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Posts Tagged ‘hopelessness’

If you haven’t heard the new single by American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson, I highly recommend that you do so. The song is hard-hitting and profound, and I definitely teared up when I first heard it (and still do). Take a look at the lyrics to the first verse:

There’s a place that I know

It’s not pretty there and few have ever gone

If I show it to you now

Will you try and run away

Or will you stay – even if it hurts?

Even if I try to push you out – will you return?

Something I’ve been struggling with recently is the terrible reality of just how sinful I am. This isn’t a forced feeling; a fabricated sense of self-deprecation brought on by years of sermons and my general demeanor that is prone to self-criticism. While those things are certainly in place, it does go deeper than that. Most recently, I found myself going once again against my better judgment and following a path that lead me to sin in a certain way. Now, of course I sin everyday, but often when it catches up to me, the guilt is hard to bear. I do desire to follow the Lord and seek His ways, but I can just be so selfish and self-serving that when I fail, it takes me a good few days to even start to feel hope again.

Of course, as it pertains to this blog, most recently I have found myself feeling terrified that I will never meet anyone who will actually want to put up with all of me; my spurts of anger, my oft-inappropriate statements of honesty; my deep longing to be loved that has led me to look for it in harmful ways – and that’s just the surface of it. The thing is, I honestly am thankful in some ways that I have made certain choices, as it has opened me up to be far more forgiving and understanding than I would have been otherwise, and than I used to be. I also know that because of it, I would be absolutely fine extending forgiveness to my future husband with his failures – which of course he will have. For some reason, though, I often wonder if maybe I’m too bad for it. That I could never deserve anything remotely “good” – and I’m sure that it’s based on my poor understanding of grace. I get so exhausted from trying to be holy (and yes, I know that’s sort of an oxymoron) and just want to live sometimes – without guilt. I don’t want to feel stuffy and repressed. I also don’t want to be all over the place. It does seem to be a daily, tiring, incessant battle between will and spirit – and while that most certainly is a Biblical framework of what our life on Earth is like, I get so discouraged when I see people that are “good” get to marriage…although that isn’t always the case, either.

I think all of us yearn for one person that we care about to say, “Yes – I choose you! Your imperfections, your anger, your jealousy, your lustful tendencies – and I’m here to walk alongside that battle with you!”. The difficult part is getting to the point of exposing ourselves and all the burdens that we carry to someone else. It’s perhaps made even more poignant when we don’t have anyone to expose ourselves to – and that might be one of the most painful experiences of the single life; that it can feel like our real selves are never really appreciated in the passionate way that we desire them to be.

Christ  has shown us the ultimate example of this exchange – by making us beautiful by His choice to become sin for us. To take on the role on the very thing that entices us, drives us, destroys us – and gives new Life through it. I don’t think that this advocates a sense of “Jesus is my boyfriend/girlfriend” mentality, because to be frank that seems a bit silly and people are created for intimate relationships with each other – Christ ideally being at the center of them. But I do think that once we have an understanding of who God is and how He loves us, it is easier to feel that we are worthy of love from other people – because we deserve neither. I absolutely, 100%, do not have this down right now, and I don’t think any of us fully will until we see Him face to face. However, it can only be helpful when it comes to how we view ourselves in relationships. Sometimes we have to flat out just hope that things will happen as we would like – that we’re “open” to the experience of falling in love and letting ourselves known and be known. I’m hopeful that despite all of my crap, someone will find that “nobody’s a picture perfect”, as Kelly would say – “but we’re worth it”. That me, and you, and everyone else, is to the core worth loving, despite ourselves.

 

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I’m just going to put it out there: one of my biggest fears is that I will never marry, or that the Lord will come back before I get the chance. Call me a bad Christian, but there it is. I’d like to say that I trust God with my whole life, but because this is something I so desperately want to try and control. Therefore, it’s really hard not to get really frustrated and squirmish about my single state at times.

One of the most poignant reminders of this fact is when I look into the prospects of possibilities and find myself coming up empty.

In general, I do feel like Jesus always wants us to experience the process of things rather than just the end result, and more often than not this means that some level of pain, confusion, and hurt is involved.  In many ways these experiences show the insecurity of the people involved, and also of course the great plan that God  has to turn evil and pain into good, just out of His character. To be honest, it’s all well and good to discuss this and put a stamp of Christian approval on it, but when it comes to specific fears and hopes, I get panicked. I always feel a greater sense of calm if there’s someone I’m interested in versus when there isn’t, but since I have yet to find someone who I have had a true, deep connection with, the insecurity of wondering “why not?” can often leave me stagnant. It’s very easy to think that my past will dictate my future, when in fact the only thing that defines my future is Jesus’ choice to die for me 2,000 years ago.

