Is It a Sin to Be Unhappy?

Let me start off this post by saying, no, I don’t think it’s a sin to be unhappy…necessarily.

But that just barely scratches the surface of what I wanted to share with you.

You see, we’ve been trekking through a lot of thoughts and ideas about fear and disappointment on this blog. And we’ve had good reason, because this life is sometimes really hard and uncomfortable. But I know there is more to this life than living in disappointment and fear.

Still, that’s the place I’ve been living in for a while. Fear of being disappointed. Being disappointed because of fear. Mostly just wishing things could be different when I encounter something I don’t like, and waiting for things to one day magically change.

What if they don’t? What if they never change?

It’s a looming thought we’ve probably all entertained.

What if?

Or…

Why can’t God be enough?

I’ve asked myself this question specifically off and on these past few years. I want God to be enough. I want to receive what He’s given me and not perpetually live in a state demanding more.

Yet I always end up back in a place where it feels like even if I can find joy in this moment, in the future, I won’t ever be happy unless things change.

I can’t be happy if God doesn’t take away the pain.
I can’t be happy if God will not heal.
I can’t be happy if God doesn’t change my circumstances.
I can’t be happy if God doesn’t fix my problems.
I can’t be happy if God doesn’t let me accomplish all my dreams and goals.
I can’t be happy if God never allows me to do any of the things I hope to do in my life.

When I say I can’t be happy, or believe disappointment will always ever plague me if I don’t get these things, what I’m really saying is that I don’t believe He will be enough unless I have these things, too.

God + worldly things = everything I need.

And that’s not how it works. That is not how we are wired. That’s not what God has told us is true in His Word. That is not the pathway to LIFE or joy or hope.

It’s easy to say He’s enough when we have everything in addition to Him. It’s a lot harder when we’re still waiting and wondering what’s coming down the road, or wondering what it will look and feel like to nurse the wounds of one closed door after another for an indefinite number of years.

He is all we need – we sing it in our hymns and talk about it in our churches. But do we really believe it? If we had nothing? If everything we did have was taken away? If we’re never given the things we truly desire?

Is He enough? Do we trust He will bring us joy and even help us dare to feel a glimmer of happiness in the life He has placed us in? Will we trust He will provide everything we need in order to love that life?

The world would balk at the idea. How can we love what we never wanted?

Through grace.

And a whole lot of patience and step-by-step direction from the Lord.

I’m still learning what that means, to love what I have even if it’s not what I wanted, much less figuring out what it looks like.

Maybe it’s not a sin to feel pain and discontentment, or struggle to reconcile the losses. It’s not a sin to feel the weight of disappointment or carry grief with us from the wounds we’ve experienced. Hurt is not wrong.

But I think it is wrong to believe His plans for us are made of disappointment and nothing more. It’s wrong to believe we can never understand joy without also fulfilling temporary longings. It’s wrong to reconstruct our perspective through the lens of thoughts and fears which echo from our heart that says, I don’t believe You’re enough, instead of calling out the lie.

What we feel doesn’t define what is true.

So I’m leaning to be honest, and I’m learning to confront and repent from those raw feelings. We’re not guaranteed anything on this earth except that He WILL be enough, even if we can’t see or feel it in the moment. He’ll be enough even when we don’t realize He is. He’ll be enough even when we think there’s no hope.

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When It’s Time to Stop Waiting and Start Getting Ready

I stood at the sink washing dishes a few days ago, mentally making a note about something that needed to be dealt with in December. September had barely started, but summer already felt long ago and my mind was gradually moving to 2018.

I feel like I’ve just been coasting this year. My schedule has been full and my to-do lists have been long, but I feel like hardly anything has happened.

Stability and a relatively uneventful 8 months is a welcome change from the couple of years before. But something feels strange. Maybe it’s the season I’m in, where time passes without even realizing, and it’s full of “have to” and “real life” stuff.

It feels like something’s missing.

It occurred to me that I stopped journaling about my journey of waiting just before the beginning of this year. Processing the seemingly never-ending wait had both exhausted and tested me, and I was ready to move forward toward something new.

I stopped waiting to see if my body would heal.
I stopped waiting to see if life would begin moving and not just stand still.
I stopped waiting to see if dreams would only ever stay dreams and never make their way into reality.

