Rejoicing through the heaviness of life

Things brings you great joy although you may have to suffer for a short time in various trials. Such trials show the proven character of your faith, which is much more valuable than gold – gold that is tested by fire, even though it is passing away – and will bring praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7, NET)

Based on one of my recent posts, you have probably gotten an inkling that it has been a particularly trial-filled season for Jason and I. I have shared some of the externals–how we were both sick with strep, Jason’s job search, searching for a house, etc., but didn’t share much of how that has affected us internally and spiritually (that’s the beauty of blogs, right? That you can conceal and reveal as you wish . . .). But now I’m going to attempt to be a bit more real and behind the scenes.

For Jason, it has been a myriad of age-old questions that every man seems to ask such as “Am I enough? Can I pull this off? Am I really just a fake?” Being jobless for the first time in life while considering that he is, at the same time, taking a wife into his heart and home to pastor, has been overwhelming. I can comfort him by telling him that I think he’s the real deal, but that comfort comes from a fallen woman who doubts him, who disappoints him, and who sins against him every day.

Once again, Jesus is telling me to let go and let Him work in Jason’s heart. God’s grace, comfort, and eternal perspective can only come from God alone. Faith is the conviction of things not seen, the Bible says. Sometimes I wish I could see the Holy Spirit, that I could catch a glimpse of Him on the street and chase Him down and grab Him by the shoulders and say “Do something about this poor man’s identity struggle! I know You can!” But “the wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

For me, my lifelong struggle with anxiety has reared its ugly head. I unfortunately come from a family line of depressed worriers who have had to battle against this inconvenience on a routine basis. It sucks. The worst part about it is that I’ve gotten so used to living with it that I get comfortable in the muck. So comfortable that when God has tried to take it out of my hands (usually through taking me through the thick of it), I have resisted. I have said “I’m fine. I feel alright. It’s not that bad right now. It probably won’t come back.” But then it comes back and I am overwhelmed with panic, doubt, fear, and worry. These things breed all kinds of unbelief and sin.

Remember those words “such trials show the proven character of your faith”? The trials of major life change–contemplating marriage (while only having the experience of my parents’ marriage and divorce), change at Mars Hill (which is unrelentless and I don’t do well with it), not knowing where we’re going to live or if and when Jason will work again, produce the deeper trails–the thorn of anxiety in my side, the battle against the lies of the enemy, facing the fact (again) that I don’t just do sin but that I’m an actual sinner. Somehow God must be producing genuine faith.

I am reading Spiritual Depression by Martin Lloyd-Jones and he argues that the New Testament shows that the Christian life always contains two elements–the rejoicing of God and the heaviness of trails. It’s clear in this passage from 1 Peter. Paul talks about it again in 2 Corinthians 4 and James speaks of it, too. I’m sure there is lots more evidence of the tension between the two in the Bible and in the lives of many saints that I have yet to discover.

Lloyd-Jones says that it is not that we dismiss the feelings that come with the heaviness of life. Those feelings are real and they are part of being human, image-bearers of a God who very much feels. But the feelings of failure, worry, fear, confusion, identity-crisis and doubt that Jason and I both feeling in our own individual ways do not negate the fact that we have reason to rejoice. Not when things get better, but right now. This is hard for both of us to grasp, to not allow the heaviness to be the only reality in life. You can see I am preaching to myself.

“The Christian must never regard himself as one who is exempt from natural feelings. He has something that enables him to rise above these things, but the glory of the Christian life is that you rise above them though you feel them. It is not an absence of feeling. This is a most important dividing line.” (Spiritual Depression, 221)

I can’t say that I know how to rise above the heaviness. I can give you the Christian (and very true) answer that it is by the grace of God. How exactly that occurs and why and when, I’m not sure. God is the only one who sees the complete picture. And so I fall back into footsteps of Job who when it was all said and done, said to God

I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. (42:2-3)

God has promised us that no matter what happens, He is working (Phil. 1:6) and that the struggle is not pointless. It is one that produces something much greater and far bigger than the temporal things of this world. It produces faith that pleases Him. The kind of faith that acknowledges the heaviness of life, but rises above that to appreciate the weightiness of God’s glory. There is reward, God says. Things too wonderful for Jason or I, which we do not currently understand.

Jason has job interviews today with one of the recruiting companies he’s signed up with. Please continue to pray. We will see what God does.

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