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Jesus is enough… the main lesson of 2012

2012 is coming to a close.  This was the year my engagement fell apart, my marriage didn’t happen, my brother ignored me, a good many of my friends forgot me and I lost my purpose in this life.  Needless to say, it’s been a tough one.  I was trying to think what to write to sum it up on this, the final day of the year.  But I think I’ve already written it.  I write an annual letter at the end of each year to a lady who was an important spiritual leader to me in my youth.  Her teachings and guidance provided some of the first building blocks for my faith and so I try to update her on the happenings of my life each year.  This year was a little different, it was hard.  Not that every year isn’t hard, but this one was especially so…  I lost so much, but learned so much too.  How do you sum that up?  Well, I thought it best to just post here an excerpt from my letter this year.  Hopefully it will be uplifting to any of you, my readers, that may be going through some trials of your own…  I pray that God blesses each of your hearts with peace and your lives with joy in the new year…

The letter…

… As for me, well, hope and joy have fallen a bit short this year. Where I expected to be and where, as it turns out, I actually am, has proven to be one of the most challenging journeys of my life. It has been a time like no other, one that has brought me to my knees countless times weeping in prayer asking God simply, “Why?”  Why is life so hard, why are relationships so difficult, why doesn’t anything seem to work out for me, why, in all honesty, am I even here?

Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time?” ~2 Corinthians 1:17

In this particular moment, Paul and Timothy shared with the church of Corinth about making their plans based upon earthly wisdom and how that brings indecision into our lives. As I reread this passage this year, I feel that for the first time, I truly understood the deep anxiety of not listening to God’s voice. I entered into an engagement fully convinced that it was God’s plan for my life (and I do still feel that it was His plan by the way). I felt complete peace during that time. But shortly after, things changed, and I had the greatest difficulty understanding that it may also be God’s plan for the engagement to fail, for the marriage not to happen and for me to walk a very lonely and grieved path for a time. I still felt it was His plan for me to finally open my heart completely to someone and to help him. I am a fixer, it is a trait I hold by nature, and so despite the angry words he repeatedly spoke and the lack of responsibility he displayed time and time again, I really still thought God had brought us together to share a lifetime. But I had my doubts and they were growing. I wanted to say, “yes, yes” and move forward to a new life, start a family, create a home… but my inner voice knew something was wrong and was whispering with increasing volume, “no, no – this is not right.”  That inner voice, God’s voice, knew there was, and is, something better for me. But you see, the pressures of society, the dreams I had built up in my mind and the hope that surely he was the one for me all continued to convince me to stay the course. Staying that particular course, however, was not God’s plan at all…

“And He said to them, Why are you disturbed and troubled, and why do such doubts and questionings arise in your hearts?” ~Luke 24: 38


Jesus asked His people this very question after He’d been crucified and had defeated death for us all. The onlookers doubted Him even then, despite seeing the scars on His hands. I would love to say that I’m the ultimate disciple, always serving, never doubting, always trusting, and always giving God full control of my life. But alas, I am human. I have doubts every day. I don’t trust nearly as much as I should and I hardly ever turn my life completely over to Him. I can see and hear God perfectly and clearly and still not believe that He is there. I am just that stubborn… or fearful. Fearful that God’s plan isn’t what I want. Fearful that by truly understanding all that Jesus gave for me, that I would then have to sacrifice something too. When the engagement ended, I was crushed. I saw God clearly in that moment and still doubted that it was the right thing. As much as I tried to believe it all happened according to God’s plan, I struggled to see the light. In that moment, I lost dreams, I lost companionship, I lost plans, I lost purpose, I lost love, I lost hope, I lost faith…

“Instantly Jesus reached out His hand and caught and held him, saying to him, O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” ~Matthew 14: 31