I wanted to receive only what God would give and stop demanding more. I wanted to be content.

But now the heart-noise of waiting has been replaced with the silence of mindless routine – a strange version of complacency – and I’m not sure what happens next.

I’ve said before I prefer normal, everyday life. And I do. Still, this restless feeling seems to always precede a much-needed change.

Then one night the Lord whispered into my heart just like He always has in moments before He does something new, interrupting the routine.

He brought my attention to all the ways things have changed over the past couple of years, and I couldn’t deny the sense that He was getting ready to do something.

He was getting me ready. But for what?

I mostly had forgotten about it until I heard a sermon a few weeks later – one of those you know was meant just for you to hear. It was about waiting.

And being ready.

It was an empathetic voice giving strength to this heart that’s sometimes a little afraid to hope. I had stopped asking. I stopped hoping. I stopped waiting. I had been disappointed in the past and I figured out disappointment can’t happen if you never hope.

But neither can gifts be given with hands that aren’t open – aren’t ready – to receive.

God doesn’t give until we’re ready. We may not have any control over when we’re ready, but we can be willing. And that makes us ready to one day be ready; whether it’s tomorrow or seven years later.

Willingness is the grunt work of the heart that no one wants to talk about because it’s difficult and messy. It requires stepping out of what’s comfortable, radically changing our expectations, and leaping off an edge without the end in sight. You don’t know how long you’ll fall. You don’t know exactly where you’ll land. But you’re in the only place where literally anything can happen. You’re ready – no longer waiting around for someone to say, “Go.” You just went, no looking back, trusting there is a plan and a purpose on the other side. Knowing you’ll end up right where He wants you to be, no matter how long it takes.

It’s the getting ready, not the waiting, that makes our heart grow weary. It’s getting ready that’s scary and vulnerable. When we wait, to me, it seems like something passive, in the background, that we just have to do.

But getting ready – that’s where we work and we look ahead expectantly. It’s where we see the jagged edges of the cliff that threaten to thwart the plan, the ledge and security we left behind getting smaller, and we strain our eyes to look farther because we know something has to happen. He won’t just leave us here hanging.

We believe it’s coming. We believe it’s really true. We believe the time and effort we’ll put into this preparation is WORTH IT.

It’s when we don’t receive what we believe we’re ready for, what we worked for and felt was already as good as ours, that it seems as if the only hope we had was pulled out from underneath us.

So sometimes we wait, but don’t bother to prepare. We don’t jump. It’s too risky. After all, there could be rocks at the bottom. There are no guarantees.

What keeps us here?

That voice in your head that says God is going to take away and make you do what you don’t want to do, or that the future is hopeless and full of all the things you want to avoid, is the enemy’s voice. It’s not the Lord’s. That’s the voice keeping you chained to cautiously waiting and never preparing.

God calls us to hard things. But He also calls us to courage, not to fear. He calls us to MOVE with CONFIDENCE, not cower in the corner. He calls us to trust and KNOW His plan is good. Not just wonder or think it possibly might be kind of okay-ish if things work out the way we hoped all along and we are able to dodge what we’re too afraid God will ask us to do. It will be good if it’s something we’ve been hoping for, and it will be good even if it’s not.

He doesn’t move us into the next season by inflicting fear in our hearts. We face fears. We go boldly. We place our faith in the One who loves us more deeply than anyone on this world.

It reminds me of what we’re called to do as we wait for Christ to return. We BELIEVE it’s true. We KNOW it’s coming. We GET READY and PREPARE for the day; we don’t just wait. We know this risky hope that’s really the most sure thing we could ever count on is WORTH IT.

This hope will not disappoint. Even though temporary things, even good things, are never guaranteed in this life, the eternal things – like the fulfillment of the Lord’s perfect plan, His love for us, and desire for our hearts to delight in what He wants to give us – are a sure thing. We just have to adjust our focus to expect what He wants for us and not what we want.

I don’t know what I’m supposed to be ready for, or if I’m only ready to begin preparing to be ready.

But I do know that whatever God has ordained WILL come to pass. Nothing can stop it.

And whatever is not part of God’s plan will NEVER happen. Nothing can force it.

I can’t make something happen that He doesn’t want for me. I can’t run away from what He will bring me or where He will take me.

