Sometimes God chases us into dark places so we can feel the pain and agony of separation from Him. So we can see redemption. So that He can use our mess to bring glory to Himself by fixing something that conventional wisdom tells us is broken beyond repair.
Other times, when I don't like what the light is exposing, I flee to the darkness myself. I foolishly think I can find comfort in solitude and lick my wounds in the shadows until there's enough distance between me and my mistakes for me to try again.
The first kind of separation is necessary and life-giving. The second type of separation will kill me if I try to dig myself out of yet another hole by myself.
Here I am again. At the bottom, looking up. And it's hard to look up, because I dug the hole myself this time. It's humbling to ask for help when I got myself into this situation in the first place.
But that's where the Good News has a chance to slap me in the face. My small group leader keeps reminding me: God is good. God is kind. God is faithful. He invented fun, humor, love, and connection.
And I'm saying, I feel hopeless. I'm tired and worn. What if healing never comes? I'm so afraid of that. What if life is always like this?
So then I start having this conversation with myself between my fear and what I know to be true:
What if things never change? What if God is punishing me?
Even if the healing never comes, He is enough.
But I'm so scared. He's a God of wrath, and I deserve wrath.
But he's also a God of restoration. Our refuge and strength. Our very present help in trouble. Do not fear, though the earth gives way (Psalm 46:2)!
When I feel worthy of only God's wrath, it's hard to accept his love. But Jesus took the wrath I deserve. When God looks upon me, his daughter, he sees me through the lens of Jesus. And he loves me with a steadfast, unconditional love that I can't fathom. I can never deserve that. I can never earn that. And I never have to. Isn't that reason enough to praise God?
Paul Tripp says that hopelessness is the gateway to hope, meaning that the only way I will ever find true hope is to give up on all those places where I’ve put my hope before. Or, you know, cling to them so tightly that they crumble beneath my expectations and disappoint me. My default is to find hope horizontally: if only my situation/location/relationship was better, then I'd be happy.
But no person or relationship on earth can give me the peace and security I'm looking for. My job will never make life worth living. Having people like me will never make me happy. I'm never going to be flawlessly beautiful in the eyes of the world and not haircut or article of clothing will change that. No worldly experience or travel or popularity will fulfill me. I see that. I've lost hope. Because my hope was in the wrong things to begin with.
Just as horizontal hope will fail us, a horizontal diagnosis will miss what is truly broken. I like to think that my biggest problem in life exists outside me, not inside me. I want to say my problems are situational, locational, or relational. But they’re not. My biggest problem is vertical and personal.And what do you know? God has showed up in a tangible way this week. I have... what looks like... what could be... the beginnings of a community of believers who love me? A home away from home? People who barely know me, willing to step into the mess and say, this is not okay. But in the same breath, they say, what can I do to help? I'm praying for you. I need this reflection of God's love. I need people in my life who can shake me by the shoulders and say, you are not a burden. You don't bother me. I love you and God loves you regardless. And He's here, even now.
There is something that lurks inside me that is dark and dangerous – sin. It kidnaps my thoughts, diverts my desires, and distorts my words. Only Christ can fix this problem. No horizontal hope can ever fix a vertical problem. So God promises to send His son as the vertical and ultimate solution. “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins" (Isaiah 59:20).
I'm starting to see it again.
Grateful for Your Love
by Ellie Holcomb (Download this song. It's amazing.)
Love is an Ocean
Hope is a Promise
Light is overtaking
Grace is overwhelming.
You chased us into the dark and Lord we're grateful, oh we're grateful
You captured our hearts with your love, Oh Lord you're Faithful, You are Faithful.
Nothing we've ever done was too much for you to handle on the cross
We're grateful for your love.
Weight is lifted
Mercy tore the curtain
Sin is no master
Freedom calls our name.
Life is granted
Chains have been broken.