When hurting people come to church, carrying their burdens, they begin to heal, pouring out what hurts most and trusting God will fill them with peace in the middle of the chaos. I’ve been there. Recently, there have been several others I’ve known are hurting, struggling to breathe through the pain, yet they show up. They engage the best they can. They worship. They inhale and exhale, and that’s an accomplishment.
Not everyone around us knows the pain we feel. They don’t know our grief, hurt, confusion. By sitting beside others without telling them everything, we are not being fake. We have people who we feel safe and transparent with; we’re not trying to hide anything. We’re trying to survive. Those who know what we’re facing see it in our eyes and posture. They know the purity with which we worship.
One of the best places for me to heal in the early days of my ex’s rejection and betrayal was worship services. I was surviving, not aware of many around me. My focus was on God. I savored those tearful moments with him. Such pure moments. Despite me often being unaware of those around me, some took notice. I get that. Seeing a young couple I knew was struggling just that morning come into the door surprised me yet made me smile. I thanked God for their courage. The suddenly-single person grieving over a spouse seemed to soak in the thickness of God’s presence. I thanked God for his transparency.
I thank God for worship, for church, for friendships, for healing. There is so much he provides. It is overwhelming.
Never stop seeking him. Never stop worshiping him.
I wrapped up a good workout and I sighed on the short drive home. As I pulled into my driveway, I was overwhelmed with a rush of reflections of abundant blessings in my life.
- kind words people might not realize had an impact
- a high mileage van that my ex refused to take but continued to run for me much longer than expected
- a dog who often got severe allergies a couple times a year but had been well
- the ability and commitment to give to the church despite financial uncertainties
- a new job in town that helped me avoid daily travel and afforded me time with family and friends
- a safe place to live
- deepening of many friendships and beginnings of many new ones
And truth – constant nourishment of truth. And the courage to reside in it.
No matter what is going on in your life, fight to know and dwell in truth. Determine to acknowledge the blessings in your life. Combine those two things: be truthful about your blessings. That means some of what you think is a blessing might not be, but things you don’t consider as blessings are.
The week after my ex announced he wanted a divorce, my mom sent me a card to encourage me, to bring a faint ray of light into a stormy season. Hers was the second house I had retreated to on that black Saturday, the morning after his shocking words fractured my world. She saw me shattered.
In the weeks that followed, she sent more cards – one every week. They arrived like clockwork. Some prompted a slight smile or laugh; others prompted streams of tears. Some were sweet; others were borderline inappropriate. I loved every single one.
She had to get creative when shopping for cards. The divorce process dragged on much longer than expected. I told her she could stop. But she couldn’t. She was determined, and it was one way she could support and encourage me. (She also asked me hard questions and wrestled through understanding with me. That’s important support and encouragement, too.) We laughed a few times, reflecting on how much money she could have saved without buying and mailing all those cards, but she got a lot of bang for her buck. Each investment of a few dollars yielded a payout of encouragement.
That’s how many cards Mom sent me.
Probably a few more than either of us expected, but I appreciate every single one.
Sometimes when life seems uncertain, something consistent helps steady someone. Consider how you might encourage someone through his or her current season. It can be cards, texts, meals, or errands. Be a dose of stability in someone’s shaky season.
A high school classmate messaged me.
We occasionally interact on social media, but our contact is limited. But she reached out with the words of encouragement I need to hear. It hadn’t been a bad day, but I felt a bit like Eeyore with a rain cloud following me around. She shared an excerpt from something she had read. She told me how my daily posts impacted her. And she thanked me for trying to honor God and keep the focus on him through a messy season of life. She took time out of her day to reach out. It might have only taken her a few minutes, but that brief time strengthened me the rest of the day.
Sometimes we need people to remind us to stay focused, as well as tell us when we’re focused on the wrong things. We need to listen, discern, apply, appreciate, and be grateful.
Encouragement is potent.
Be sure to encourage others today – right now.
Anticipating at least a short wait at a restaurant to meet up with a couple friends travelling through the area, I took a stack of thank you cards. It seemed odd to write “thank yous” following the divorce, but there were a handful of people who lived in the trenches with me. I wanted to express my appreciation. I suppose it is similar to the thank yous written after a death; after all, it was a death. I lost my best friend and life partner.
I thought I’d grabbed a pen at home, but it wasn’t where I would normally put it in my laptop bag. I knew there were likely pens from various trips in the bag, and the first one I pulled out made me smile. It was from my ex’s former counseling business. It was an old favorite I had helped choose and order. I addressed an envelope with it – or tried. It was reluctant to work. The ink was dry. I had to apply quite a lot of pressure to produce clear writing. I made it through one envelope before setting it aside to find another option. I found another old favorite – one I thought I had lost. And it wrote as if it was brand new.
I smiled at the irony. I smiled in gratitude.
I am grateful for newness of life.
I am grateful for fresh, free-flowing ink.
I am grateful for friends who invest in my life.
I’m a good packer – efficient, purposeful, thorough – but I’ve learned the best way to pack my bags as I move forward in life is…humbly. Letting God pack my bags doesn’t allow me to always take what I want, but my obedience lets me avoid carrying what’s unnecessary.
God has urged me to leave some things behind the last year and a half – hurt, betrayal, deceit, insults, judgments, disrespect, doubt, anxiety. He has replaced those things with himself, faithfulness, truth, hope, and peace. He never takes something out of my life without providing for the space left behind as long as I lean into and trust him to fill that space instead of rushing to fill it myself. Allowing him to fill the ugly with new contentment is challenging but sensible. It’s some of the other stuff he doesn’t pack that prompts more questions and uncertainties.
God doesn’t pack some of the good stuff – at least the stuff I experience as good but he knows won’t be helpful to me. I know people who cling to the good of the past – “We will remember the good memories. At least, we have the good times.” – and remembering isn’t detrimental. But living in the memories can be, especially when it comes at the expense of seeking truth and facing the present and future reality. Refusing truth is a slap to God.
So, I’m letting him pack as he wills. I trust him to point me to the future, let me take what I’ll need, and stay with me every step of the way. I might miss a thing or two, but at least I won’t get worn out by carrying what he intends me to leave behind.
My phone repeatedly notified me of incoming messages on the morning of my settlement conference. Around a dozen people knew about the conference and had been praying for days. Actually, they’d been praying for weeks and months – over a year and a half since this journey began. They knew details. They prayed for me, my ex, every attorney who had been involved, the judge, my daughters, and so on.
It had been a long haul with many delays and discouragements. These people became my reminders of truth, keepers of accountability, and generous givers of grace. They were scattered across multiple states, with some just a stone’s throw from my house. They were by my side.
These people weren’t praying for me. They were praying with me. They knew we well enough to know the process of the conference was much more important than the content or result. I wanted to be at peace throughout it. I wanted attorneys on both sides to be grounded in truth and wisdom. I wanted to honor God, trusting him to strengthen me and carrying myself with his posture. I wanted less of me and more of God.
And these faith-filled people prayed for God’s presence and peace together. I could almost hear their cacophony as a beautiful background to a morning filled with the ugly rubble of betrayal, rejection, and deceit.