December 5, 2011

Spiritual Whiplash

I once overheard a young girl complaining and venting to a group of people about how it annoyed the heck out of her the way Christians always were so happy and that they never seemed to struggle with anything or have doubts. In my mind I was thinking bring your coffee over here and I'll tell you all about my doubts and struggles! At the same time I know what she meant. Often as Christians we tend to put on masks and preform. We know all the right answers and moves, and we cover up what we're really struggling with.

These past six months have proven to be the most stressful, confusing, painful, tiring, emo-filled times in my life. I've had my fair share of crying. Life just hasn't gone the way I would have wanted and all my plans have been frustrated. Every time I've tried to take a step forward I've ended two steps back. Then I look at my close friends lives and in many ways I think they'll be able to get to the end of college and look back on it as one of the best times of their life. They're all very set in their career paths and love what they're doing, they have full social lives, and 90% of them have great boyfriends or girlfriends. (You wouldn't believe the number of engagements that have taken place this year!) Am I a tad bit jealous and envious? You bet. (And don't go acting like you've never been there yourself, 'cause I know you're lying!) I often feel like I'm on the outside looking in. That I've been left behind.

My college path is blurry and I can't say I find much joy, growth, or fulfillment with it. I find it all very tiring, so when the social events present themselves I just want to go home and sleep. I'm not really "present" either. In all fairness I probably took on too many hours this semester. I'll own up to that. My Bad. And we won't talk about my relationship status... that's a totally different conversation anyway. To top it off there are quite a few family issues that have been going on, the most recent one being my dad loosing his job last week. Not great timing at all. Especially with this economy. Having both parents out of a job sucks. There's really no other way to put it. Then in terms with my spiritual walk... bombardment. 

Have you ever found yourself in a season where it seems like God is throwing a barrage of trials, lessons, info, whatever you want to call it, at you? When people ask me what the Lord has been teaching me recently I think, "You better sit down. This could take a few hours. I have a list... and it's a quite a few pages long." I struggle with figuring out God's will, and is that even possible? I get very conflicting counsel on this. Some like to quote Augustine and say "Love God and do what you like." But then I've got other people telling me that that would be very selfish of me to do... which just makes me feel guilty. And due to financial circumstances, I'm not exactly in the position to really go and do whatever I want. I'm an oldest child! I have responsibilities and obligations to other people! (If you are an oldest child you know exactly what I mean by that.) One thing I am certain of though is that God's will and plan isn't a straight path. As one friend put it, sometimes God's leading involves a lot of jerking around. Jerking around is right. I think I'm going in the right direction, then out of the blue, He says, "Nope. We're going this way."And it's given me spiritual whiplash.

But back to the girl in the coffee shop. As a Christian I do have struggles and doubts. I struggle with believing God has some grand purpose or plan for my life. When people throw Jeremiah 29:11 at me I inwardly cringe. Not because they're wrong, but I just can't get that truth to stick... yet. I have trust issues with the Lord and believing that He's going to genuinely care for me and my needs, and if He even cares about my desires and hopes, or am I just being really selfish? I doubt that God takes any genuine delight in me. What are realistic expectations to have for my life? After all I've been greatly disappointed. At what point does one begin to settle for less? And how does contentment fit into all of that? Because sometimes I feel like I am settling for less and that I should be a bit more daring. And what does it mean to hope?

Surprisingly though, with all these questions and doubts, last week I found myself in this weird place of peace and comfort. And it came while reading Lamentations. In a matter of days it's become my newest favorite book of the Bible. When was the last time you heard that one? I soak up every word of it, and re-read it over and over again. All my questions and doubts are still present, but God is still God. I may feel lost, stuck, and paralysed for now, but I read the Psalms and Lamentations and find I'm in good company. As I told one friend, I don't feel all that optimistic right now, but I do have peace. Hope will catch up with me eventually. I can't exactly stand up and declare it out loud, but I will continue to whisper it and take each day as it comes. 

So coffee girl, I'll be the first to admit that I don't have it all together and that life isn't always sunshine, unicorns, and glitter.
Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses. Consider my affliction and my trouble and forgive all my sins. -Psalms 25:26-28
I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart. O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes - it also has gone from me. -Psalms 38:8-10
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted. -Isaiah 40:30




9 comments :

  1. Been there, still there. I've learned to be grateful though. The more I press on, the more I know Him. The more I know Him, the more I trust Him. It's still rough, frustrating and hard. But He tells us 'one more day'. And we make it through :)

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  2. I honestly believe that you'll look back on this period of your life with such fondness because, after this valley is a great mountain. And on the mountain is a breathtaking view. God uses all situations for good - our sermon on Sunday says that times like these are spiritual training seasons. Reading Exodus 3:1, it says "[Moses] led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God."
    Sometimes we need to go through the valley-esque times to get to the mountain of God. And, somehow, God is leading the way :)
    God is closer right now than you know. Take heart! http://youtu.be/8MfBQ30Ta9w

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  3. Natalie you know i've been there too. But as it happened to you, God uses different things, bible verses or even other books to appease our troubled heart. There's no standard on this, I don't think, but i do know that His peace and comfort come. It takes our daily surrender to Him and our constant fighting to overcome! I know you will get there.

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  4. i love your sincerity. the more i study the bible, i see more struggle and suffering from those who followed the Lord than happy-go-lucky people. you're right...you're in good company. He promises that those who sow in tears will reap in songs of joy. just a day at a time girl...watch Him come through for you in the little things each day.

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  5. Mmmm I feel you, girl.

    I love the Psalms so much. They're so honest and I can identify so much with them. I recently read Psalm 88 and thought to myself, "This is the saddest psalm ever". And I've been thinking a lot about Ecclesiastes lately. And Philippians 1 has been a great encouragement to me.

    Ok, that's all now.

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  6. Boy, I think I'd want the coffee girl to then come to my table as I tell her all about my struggles. I'll be the first to show that I by no means am living the perfect, no problems life.

    I'm glad you're finding peace through all you're going through right now. Even though the optimism isn't quite there, sounds like He's taking care of you with the peace of His words. Emily at Amazing Grapes

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  7. Just reading this now, man there is so much in here Natalie, I am feeling for you so much. Maybe I can respond in an email, but for now, just know that if you are living God's Word and living through His Word and the holy spirit, you ARE doing His will . God's will is God's way. Which is simply what God would do. So you could down many paths college or career wise and you'd still be doing God's will if you weren't sinning honey. There are so many options, I don't think God always has a specific plan for us with all the details, but then again, maybe that's my lack of faith.
    Just look like Jesus, and rest in the shadow of His Wings.
    And btw, I don't agree with or like that Augustine quote! xoxo
    I am so happy you are hearing from the Spirit and learning and growing! Remember James 1:2-5, that is my LIFE verse!

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  8. Dear Natalie,

    I have been struggling greatly, and though I am sorry that you have been facing many difficulties in your life, I feel so encouraged by what you have shared! I am so incredibly touched.

    I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

    Love,

    Anna

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  9. my favorite part... "I can't exactly stand up and declare it out loud, but I will continue to whisper it and take each day as it comes."
    mhmmmm.

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