When the wind was calm Peter walked on the water toward Jesus feeling secure, but the moment the wind stirred, the water became rough and he was enveloped in darkness, he became afraid, his faith was tested. His faith being small, he called out to Jesus to save him for fear he would sink. Then Jesus questions his lack of faith. Jesus has questioned my lack of faith countless times throughout this year. The waters were rough and I was sinking fast. Not only was I mourning the loss of the different life I was supposed to have, but also, unexpectedly the loss of several friendships. During a time when I needed them most, they deserted me. Mostly busy with their own lives moving forward, they forgot that I was in need. I suppose a broken heart and crushed spirit isn’t nearly as obvious to the casual observer as say, an illness or the grieving of a lost loved one. It is a hidden hurt, a hidden burden. But at the same token their happiness was too much for me to bear. And all this hurt worked to resurface an old wound, one that long ago had never healed properly, this was the greatest wound of all, it brought the dissolve of my relationship with my brother. Oh what I would have given during the painful days of this last year to have a comforting word or hug from my big brother letting me know it was all going to be okay. But it never came. Not one word. His silence was the loudest noise in my ears and it was deafening. Again I wondered why God would have allowed all of these challenges come upon me all at once. I was bewildered. I was rocked to the core. No marriage, no friends, no brother. My faith continued to wane. My days of darkness brought such anguish; I was so depressed some days that I found it difficult to get out of bed. Lost was no longer just a verb detailing all the many things that had suddenly disappeared from my life, lost had become the adjective describing me. I was so lost…

“Where there is no counsel, purposes are frustrated, but with many counselors they are accomplished.” ~Proverbs 15: 22


While solace can be found in scripture and my beautiful mother’s wise words, sometimes a little extra help is necessary to deal with all the earthly thoughts and feelings I have had. During my darkest days I found very little comfort, there was no peace in anything. I had been abruptly jerked away from the life I thought I would have, the life I was planning for, only to be left stranded, wandering aimlessly alone and searching for my new place in this world. So many confusing thoughts and feelings were flowing out of the brokenness.  I couldn’t make sense of it all. Often too self-reliant, like the Sadducees, it is as if God were speaking directly to me when he said to them in Matthew 16:3, “And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” I was leaning too hard on my own understanding, as small as it was, and could not interpret all that was occurring in my life. God had allowed this incredible destruction and I was struggling to figure out how to make sense of it all and even begin to pick up the pieces and put myself back together. But, what I didn’t realize was that He wasn’t asking me to do that and especially not on my own. There is value to be found and lessons to be learned in the brokenness.  As I was reminded in Romans 5:3-5, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” God was using this time to develop endurance and character and strength and hope. He was using this time to teach me. So He put it on my heart to do something I have never done before; He asked me to seek help and guidance. Just as Israel sought his healing in Hosea 6:1 by stating, “Let’s return to the Lord. He has torn us to shreds, but he will bandage our wounds and make us well.” Feeling torn to shreds, and feeling there was no other option, I began weekly visits to an unbiased counselor who has, by all accounts, provided tremendous comfort when I thought I was going insane. She has listened intently and given thoughtful analysis about the failed engagement and failed friendships. We have spent months working through much of my past with my brother and even my father. Issues that for years I have fought tirelessly to bury deep within my heart. I’ve been able to tuck them away and not ever fully embrace or feel them until now when the grief of a lost engagement pushed me beyond reason and all past hurts were brought to light. But with her help I’ve given words to my pent-up emotions, I’ve released 33 years of tension and resentment, and I’ve worked at improving upon my weaknesses and allowing love and forgiveness into my life. She has helped me to realize that there is beauty in my brokenness and that even in our most distraught hour, positivity can re-energize a hopeless heart…

“But forget all that is in the past—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” ~Isaiah 43:18-19


Just as the Lord God gave mercy to the unfaithful people of Israel, He has given mercy to me. He has forgiven me of my weakness, my doubts, my absent faith. He told them to forget what is in the past and He promises that He has something new and greater set for them in their future. And better yet, that He’s already begun His work. While there is still work to do on my end for my past to be forgotten, I am assured that God has already moved on. He is already creating for me something new, something wonderful, something so great that it will put my past to shame. In the Psalms it is said, “You made me suffer trials, but you will bring me back from this pit and give me new life .You will make me truly great and take my sorrows away.” Counseling has helped me to devise new ways to handle my pain and disappointment in this world. This new wisdom allows me to also open my eyes and my heart once again to whatever new that God has set for my future. It has helped me to see Him more clearly. It has strengthened my faith. He promises to make a pathway for me when I’m lost in the wilderness and that a vibrant life will flow again from my once dried and weary spirit, just as He promised the people of Israel. Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world”  in John 16:33… what sweet comfort that is knowing that my Savior has overcome this world that has given me such struggle…

