When the cup won’t pass from you

Image from manassaschurch.org

I’m learning a new lesson in God’s love and grace. It sucks.

For the past few months, I’ve been experiencing what some would refer to as “a dark night of the soul.” My mind and emotions are in deep turmoil. I often struggle to function at normal tasks. I’m constantly cycling between periods of anger, grief, and utter blankness. I can’t pray, can’t see more than an inch in front of me. It’s like I’m standing in a raging cyclone of snow, rain and hail. And in this time of desperate, extreme need, God is almost completely silent.

Except for these two words: “Just heal.”

“What does that mean, God? How do I do that?”

“Just heal.”

If you’re thinking that sounds like hell, you’re right. It’s hell of the worst kind. But… Continue reading

A Time to Heal

Image copyright Mary Southard, CSJ @ marysouthardart.org

When I was growing up under conservative evangelicalism, it seemed everyone was always in a rush:

The return of Christ is imminent! Jesus could appear at any moment! The fields are white for harvest! It’s time to get busy! There are millions of people all around us who have never heard the name of Jesus! They are destined for HELL! We have to reach as many as we can before time is up!!! We have to get our kids on the front lines! If you aren’t preaching from the tabletops in the cafeteria, YOU ARE DEAD TO THE URGENCY OF CHRIST’S CALLING!!!”

If you were grieving, you had to ‘get over it.’ If you were wounded, you had to suck it up. If you were ill-equipped, you had to ‘fake it till you make it.’ If you were sick, you got two prayers at the altar and then plenty of shaming for not having the faith to be healed instantly. People were dying and burning in endless torment. There wasn’t time to bear the burdens of the faithful! Continue reading

Entering into His Rest

For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to take the holy advice of my Christian friends and find rest in my Savior. It’s proven to be one of most disturbingly painful experiences of my life thus far.

A few months ago, I told the Lord that I wanted to draw closer to him. He said, “OK,” then proceeded to drag down all of my internal supports and kick me onto my face. All of my usual coping mechanisms for dealing with life’s hardships were suddenly rendered null and void. I became incapable of carrying the burdens that I normally carried. Now I struggle to pray for myself, let alone anyone else. The light of joy that had finally begun to blaze in my heart weeks before has flickered and grown dark. Most of the time when I’ve tried to explain to others what’s going on with me, they stare at me like I have three heads. The grief and humiliation has been almost beyond bearing.

If there’s a level of brokenness beyond this, I don’t want to know about it.

The few times that I have been able to pray, I have asked God to help me enter His rest. Up until recently, though, the help didn’t appear to be forthcoming. Finally, in frustration, I asked God, “Will I ever enter your rest?”

He answered, “I don’t know. Will you?” 

I…what?! Continue reading

The Sufficiency of Grace

I’ve got a message for you today. You’re not going to like it. It’s about grace.

I was feeling really crappy last week. I mean, really. On the verge of hysterical screams, in fact. My stress level was out of control, and I just couldn’t seem to pull it together. So I did something to put my pain into perspective. I found a picture of the crucified Jesus on the Internet (see right), made a little motivational poster out of it and hung it up in my cubicle at work. It said, “Even Jesus had bad days.” And below that, 2 Corinthians 12:9: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'”

There was something terribly poignant about that verse and that image coming together. Two hours later, I wanted to tear the poster off the wall. Continue reading

I’m in a relationship with Jesus, and it’s complicated

About four months ago, I decided I wanted to grow much deeper in my faith. I had just come out of a years-long spiritual desert and was ready to learn how to walk in the fresh outpouring of the Spirit that I sensed was finally falling upon my heart. So I bought some study books and kicked off my new spiritual journey with a week of prayer and fasting.

Since then, I’ve seen God do some incredible things in my life. He’s expanded my faith exponentially. He’s deepened my understanding of the gospel and strengthened my spiritual gifts. He’s given me favor on the job. He’s brought greater health to my body and peace to my heart. He’s answered several of my prayers in miraculous ways. I should be on top of the world, right?? Continue reading