So, yeah, I’m not going to take up waiting again. But I’m not reverting to complacency. I’m jumping. I want to be ready. No excuses.

Here we go.

No Longer a Victim

Deep inside each of our hearts, I think there is a temptation to believe we’re a victim. There’s also a fight against being a victim.

It has caused us to be clouded from seeing those who really are the vulnerable among us, because they no longer fit the mold we’ve been persuaded to visualize: ourselves, or what’s familiar to us.

And we’re paralyzed, totally unable to help them, because we each believe our own victimization is most important.

So we draw lines in the sand of who is “good” and who is “bad” based on which “side” we agree with most. Whoever helps my cause is my friend. Whoever does not is my enemy.

But you know what Paul reminded us about our enemies…we bring them dinner.

victim and victorious

Paul would know. He was a victim. But he wasn’t.

We cannot deny the persecution he witnessed and endured. Yet in its face he declared – consider it a blessing to suffer alongside Christ.

James said to call it joy.

Expect it. Stare it down. Laugh at it. Know it does not have the power or the final say.

Victims set free, not from this world’s oppression but who have been eternally set free to be established as victorious, know how to fight.

They fight for others, not for themselves.

Because they know their eternal identity is not one of a victim.

They fight for others to see the Light of this hope and keep their sight focused on the One who will return and abolish their oppression once and for all. They fight to protect, so they can be the hands and feet of this Truth even if it is not, and cannot be yet fully realized.

So we should be able to rally around this glorious Truth – shouldn’t we? We should be able to all get behind it and push back against evil – shouldn’t we?

Until we decide the victim still kind of looks like me.

But sin does, too.

It looks like all of us.

There’s this concept that’s been at the forefront of my mind. It’s about longing: where it comes from and where we can place our hope that it is going, because I refuse to believe my soul will be forever bound by a relentless longing for both things of this world and good things that point to Christ. Longing, even godly longings, highlight our temporary separation from our permanent home, and they live and die on this earth.

It was the temptation to give into deceit that planted the seed of longing, which led Eve in the path of disobedience and sin entering the world.

She wanted to see like God. She wasn’t meant to.

Now we are left in the aftermath; longing for what was, longing for what can never be, and longing for what will eventually be in the end.

Some act on this longing by fighting for self no matter the cost. But longings redeemed are intended to point beyond ourselves, to what’s coming next.

It’s this relentless longing that also reminds us we are INHERENTLY sinful. Not only do we commit sins everyday through our conscious choices and missing the mark – failing to live the way we are called to live or be the person we are created to be – but sin is ingrained in our bones. It infects the world, the very ground we walk on. It infects our hearts, minds, bodies, souls, ideas, words, and every single element of our being.

Still, this reality is met with grace. It is by grace we have been saved.

This is GOOD NEWS for our salvation, and points to its assuredness. No matter how far we’ve strayed from the path, no matter how much we try to listen to that voice in the back of our head that makes us question our sincerity, or how much we struggle with what we do not understand, our salvation is not based on these things.

Everything our hearts and our hands touch is tainted. Whether or not we are in Christ is not tied to that time we believed we did something right, or that moment we thought we were most sincere, or the instance where we affirmed belief without thinking about that small hint of wondering how or why or what if. It is based on grace.

And it is by grace that we are no longer victims to sin in any form or shape.

We are not victims to the sin confining this world and we are not victims to the sin inherent in our brothers and sisters in Christ; even when they intentionally commit a wrong against us, or when they fight for and inadvertently hurt us all at once.

It is by grace that we can fight and maybe accomplish some good, because it’s not anything we can do on our own.

It is only by grace that we can stare at the opposite of what we know God has declared good and bring them dinner, instead of bringing more strife and drawing another line between people who were meant to live in community – even when they break our heart.

It is by grace that when someone brings us dinner, and our stomachs turn and our hearts cringe because we don’t like the sight of our own sin, we might respond with open hands and an open door to share the grace and kindness we’ve been given.

It is by grace we can keep bringing grace to those who continue to respond with insult and injury.

Grace doesn’t fit the narrative, because grace fights for there to be no more victims among us, and is only accomplished in the end.

