. However, I’m also blessed with stubbornness. Lethal when mixed with scepticism. It basically means once I have made a decision usually only God can change my mind. Lol I’m good at saying no. And sticking to it. That is if I actually say no. Most of the time I’m so laid back that saying no is ‘way harsh, man. Where’s the love?’
Figure that one out. Sometimes it means I can say no to my students’ nagging and stick to it. Sometimes it means I can made a sound judgement and see the bigger picture intuitively when very few can. Sometimes it means I can engage in a debate and not back down til I ‘win’, to my shame. Sometimes I have such an insatiable appetite for knowledge and truth that I literally cannot rest until I have it worked out in my head. Sometimes it means I can be surrounded by advertising and still ignore it. Sometimes it means I will take an unpopular view on something which people view as ‘dangerous’ or ‘reckless’ and I stick to it just to prove them wrong. Sometimes it means I will spend hours researching when I should be out socialising, but driven by the need to ‘know’.
Of course I say sometimes. I am, after all, flawed. I am a girl and sometimes my emotional response takes precedence.
There’s a glimpse inside my head.
“Thank God, O women, for the quietude of your home, and that you are queen it it. Men come at eventide to the home; but all day long you are there, beautifying it, sanctifying it, adorning it, blessing it. Better be there than wear a queen’s coronet. Better be there than carry the purse of a princess. It may be a very humble home. There may be no carpet on the floor. There may be no pictures on the wall. There may be no silks in the wardrobe; but, by your faith in God, and your cheerful demeanor, you may garniture that place with more splendor than the upholsterer’s hand ever kindled.” —Reverend T. DeWitt Talmage, D.D
I love this quote and thought I would share it.
Having grown up a less than ‘quiet’ home where bitterness and anger and sadness grew out of the old creaky floorboards beneath the faded, torn carpet, something in me responds to this quote. I remember as a child thinking about my future home and what it would look like. Beyond the fancy balustrades and crystal chandeliers and children named after my sisters (I don’t think I knew that many names!!) it was hard to put my finger on what exactly I wanted. I knew I couldn’t care less about a high-flying career (though how one would pay for those chandeliers who knows!!). I knew I wanted children. And I knew that staying at home with said children would be precious. I think there was a certain amount of fear when I thought about it all. Fear because I didn’t want to end up alone with children like my mum. Fear because i didn’t want to be struggling, I didn’t want my children living on old torn carpets or in rooms with cracked walls. I didn’t want them to be worrying every night about money. I didn’t want them wishing for riches and not appreciating what they already had. I was probably too young to be thinking about such things, but I remember the fear was very real to me.
As I got older I started to change my thinking. I’m independent. I can do this just as well as men can. I am equal to men. I am sometimes better than men. I don’t need a man, I can do this by myself. Putting immeasurable pressure on myself to get better. To break the poverty cycle we lived in. To raise myself from the ashes.
Notice I used a lot of ‘Me’ ‘Myself’ and ‘I’? I was selfish. I knew I wanted God in my life. But trusting him completely was huge. What if he didn’t give me what I want?
When I was 27 and diagnosed with Cancer, I remember finally realising what it was I really wanted.
To live. It didn’t matter whether I achieved or not. I just wanted to live. In peace.
That’s what was missing from those childish daydreams. A peaceful home. Just a simple home where people loved each other and lived in peace.
It took me a long time to work out that the only way of living in peace was By trusting in someone greater than me.
Why did I share this quote? I love the importance it places on the role of the home-maker. How we are instruments of peace in our own homes. That’s a pretty powerful role.
I still dream about chandeliers occasionally. but I’d settle for plastic ones.
I don’t like crowds. Which is weird since I’m a teacher. But I do all I can to avoid christmas or holiday crowds. This year I’m making a majority of gifts. Which has the dual purpose of avoiding crowds and cleaning out my craft cupboard. 🙂 Oh and of course it saves me money as well by using what I already have. Problem is, I have so many crafts. I have little patience. Which ones to do that aren’t tacky or rushed? Yet are fast and effective? hmm….. The quandary.
So in an effort not to give anything away, here’s some clues. wool. material. wire. beads. ribbon.
Hope they aren’t too lame. 😀
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