Saying thanks in faith

At 2:30 in the morning I just packed up the car and headed north, because sometimes a girl just needs an adventure under radiant stars and sunrises amidst the fall foliage.

And what girl doesn’t accidentally take the 15 mile loop instead of the 6 mile loop? I parked at the trailhead for the same mountain that was farther away. No big, I figured. There should be just enough daylight to make it through. I’m out of shape, but I have done most of the 46 high peaks. I could gut it out.

At some points, several hours in, it seemed like the mountain was going on up forever. I didn’t see the top of it until I was literally on top of it, so I had no idea how close I was to the top. During the later miles, I found myself asking the same 3 questions.

How much longer?

Is it going to be worth the pain when I get to the top?

How much is it going to hurt?

There was no one else with me. I could have sat down, eaten lunch, read my book, and headed home. I thought about it.

But God gently prompted me to consider how often I ask those questions in my faith life during a trial.

I’ll ask “how much longer,” and God will say “a little longer.” I’ll demand an end date and time. It’s easy to start doubting God’s goodness when you treat him like a jailor to your present circumstances instead of the preparer for your future.

I’ll say “I don’t think that the way you made me will ever be worth the pain. I can’t see anything good ever coming out of this way I am or this circumstance. Certainly not anything good enough to outweigh the cost.” He says “Trust me. One day you’ll see and be grateful.” My response is often doubt that the fullness of a blessing could outweigh the pain.

I’ll say “How much is it going to hurt? To what magnitude will I suffer for following you?” He says “I’m a father first. In this life you will have trials and tribulations, but that I have overcome the world, and I go with you. Take up your cross” I’ll do it, sometimes willingly, and sometimes with resentment.

If I had to sum up the last 3 years of my life, it would be Big Feelings. I’ve felt a mix of profound and genuine joy and profound and real brokenness–often in the same day–as I’ve walked through ordinary life struggles and family struggles. It has been the best of times and the worst of times. Sometimes I’ve wanted to rip my heart right out of my chest and throw it down there on the table, just so I could stop feeling it all.

My knee-jerk reaction lately has been to hate that God made me such a feeler. I don’t see any value in it. I feel weak and vulnerable and exposed when I want to be strong and steadfast.

But hiking was the culminating point for something I’ve been pondering for the past couple days.

What kind of Holy howl could we unleash if we started increasing our awareness of the gift of the way God made us instead of just merely tolerating it? What if I praised him for making me the way He made me even though I don’t see the purpose of it…right now? What if I started thanking Him in faith for my being and for my trials, even if I don’t see the fruit of it yet? Because God doesn’t say that he’ll work most things together for the good of those who love Him. He says ALL, and we can stand on that. Can honest trust and gratitude become my knee-jerk reaction? Can I stop looking at the disguises and just look straight at the blessing?

One day, I know I will see that there was purpose…because God has shown me that with other trials time and time again. So why waste the energy hating the trial or the way I’m made until that moment?

What if the reason I can write compelling characters is because I feel so deeply? What if it’s my feelings that cause me to run to God time and time again and be met with love? What if the buzzing of emotion that requires a pen to quell helps me make sense of the world and God in a way that helps someone else down the road?

In short, am I willing to trade experiencing all of that glorifying of God for a few less tumultuous days? Am I willing to trade someone else’s eternity for a carefree life where, frankly, I probably won’t even know my need. It sounds like a lose-lose situation to me).

Maybe this part of me that I hate is actually a part of God placed in me. Maybe the depth of my feelings is just a infinitesimal fraction of His feelings. Maybe He bursts with joy and bubbles over with laughter too. Maybe He’s overcome with sadness at times (the Bible does make it clear that he’s long-suffering). Maybe feelings are supposed to be part of the way He and I relate. Maybe his feelings for us are what compel Him to act, and maybe mine are supposed to compel me to act on others’ behalf, too.

Maybe my approach to pain should look more like:

How do you intend to draw me closer and more tender-hearted through this experience?

How should I process this trial with you right now?

How do I steward this experience for your glory?

I got a little busted up today by some news, so I’ll have the opportunity to practice this under fire.

Because the view from the top is so totally worth it, and the journey is so much more pleasant. dscn1391

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