Grace invites everyone to the table to share in the fruit of repentance and declares there is still room here. It erases lines and convicts us of the truth that when we enter into eternity we will be surrounded by the faces of those we fought for and those who fought for us, those who fought against us and those we fought against – if they are in Christ.

And what will define that moment of eternal reconciliation and community – profound joy or gut-wrenching conviction – may be determined by whether we see ourselves as a victim or victorious.

Keep Going

“Reversing the grieving process.”

When I heard this phrase for the first time, something about it didn’t sit well with me.

I’ve always been an advocate for feeling our pain. Not stifling it. Not ignoring it. Not pretending it doesn’t exist. I think we have to confront it and face it head-on to press forward toward Christ, and process it in a way that draws us closer to Him. Everything about the thought of reversing grief instead of wading through it until it begins to morph into a more comfortable companion that, through Christ’s strength, I can carry with me without being overwhelmed, seems counterintuitive to what the Lord intends for our lament.

But, sure – it sounds appealing: not feeling. Just breathing and moving, and continuing on like the pain never left its mark.

Still, that’s not how this world works. Evading pain is not an option we can choose, no matter how much we may want to.

So we keep going.

A few weeks ago I wrote about confronting the fear that I will be disappointed by being asked to let go of my plans to pursue the path the Lord wants for me. It’s a feeling so very real, but so very hard to articulate, because we’re not supposed to feel let down when our hands are held out and we receive these good and perfect plans ordained by the Creator of the entire universe – even if they’re not what we would have chosen for ourselves. We’re supposed to be filled with joy and thankfulness.

We know we are not given a spirit of fear.

It’s something I’ve fought against, reminding myself that He knows what’s best and I do not.

But as I stood in the middle of a graveyard hundreds of miles from home to say an earthly goodbye, the fear tries to loudly whisper in my ear. Nothing will go as planned. Things will break, and people will have to leave, and not much will ever seem fair.

These tragedies aren’t right. It isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. It will be made right in the end.

It doesn’t change the reality that we have to live through them in this broken and sinful world.

And we’ll have to keep going.

We’ll have to choose how we keep going.

A few days ago, I spent most of the afternoon at the hospital for a regular follow up appointment with one of my doctors. I go every once in a while so my doctors can watch for any problems or complications. All of the appointments are typically uneventful – except for one, ten years ago, when my doctor told me I almost died from a random episode where my heart didn’t beat correctly.

There have been season during those ten years where everything looked scary and confusing, and I didn’t know what was going to happen. The doctors would do test after test, and I’d just close my eyes and wait for it to be over. I couldn’t stand the feeling of knowing life was dependent on something I couldn’t control.

To me, safety equals control. When I relearn all over again that I have no control, safety feels tenuous and chancy.

I had been given the greatest gift of reassurance. The Lord whispered into my heart one late night that He was the only One who had the power to protect me, and He would.

Ever since, every test and report has shown my heart to be strong and healthy.

But even now, I hate hearing the sound of my beating heart. As the tech watches it on a screen and makes the recordings and measurements at my appointment every year or two, it still makes me uneasy. It brings back memories.

I don’t know why at times we are quick to expect disappointment and bad news, instead of trusting the assurance we’ve been given that not having any control is one of the best gifts we could ever receive.

Knowing this should help give us the strength to keep going; not paralyze us in fear.

Because there is no room for fear in the hearts of those who are in Christ.

Our hearts have been flooded with grace – filled with strength.

It keeps us going.

I can’t reverse the things I’ve seen. I can undo what has happened. Sometimes the sting still lingers a little and the desire to run away is stubborn. But in each and every moment when my heart inches toward anxiousness, I can choose to remember.

He is good. His plans are best. He will protect me. He will one day make things right. He will lead me where He desires that I go, no matter what happens along the way.

And I can keep going.

Why Won’t God End My Suffering?

I don’t remember the day I was diagnosed with a physical disability. I was only three years old. Disability is something that has always been a part of my life, and it probably always will.

Growing up, there was no doubt in my mind God created me the way he had for a reason. This disability would be present in my life for as long as he had chosen, to fulfill his mysterious, but good purposes.

Still, as I’ve grown up, I also have come to see that sickness is not what God originally intended for our bodies. Sickness is confined to this sinful world where we live for a brief time. Suffering is a sign that we’re broken, and in need of a Savior. It also points to God’s power and sovereignty. I know God can heal people, but I also know he may choose not to, for our good.