The Bible is full of so many examples of God’s presence in the midst of people experiencing no prospects. Abraham and Sarah literally laughed in the angel’s face when they were told they would have a child after fifty some odd years of waiting and they were 99 years old. NINETY NINE. I would have laughed too. But yet, God still provided. Abraham later on showed how much His love and trust in God became His main focus when he was willing to lay down his son for God- which, of course, God prevented by providing a sacrifice instead. It really does warm my heart to think of that.

Anna the Prophetess became a widow after seven years of marriage, and stayed that way until she was eighty-four (!). She spent most of her time praying and worshiping the Lord, enraptured by being in His Holy presence. (First of all, can you imagine only being married for seven years and spending something like fifty years alone?!) But still, Anna loved the Lord and desperately wanted to see His glory come to Earth – and He let her see the very face of the One who was to save her. Beautiful – a wonderful example of how the Lord fulfilled her lack of prospects with the greatest one a person could ever behold.

Finally, one last example is found in Adam and Eve, and to be honest I just thought of this. I find it amazing when I think about the fact that it must have felt truly terrifying – there isn’t a word to describe the experience, really – to realize that while once they were secure and comfortable, but in one second, after one choice, they were thrown into a frenzy of fear, insecurity, and loss. Talk about feeling like there were no prospects when there once was nothing but freedom and joy! But God intervened, and gave them back access, in part, to Himself through the sacrifice of an animal to cover their naked bodies. He was showing them two things, I believe: 1) That relationship with Him is the only thing that could restore their dignity and security and 2) That He is willing to sacrifice so that we might receive a new prospect, a new hope, and ultimately a relationship with Him again.

All of these examples help me to remember just how amazing our God is, and I can think of many more from my own personal experiences. I wish that I would remember them often enough to trust Him in those moments, like I’ve experienced recently, when my dating life slightly resembles that of a mirage; something that I’m excited to see after a dry spell in the desert, only to realize that it is just a figment of my imagination. In recent days, in light of this, I have been at times so hurt and frustrated that my anger has gotten the best of me and I’ve really let God have it. Then, I justify that it’s probably all my fault and the insecurities come out – I’m too emotional, I laugh too loudly, I’m way too much of a sinner for an honorable man who loves Jesus, and my chin dimple is so not cute. And then I rest fitfully in my subtle belief that God is untrustworthy.

The fact is, He has never lied. God can only speak truth because that’s His very nature! It’s also His character to create something out of nothing; to create matter out of space; to make life triumph over death. I honestly do feel like sometimes I don’t have a holy bone in my body, but I do know that God’s prospects are given to us not because we deserve it, but because He wants to – and because Jesus’ sacrifice paved the way for hope to always win out.

It only takes one church service to attend, one party to drop by, one elderly neighbor’s grandson to meet – and it’s there. I hope that if you’re still single and feeling like you have no prospects, you can face each day knowing that there’s hope because there’s a God who is amazing at creating something out of nothing. It’s like His signature dish. And in the meantime, He is with us along the way – and that fact offers me a great deal of comfort if I ponder it.

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Hope.

A small word, with sometimes disastrous consequences if that which is hoped for is not attained. Hope is really what drives any of us to do anything; to continue to look for a job even when we’ve gone on countless interviews to no avail; to force ourselves out of bed and off to the gym in hopes that we will work off that slice of pizza or five we had over the weekend; to stash away in our prayers the glimmer of hope that that person, whoever they are, will finally sweep us off our feet (or let us sweep them off their feet, if you’re a guy!). Whatever shape it may take, Hope gives us a possibility for more. We thirst for it, and truly thrive off it. It’s for this reason why it hurts so much when Hope is taken away from us, or maybe even never shows up to begin with.

I’ll use an example from my own life to start.

