Held together

Shattered and Broken. Destroyed and torn apart.

Everything is ending, the pieces are on the floor in front of you. The door just slammed, the call just came, the tears are running down your face.

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Maybe it is a job, a relationship or a family.  Or maybe it is a hope, dream or desire you have held as a pillar in your life for so long.

Whatever it is, you can’t breathe or focus, or seem to move on, it just feels as if you will die under the weight of the shattered pieces of your loss.  You might feel as you can’t continue, you can’t face the world, the others that haven’t been broken, and everything is together for them.

Perhaps you are in hard place of “this time of year” that can be suffocating.  You can’t muster the strength to smile and pretend everything is fine, so you just don’t go to that work party or that event with your friends.  You can’t face them again when your insides feel ripped in two. The happy couple or put together family is a punch to the gut.

My heart has been heavy this year thinking about how this advent season, the season of longing is truly that for many people.  2016 was a hard year for many, filled with heartache and pain and worry.  A year that just didn’t seem to quit. The world seems to be aching in so many ways.  Brokenness, shattered lives, cities literally crushed by hate and war, it is all too much.

We want to look away, we want to run and hide.  It seems too much to handle, to bear, to carry around from day to day. So maybe you ignore or just numb your self to the pain because you just can’t.

If you are anything like me, there might be things that seem impossible to hold together, to balance, to get through.  I look to myself to try to do it for myself, to pick up the pieces, to hold it together until I leave a party before I crumble.

The truth is that we actually don’t have to just power through, keep it in, and stuff it down.  Friends, we don’t have to hold ourselves together.  

We don’t do a very good job anyway, right.  We make a mess of it, like a stain that we try to fix without the stain remover.

The truth is that we have something that holds us together.  Someone, really.

In this season of Advent, of waiting and longing, I have been reminded that what we receive in the birth of Jesus is way through the pain, someone to hold it together for us, to be with us in the suffering.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-17 ESV)

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And in Christ, all things hold together.  

The power of that statement, in those moments when all the plates you have been juggling come tumbling down, when you feel at the precipice of destruction, when nothing seems sure, is water for the parched soul.

He came to us, he came to our world and lived the hard life that we are living.  He knows the pain and suffering of living this human life.  He knows. And he is still here.  He doesn’t run from it or hide from us. He stays and is with us. What a beautiful savior we have in Jesus.

Friends, as we wrap up 2016, we don’t have to pretend or posture before God about the state of our lives.  Our lives might be laying there destroyed by our sin or by others.  We might be in the midst of suffering and pain.  Or maybe 2016 was one of your best, but the message is the same.  It isn’t up to us to hold it together. 

We don’t have that power or might, but we have the One that does.

Friends, live in the freedom of not having to hold it together.  Step into the heartache and pain, you won’t be left there, you won’t be alone in it and it isn’t up to you to make it better. Praise Him.

photo credit: Shattered dove via photopin (license)