Those two things can be difficult to reconcile. If God can end our suffering on earth, why doesn’t he? Why does he allow sickness to afflict us if sickness is not what he ultimately and eternally wants for us?

There are no easy answers. But it is okay, even good, to wrestle with questions like these. The grieving and wrestling brings us back to precious truths for the suffering.

God Is Good, Not Cruel

When I see circumstances of suffering in my own life or in the lives of others, my mind immediately turns to why questions. God declares that he works all things together for the good of those who love him, “those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

But how are we supposed to interpret suffering as something good? It seems unfair that he would prolong our pain, allowing it to rob some of the quality or length of our life.

God does desire for our bodies to be whole one day. He also desires for our hearts to be drawn to him with a profound understanding of his grace and love.

C.S. Lewis summarized it well in The Problem of Pain: “On the one hand, if God is wiser than we, his judgement must differ from ours on many things, and not least on good and evil. What seems to us good may therefore not be good in his eyes, and what seems to us evil may not be evil.”

When it does seem as if God is withholding healing from us, it is not because he is cruel. Our understanding is limited, and we will never fully see things from his perspective. We may have trouble comprehending how God can use suffering for good, but we also do not have the wisdom or authority to say it cannot be true.

Desiring Healing and Embracing Suffering

When suffering enters our lives, we often feel like there are only two choices: 1) accept our circumstances will never improve, or 2) constantly wish for something to change.

But we are not limited to those choices. God has given us a unique freedom through Christ that enables us to simultaneously hope for future healing and restoration, while also embracing peace in the midst of our suffering today. This freedom allows us to engage our doubts and questions, and still cultivate the contentment to which we’ve been called. It shows us that struggling does not prove our lack of faith; it strengthens our faith as we look to God’s word for answers and apply the hope of his promises to our immediate and difficult circumstances.

It is okay to want things to be different. When we bring our requests before God, we have the opportunity to model the example Christ himself gave us in his prayer before the crucifixion (Luke 22:42). He exemplified both a genuine hope for something different as well as an acceptance of God-ordained suffering.

Jesus did not hesitate to ask the Father for another way to accomplish his plan, but his requests were ultimately presented with a heart of surrender.

Everything We Need

Feelings of insufficiency and envy are some of the hardest to fight in the midst of suffering, walking through all the overwhelming questions. But in humility, and carried along by grace, we wrestle both to rejoice with others in their healing and to walk alongside others through their pain, knowing our suffering cannot and should not be compared.

We need to remember that God’s care for us is deep, and he will always provide everything we need. He already has.

Perfect health is something I have never known in this life. But if I don’t have it, I do not need it to accomplish what God has planned for me. He didn’t make a mistake when he made me. Nothing in my life has ever happened outside of his will. My physical limitations do not disqualify me from the tasks that have been and will be assigned to me. In fact, I believe they have strangely and beautifully prepared me for those tasks. The circumstances and inconveniences have been given to me, and I trust they are part of God providing what I need for his calling on my life.

Healing in this life may come. Or we may be called to a deeper and more rewarding journey of faith through our suffering. There’s no denying that the road is hard, but God is here to walk beside us and remind us that he is working in all our circumstances.

Eventually our suffering will come to an end. If we are in Christ, it is only temporary. On that day, when faith becomes sight, we will experience glory that will not be worth comparing to every hard thing we have experienced on this earth.

This article was originally published on Desiring God.

When Things Change and Stay the Same

In the middle of things moving, changing, and transforming, some things still stay the same.

iris

This flower came from one set of grandparents and years ago went to my other set of grandparents farther away. We were with those grandparents a couple weeks ago, and they offered for us to take the plant home. We didn’t at first, but as we were driving off, we turned around, went back, and dug up this iris to make the trek home and be planted in our own yard instead.

It’s an important piece of my family’s history. It means even more now as our family has experienced a lot of changes. Some good; some difficult.

One plant. Two families. Three homes.

It amazes me how it somehow survives all the uprooting and replanting, and can bloom again, after a season of growth underneath the surface.

Sometimes something so delicate can also be strong and resilient, and it makes change full of potential instead of a treacherous risk. Even though the roots are dug up and moved all over again, they were created with the potential to dig deep into what brings life, no matter if the scenery around it looks a little different each time, and we can know it will blossom again.