When I was a young girl, I watched many a Disney movie. My particular favorites were The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, and Beauty and the Beast. Strangely, I don’t remember thinking that I wanted to meet my own Prince Eric, or even Aladdin (homeboy had nice abs for a cartoon though!). (I did have a crush on grown-up Simba, which looking back on it is incredibly awkward). I would say that I got most of my desire for marriage just from something that existed within me. When I was a teenager, I was introduced to the wonders of Jane Austen, and that was when my awareness of this desire became poignant. I read all of the books and took in countless versions of Pride and Prejudice, unknowingly instigating an unhealthy attitude towards romance and what relationships actually look like. At the same time as this was happening, I plodded on through high school with no one expressing interest in me and trying to figure out what the dating world looked like as a born-again Christian. It was then that I got introduced to Christian self-help books, like When God Writes Your Love Story by Eric and Leslie Ludy, and the infamous I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris. I basically took all of the things written in those books as gospel. I thought that if I just worked on being holy and totally embrace Jesus as my “boyfriend”, He would provide me with the God-written love story He so desires for His children who actually really loved Him. And so I only watched movies with a rating of PG or less. I didn’t less to non-Christian music. And I certainly didn’t think about online dating, because that would me I wasn’t trusting in God to bring me a husband. This line of thinking existed until I went away for to study in Scotland during my year abroad, when choices I made tore down my previous worldview on dating and left me feeling broken, ashamed, and most of all, without hope. I was convinced that I had ruined any hope of a wonderful relationship, because I had yet to experience one. I felt ugly now because of a realization of the true horrors of my sin, not because I was told so by an insecure teenage guy in the hallway. I remember thinking for the first time that my hope of a marriage to a Christian man may never happen, and the hollowness that accompanied that was unlike anything I had experienced before.

For me, the most painful thing now is that I still have that fear, and in many ways it is justified. God does not promise any of us husbands, and certainly not perfect marriages because they do not exist. I have a much healthier view on marriage now than I used to, thanks to His guidance and teaching, but yet I still desire it. Something I’ve learned recently is how much the blessings God gives is not determined at all by our deserving them. Quite a few of my friends who are in relationships are wonderful, God-fearing women, and I am so happy for them. However, I do struggle with wondering what they did that I haven’t. I start to wonder that maybe if I spent an hour with the Lord everyday like they did, or seemed as confident as they are, that maybe then the Lord would see that I “deserve” a relationship just as much as they do. In essence, I let my own hope for marriage become a catalyst to scrutinize my friendships and undermine God’s grace. Now let me be clear: I am of the opinion that desiring marriage is a good thing and not bad; that there is nothing wrong with expressing such a hope. The issue is not my desire for marriage, necessarily, but the way that I sometimes perceive God’s actions in it. I assume that He is trying to skewer me into pieces by stripping away my hope with every rejection or lonely holiday that passes; that He is dangling my Hope in front of me only to rip it away right when I think it will happen. In those moments, I cry out to Him bitterly with the words of Proverbs 13:12 – “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life”. Lord, why are You willingly making me heartsick? Do you want me to waste away and become bitter? It becomes ever so easy to wallow in my sorrow and pain, to lash out against the very One who I just want to be comforted by.

It is during these times that I am reminded of Psalm 84, verse 11: “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless“.

Perhaps it is true in some sense that the Lord does favor those who seek Him out – that He draws near those who draw near to Him. But that insinuates that He does not favor those who don’t deserve it, which is to say, all of us. We know this not to be the case. If we are in Christ Jesus, God has promised us not to withhold any good thing because we are blameless in His sight. I’m not sure what good things mean in this context – I’m guessing it is the presence of the Holy Spirit, or Christian community, both of which are incredible blessings that I have myself experienced, and certainly not because I have done anything to deserve it.

A few weeks ago, I heard a sermon at my church about the Saturday following Good Friday. For the disciples, they had no idea that Easter Sunday was coming. They were waiting in hopelessness, darkness, despair, for something that they didn’t even realize was about to happen. The speaker remarked that God allowed the disciples’ despair precisely so that they would come to an understanding of what true Hope is. Obviously, because of Jesus’ resurrection, my ultimate Hope (and yours!) as indeed been fulfilled already. It absolutely is true that no matter how poignant my desire for a husband is, it is nowhere near my deep need for God’s presence in my life and the next. That Hope was fulfilled at our lowest point, and so I believe that even when I feel despair, there is always a tiny glimmer of Hope that says that I’m still in my waiting time. To be brutally honest, I don’t want to even think about the possibility of staying single the rest of my life. However, what I do know is that I can only take things as they come; that I will continue to be hopeful every morning despite my fears and insecurities, and that I want to continue learning to hope in what is eternal. I don’t know why I haven’t been pursued in a deep way yet, and it does leave me in a state of feeling unloved and unnoticed at times. Sometimes, I wonder why I consistently try to remain positive when my hopes in this area are dashed again and again. I just don’t know.

Perhaps part of it is that my Lord embodies Hope, and I don’t want to let go of that no matter how painful the journey is. I want to be aware of God’s presence in my Easter Saturday of waiting, so that perhaps I am not so surprised when my Easter Sunday finally arrives.

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