I went on a solo road trip this past weekend for a girl's get together in Alabama. There are several pros and cons to driving so far by yourself, but I can definitely say that if you need to think and pray through some things, get in the car and drive eight hours! (Although I really think that God and I could have summed it up in about 30 mins, but then again, some things are too important to be rushed, I guess).
I titled this post Seasons of Purpose, but the seasons that I'm referring to usually feel like Seasons of Frustration. They are the times when you just don't understand why you're in the situation that you are. Losing a loved one, marital problems, broken relationships, sickness, loneliness, and waiting are some of these seasons. I've been walking through the waiting season for several years, and believe me there are so many days when I ask God what I could possibly still need to learn! But the biggest encouragement I can give to you is that God is still speaking and active, even when we may not feel it. Right before I embarked on this road trip, my mom gave me Lysa Terkeurst's new book, It's Not Supposed to be This Way. She gave it to me because I'm going to hear Lysa speak in a few weeks, not because either of us thought that the book was directed to me specifically. What's so cool, is that I've needed to hear every word in this book for far too long and God knew that!
I'm not going to smear Lysa's family drama, but to say the least she has been through a really tough few years. Life can be so difficult and once we think it's bad, it seems to get worse. We can all relate to loss, disappointment and feeling like God is less than involved in our pain and struggles. That's what this book addresses. From Lysa's deep pain, she writes authentic reactions, questions and what God has shown her through this journey. I can't recommend this book enough, it's just packed with flat out beauty, truth and real life.
The season I'm in, isn't one of loss, rejection, or the emotional pain of Lysa's story. But it's one of disappointment that I have let separate me from fully leaning into my journey with God. Currently, I'm in a place in life that I just didn't expect to be. God knew that I would be here, I'm just disappointed because it isn't what I had previously imagined. I had built up some dreams and expectations that simply aren't happening right now. It's so easy to either get frustrated or just slump through life waiting for something to change. And the very first foundation that Lysa writes about is understanding our expectations and how they can lead our attitudes astray. I hadn't thought about it that way, but it's so true! Here's an example, You get up early, exercise, have a good breakfast and are bound to be at work on time. You're just winning at life! However, on the road, a tractor pulls out in front of you, just chugging along. You then become late for work and you're irritated by the tractor, whoever was driving it and that you have to explain to your boss why you were late (Yes, I live in the country... and this has happened to me before haha). The fact of the matter is that the tractor wasn't the problem, the farmer wasn't the problem, he was just doing his job; but your attitude about the situation was wrong. We so easily let bitterness become a part of our day because things didn't go the way we had expected them to go. That's a small example, but you know how easy it is to let bitterness just seep into our lives. And the real truth about bitterness is that we are the only ones holding on to it. God has given us the power to just let it go and rid our lives of it, but ultimately we have to make that choice.
Another key point is that when we dwell on the things that we haven't gotten yet, we can become frustrated because we feel like we aren't getting what we deserve. I'm not sure where the line is between wanting something and feeling like we deserve something, but once crossed, its hard to respond well when we're told no. Even as a kid, it hurt to hear that my parents wouldn't be buying me something I wanted. Why? They had enough money, why couldn't I have that thing, too? I didn't understand then and I feel the same way with God sometimes now. "Why can't I have that? It's a good thing, and I know that you can give it to me." Lysa shared this bit of wisdom: "Disappointment isn't proof that God is withholding good things from us. Sometimes it's His way of leading us home." Ultimately to Himself. What more could I possibly need than the presence of God? Nothing. He's giving us everything, when He gives us access to Himself.
What she said that really got to me was that when we beg God to show us a bigger picture of what we are supposed to do, we may be asking for something too great for us to handle. I know that's not the answer we want to hear, but it's so true! God may be waiting to reveal my future because I can't handle to see it all right now. He sees the completed picture, He knows me, and He is weaving so many lives together into a beautiful tapestry. If He showed me everything, I might get overwhelmed, or feel too much fear or pain about upcoming events, that I would back down, cower or not take advantage of today because I'm worrying about what's to come. That wouldn't be for my good, and it wouldn't grow my dependence on God and His goodness. Maybe, I just shouldn't be disappointed about not having information that is too much for me to carry anyway. I don't think God is trying to be distant or cold or hard to understand, rather He is giving us exactly what we need in each day. One at a time. But how we see it is in our choice of perspective.
"We don't have to know the plan, to know that there is a plan. We don't have to feel good to know there is good coming. We don't have to see evidence of changes to know that it won't always be this hard. We just have to close our physical eyes and turn our thoughts over to Jesus."
- Lysa Terkeurst
In the second half of the book, Lysa talks about how to survive the difficult days when hope and change seem so far away. Dreaming that things will be different, that life can seem normal again, that relationships can be mended or that dreams can become reality are buried in our hearts. But honestly they don't happen over night, and the weight of these things hang over our every day. But one step at a time, we can make it through seasons of waiting, mourning, hopelessness and loneliness.
Lysa made a connection to painting and the messiness of our lives. She said that each piece of art isn't perfect and wasn't meant to be. They are each the painter's perception of reality, not a photograph exactly capturing how something appeared. Therefore, some colors will not be exact, a proportion may be off, or it may even be an abstract portrayal of something real. The point is that a painter moves the paint around a canvas to create something. Even if they are afraid to start, don't know how it will turn out, or don't even know what they are going to paint; they jump in anyway. The artist moves colors around and creates until the they feel like their work complete. Our lives can be just like that. Some days, I wake up unsure of everything; what am I doing with my life? Am I even happy here? Should I just move to Africa and figure everything out from there? Will I always be stuck here? No matter what those wake-up thoughts are, I have a choice to go back to bed, to slump through the day, or to get out the paint and start making something with what I have. This statement was one of my favorites:
"Grab the brush, and light the world with your color and attempts at creation. don't try to be perfect. Don't pretend that it's even possible. Don't apologize or strategize. And don't minimize that you are crushing fear and judgement with every stroke."
- Lysa Terkeurst
I talked to my sister earlier and she was telling me about her day. She had one sick kiddo, one ready for a nap and another that needed to go to a doctor's appointment. While juggling so many things, she said, "You know some days you just do the best you can do. You kinda want to quit and go home, but that isn't an option, so you wing it." You can't do everything, and you can't do it all perfectly. Some days you just take one small step and that's all you can muster.
Some journeys are just that way. Once you're in the middle of a trip, you just have to finish it out, one step at a time. The great thing is that we aren't alone, there are so many people going through something similar and God is growing us through the hard days. This verse has been a prayer of mine through so many of my friend's hard seasons, but recently it has become one that I cherish for myself too.
"Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ."
- Colossians 2:7,8
The most powerful thing you can do during to make every season purposeful, is to speak truth into what your doing every day. Remind yourself who's you are, and who your God is. Remind yourself that you have the power to choose what your perspective will be. You are not alone during these hard days and God is not done with your story.
Continue strong and courageous!