“So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry; for this will remain with him in his labor all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun.” ~Ecclesiastes 8:15


As Solomon tells his kingdom here that we should be merry and enjoy this life that God gives us, I found that it is possible to find happiness and joy again amid the pain and trials. As I continued to organize my thoughts and feelings, sort out the past and try to forget it, learn my lessons and strengthen my faith, I realized quickly that I was still missing this very important component. And so after more soul-searching I was reintroduced to this illusive joy I hadn’t experienced in so very long.  The Lord declared, “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands” in Isaiah 55:12. While I heard no songs from the mountains nor applause from the trees, my joy started to return instead to the sounds of the beating of horse hooves and soft, muzzled snorts against my sleeve on a cold October morning. The Lord led me back to a place where I, years ago, had found more peace and joy than my heart could contain. A place where my weary soul now finds respite, a place that replaces hurt with joy, a place to fill up the brokenness…

 
I heard it said once that when the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks and binding it back together with gold. That instead of finding it worthless and throwing it away, they believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful, so they honor the chips and cracks. I believe, more than ever, that God looks at us much the same way. According to Psalms 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” But He doesn’t stop there. Job tells us in Chapter 23, Verse 10 that “He knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” He has allowed me to be damaged, to be broken, but as He is binding up my wounds He is binding them with gold. God finds me more valuable and beautiful for His Kingdom in my brokenness.  Because it is in my brokenness that I have grown closer to Him, I have clung to His Word, I have grown more compassionate to all those who suffer, and I have realized that Jesus is enough.


Those many months that I spent waiting for my big brother to spare a kind word or a gentle hug to reassure me that everything was going to be alright, well, what I failed to recognize is that all the while, my Father had me wrapped tightly in His arms, and that was, and is, always enough. He not only binds my wounds, my cracks, my imperfections with gold, but He fills them, He fills me with grace, God’s amazing grace. I live because He lived, and He not only lived, but He lives today. He lives in me, around me, above me, below me, beside me… I am never alone. What an incredible gift! No matter what I face, no matter how many dreams and plans and relationships fall apart, I am never alone.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” ~James 1:2-4


I may never be anyone’s wife or mother, I may never feel like I have a brother again, I may never live in a grand house or have millions of dollars. I may lose more people in this life than I gain. I may have more disappointment and hardship than I could ever imagine. I may not even have tomorrow. But I am lacking in nothing. God provides me with everything I need and He directs my paths. In Isaiah 30:20-21 we are told , “But now you will again see the Lord , your teacher , and He will guide you . Whether you turn to the right or to the left , you will hear a voice saying “This is the road ! Now follow it .” My prayers now are for God to guide me down the road He wishes me to take and to use me, to use my gifts and my life in a way that will serve Him. All my past hurts, my difficulties and struggles, the great losses I’ve had in my life from the deaths of so many loved ones to the demise of important relationships, surely He intends to use these experiences and all my learned lessons for His good. “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” ~ Philippians 4:9. The Lord wastes nothing and so while I could regret my engagement, I don’t. His plan was fulfilled. He brought me to my knees weeping in prayer creating in me the need to face all my hurts and resolve all of my sorrow… I have faith that for some reason beyond my understanding, He meant for me to walk through this fire. As the plagues rained down on Egypt, God said in Exodus 9:16, “But for this very purpose have I let you live, that I might show you My power, and that My name may be declared throughout all the earth.” In my despair, my confusion and my weakness, God has shown me His great and mighty power again and again. While sadness and heartache are of this world and so will be a part of my life until I enter the gates of Heaven, I have confidence that He holds me securely, just as He held Peter in the rough waters. And He has plans for me, that He’ll guide me and teach me, and He’ll heal my broken heart and bind me with gold, and that one day, He’ll reveal what my purpose is in this life. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11

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