But it needs space to get its footing. It needs to stay grounded in what is True and constant, unwavering and unchanging.

When we find ourselves there, we are enabled to go anywhere and flourish. We learn to love more. Bring more joy. Explore new places where we’re needed and step forward in the way we are called to go.

It mirrors the hope of new life. What was once dead will live again – of this we can be sure. No matter what changes or where we go, this hope does not change. It cannot be taken away. It will not disappoint.

So we can step forward in any direction we’re led, as everything rushes by and when we wakeup that one day where we realize today looks nothing like yesterday. Things changes, but on what remains the same is where we fix our eyes.

Turning “Why?” into “What Now?” [Guest Post]

I’m so excited to share today’s guest post with you, from Jen Weaver! She is a wonderful writer and I love what she has to say. I hope you all enjoy reading this as much as I did! You can check out her book, A Wife’s Secret to Happiness, here.
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I like to ask “why?” As a young child, I’d torment my loving parents with my favorite questions on repeat all the live long day. But why? How come?

The sky is blue. How come?

You can’t drink milk with a fork. But why?

Your sister needs a nap. How come?

Mommy needs a nap. But why? Because Mommy’s tired. How come?

As an adult with a toddler of my own, I’ve acquired a greater appreciation for my parents’ patience. And, I’ve come to realize, I still like to ask “why?”

My inquisitive nature carries perks. I’m skilled at research, and I love learning. But other times it keeps me stuck in the past. I start the how come debate because I assign blame, especially when it comes to my marriage.

  • Married life isn’t what I expected.
  • I don’t feel connected to my husband right now.
  • Why aren’t we on the same page?

Sure, I’ll have mature moments of self-inspection and repentance for the less-than-helpful roles I’ve played. But most of the time, my first thoughts turn to what Jared is doing wrong. Why are things the way they are? Him.

Or I’ll consider struggles we’ve faced, some I assume are much harder than those of my friends. How come we’re in this tough spot, and their path seems so much easier?

I can doubt God’s plan for our relationship in the midst of a cold, lonely season.

I mistrust His provision in a time of great loss.

And I’ve found the Lord is not intimidated by my messiness. He doesn’t shrink back from doubts and fears, but longs to stand there with me as I wrestle with my wonderings. Even when I’m hurt, or confused, God welcomes the discussion.

Even still, I can’t let why be my final destination. My assessment of the past and appraisal of my current circumstances must lead me to action.

What now?

  • I’m in this unwanted place/season/situation.
  • I’m experiencing less than a full, free, abundant life.
  • My relationship could use a bit more of God’s presence and favor.

What now?

Each time my dialogue with Jesus reaches that pivotal transition, I make way for Him to minister to my heart in a new way.

I may not understand why. Some of these circumstances may plague me at no fault of my own. But Lord, what do you want me to do now?

I can’t begin to tell you how much Jesus loves this new list of questions. When I turn from pointing fingers, I get to partner with Him in the next steps. If you find yourself in a prolonged season of how come inquiry, I bring encouragement. God is ready to do a new thing. He wants to stand with you, wrestle with you, as you share the reservations that burn in your heart and plague your mind. And He’s waiting to lead you to answers through a new line of questioning.

What now, Lord?

His now instruction may come with areas of obedience or rest. Of patience or perseverance. Of prayer warfare or of seeking external guidance. Some of us may continue asking why along the journey of what now baby steps. And for others, you know in your heart that it’s time to set aside those how come concerns and make room for a different conversation with Jesus.

He’s ready and waiting. What now?

Jen Weaver is the author of A Wife’s Secret to Happiness and is passionate about sharing strength with others as a Bible teacher, speaker, and blogger at thejenweaver.com. She’s also one of the hosts of The Declare Conference, a conference that equips women to walk in their calling as Christian communicators. She’s on social media as @thejenweaver and she’d love to connect with you, especially on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

jen weaver

Her recent book, A Wife’s Secret to Happiness, shares eleven powerful, practical blessings that God wants to pour into your lap like sweet spiritual confetti, and the wifestyle habits that attract or reject this divine provision. Available wherever books are sold. Click here to read a free sample chapter.