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The Problem We Can’t Fix

photo credit: Dutch sceneries (Winter edition) The long stretch via photopin (license)
It isn’t the answer, it isn’t the fix for the problem.  The baby, the boyfriend, the success, the promotion, the accolades, your grown children’s lives.  It isn’t what will make everything better.  Maybe for a brief moment.  But not really for the long haul.
In discussions with friends in longing, in waiting, in pain, wanting something to happen, wanting God to change the situation, I hear the whisper, “The answer you want isn’t the answer you need.”
Those things that we want aren’t the solution.  I know it, to the depths of my soul, I know it.  I know that those things that we expect, hope for, wait for, and want so badly,  the circumstances we want to change, aren’t what we need at all.
God knows this.  It isn’t like he is an angry parent, holding out on us just to punish us.  He is the opposite.  He is the loving father who is going to give us exactly what we need when we need it.  
He knows our hearts long for things, for good things.  For things that we place in a higher priority than him.  But sometimes that is why he doesn’t give them to us.  That is why we wait.  I like to think that all knowing God, has more of an understanding of what I need than I do. 
More than anything else, he longs for us to depend on him first.  To look to him for the solution, for the supply of our every need.  More than we long for the kid, the house, the relationship, he longs for us to put everything we have in him, to place all our bets on him, and go all in.  
He longs for us to depend fully on him, to look to him before all else.
Not to say this always looks like this in people’s lives, sometimes our prayers aren’t answered because we live in a broken and fallen world. But often he keeps us in waiting, so that we know what we are actually waiting for.  
I see it in Abraham and Sarah, Joseph, Moses, and all over the Psalms. You see it in so many stories in the bible, and the bible as a whole. The waiting and the longing for a fulfill promise, waiting for Christ to come. 
And in this time of year we feel it more, don’t we, the longing, the waiting. This season highlights the unanswered prayers, the hurts, the longings in our souls. 
Sure, a change in circumstances might ease the longing for a while.  It might seem like everything has lined up, but that feeling of discontentment will come back, the longing for the child might be replaced with something else.
Ultimately, it means that I can certainly place my identity in my circumstances, but my circumstances will change and then my identity will be shaken.  I need to place my identity in something that will not change, that is the same then, now and forever.

So, I am not waiting in this season of singleness, so that I learn how to be a good wife, or get my crap together, but because He longs for me to depend on Him, to throw myself in Him.  So that I won’t confuse the answer to my prayers, so that I will know that it is him that answers and not I as the one in control.
Friends, it is possible that we long for good things, we long for things that God could and will give us eventually.  But in that longing and waiting, that is where the transformation of the heart takes place.  

With or without the answer to your prayers, He will still be the same God and He loves you no more or less.  
More than anything he longs for our hearts to be turned to him.  He longs for our lives.  In his perfect understanding, he knows what takes our hearts and lives from him.  Those things that we want so badly, easily draw our hearts away. 

Friends, I write this because I know.  I know what it looks like to long, and wait, and hope.  I see it in the lives of loved ones, the longing, the waiting, and the hoping that today will be the day that the prayer gets answered. 

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. 
He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. 
On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.”


Psalm 62:5-7 ESV

BUT God in his perfect wisdom, will take care of us in that longing, just as he did Abraham, and the Israelites, and many others.  He will give us exactly what we need and exactly the right time.

Longing

 Several weeks ago, I sat in a church service and heard the words that have been ringing in my heart for a while. 

We long for “Place.”
A rootedness
An identity
A stable life

This has been an echo of my soul for several years.  I felt it as I moved for the 8th time in 10 years.  I felt it as I went to weddings, watched friends buy homes, have babies, and put down roots.  I felt it as I drove 4 hours to a funeral alone. 

I feel it as I move closer and closer to my 30’s and still have no idea of what the next few years hold for me.  With no relationship, not hopes of buying a home or need for permanence, I live life from year to year, lease agreement to lease agreement.  I feel it as I celebrate another round of holidays by alone, and my siblings find their match and plan weddings.

Even as I reach accomplishments and joys such as finishing degrees and celebrating random holidays with friends, I feel that longing.  

This longing in my heart that I want a home, a sanctuary to come to at the end of a long day, a quiet and restful place full of peace and comfort.  This longing for a steady and stable life, something to count on, something or even someone to help me find roots. 

The mistake I make, and probably many others, is thinking that a place like this exists in a person, relationship, or physical building.  I mistake finding a soulmate to find a place to root myself.  (That is a lot of a pressure for one person.)

The other part of that sermon answered all of this.

That which we long for is secured for us in Jesus, the world can NEVER provide this.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:1-3, ESV)

What I long for goes beyond a romantic relationship, a home, putting down roots, a stable and secure job, a direction, or even a community of friends.  What I long for is a place to put down my anchor.  This can only, only be found in the person of Jesus Christ.  If I try anywhere else, I will continue to live in this unsatisfied state, which is becoming more and more restless and anxiety driven.

Maybe you find yourself in this exact same spot or have been there…where you find yourself trying to throw your anchor? How is that working for you?