Man of Sorrows

I want to begin this blog post by stating this: it is okay to not be okay. Sadness is something we all deal with. It is real and brings us to dark places. But often we hide our sadness under a smile or shade of happiness we applied to our faces that morning. We may think there is no time or space for our sadness amidst the busyness we have signed ourselves up for. Our schedules are jam packed, we get little sleep, and we have so many people to please. Has anyone ever felt this way?

I go to a Christian university, and love the community that I have the privilege to live in. But something I’ve noticed is when life is difficult and heavy, we think we have to have it all together. It feels to me like sometimes as Christians, we think there is no time in the day to deal with struggles or loneliness or grief or sadness. We know the verse in Ecclesiastes 3:

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”

But how are we dealing with the heavy burdens life brings our way? I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it: If I’ve learned anything this semester, it’s that it is okay to not be okay.  I’m confident in this because of a verse in Isaiah 53:3:

“He was despised and rejected—
    a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief…”

Jesus was the Man of Sorrows. He came on earth to die for all humankind; billions of people who knew and didn’t know Him. He fought for our salvation by carrying our burdens and sorrows to the cross. All of the pain, sin, and darkness of the world was placed on His shoulders for a world that had turned away from Him. He knows sorrow. He knows pain. He knows sadness.

These past three weeks have shaken my world and opened my eyes to how we deal with pain. My grandma passed away, three weeks ago now, to be with the Lord in Paradise. She was ready to be in the Lord’s presence and it gave me peace knowing she passed peacefully. God gave me the incredible opportunity to see her the night before her passing; to tell her how much her testimony and love meant to me. It was a beautiful time because we know that because of Jesus, she is now healed and complete in Him. Now separated from suffering and darkness, she is living in the light of Christ.

I live with seven other girls in a suite at my school. I love them all dearly and again want to thank them for their comfort and protection during my time of grieving. A community that is full of compassion helps bring healing to hurt.

On the day of my grandma’s funeral, my phone blew up with messages about another one of my roommate’s grandpa passing away. The hurt and pain that I was feeling was no longer just mine. My dear friend got to see her grandpa before he passed, but still came back to school with the loss of a loved one.

Our dorm room was feeling the weight of loss and grief that week. We were shocked by these two losses happening so close together and dealt with it with as much grace as we could. And to our surprise, another wave came rolling in. My roommate got a sudden phone call a few days later with the unexpected news that her grandma had passed in her home. I cannot tell you the heaviness of that day as we carried on throughout our classes in disbelief. We kept asking each other, What is happening to our room?

Many tears, many hugs, and many prayers later, we all rallied around each other in community for the loss we continued to feel for each other. The love I felt for these friends grew so much in those few days.

As I write to you now with a heavy heart, I write of the news that another one of my roommate’s great-grandma has passed away suddenly. Another shock that seemed too much like routine in our room. The heaviness and weight of loss still rests on our shoulders as we grieve for our dear friend and roommate.

This time will always serve as a memory, definitely not a fond memory, of how we deal with loss in a broken world. I hold onto that verse in Isaiah to remind myself that Jesus was the Man of Sorrows. He came and suffered with us and for us. He understands loss. In the book of John, we’ve all memorized a small verse in John 11:35: “Jesus wept.” I remember this verse because Jesus mourned when he heard of his friend Lazarus’ death. He felt pain. He knew what it was like to lose someone to death. He was human, like us. I look to Him during this time of loss.

God does not like death. He mourns with us and calls us as the Church to deal with loss together. He does not want us to be alone. I hold tightly to Him in a time of deep sorrow and am thankful for the community He has given us in His Church. Thank you for support and love from those that have heard about what has been happening over the past few weeks. We appreciate your prayers in this time. Not just for comfort, but for protection in a time where much seems lost. We hold on to the promises of the Lord and trust that He will bring blessings out of sorrow and pain.

Psalm 23:4,6: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. … Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

2 Corinthians 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.”

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Empty Happiness.

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Talking about God with a friend is lovely, isn’t it? Its a blessing to be able to sit around and tell someone where you’re at and what is going on in your life and what God is doing in your life.

I am very blessed to have friends like that.

While I was talking with a wonderful friend the other night, that I trust and confide in, I was reminded that I was not always here. It wasn’t always easy to have conversations like that, and I wasn’t always in this place where I was happy and excited about what God was doing in my life.

Two years ago, my sophomore year, was a year I struggled with empty happiness. If you had asked me if I would relive that year on that last day of sophomore year, I would’ve told you, “Not in a million years”. I was very lonely, depressed, lost, and confused. School was something I dreaded. Not a lot of people know this about me. Freshman year, I was also very depressed. And I was having a hard time with the friends I was close with. No one seemed to understand when I wanted to talk about God and where I was at. No one wanted to talk about God. I loved church. Some of my friends didn’t want to hear about my experiences at church.

When you get to high school, life is all about where you are in the food chain at school. Are you at the top or the bottom? Who do you hang out with? Who is your group of friends? I found so much identity in my group that I was struggling to find it in my relationship with Jesus. Who I was in Him was not what I was reaching for. And I didn’t want to chase down the boys like a lot of my friends did. I wanted to chase Jesus. But I wasn’t. It was an empty place. I wasn’t chasing what my friends wanted but I also wasn’t chasing Jesus. I wanted to, but I was caught in this middle ground.

God really tugged at my heart for those two years. I tried to talk to my friends about it, but I didn’t have the people around me that I trusted to tell them what I was feeling. Thats a hard place to be in. You’re a Christian and your friends may or may not be too, but they’re not chasing Jesus. And you see that. What do you do? Well you talk about it. Invite them to church, talk about Jesus…

The number of friends I had that year slowly decreased and I lost contact with a lot of people I saw everyday. I’m sure not a lot of them noticed because it was something that happened over time. Sometimes you just lose contact with people. But there was this invisible wall that grew between me and a few people. You can’t see it, but you can definitely feel it. Sometimes, you run right into that wall and it hurts.

It really did hurt.

I was lonely. I felt forgotten. But in that time, God shouted loud and clear,

“I’m here with you!”

And He was. He was there. God walked with me through this empty time of my life. Even when I sat alone in class or sat home alone on Friday nights, knowing that God was with me outweighed the loneliness.

It was never easy, it was always difficult. But its truly beautiful when you can go through something like that with a friend. And I did have a friend in Jesus.

With that being said, I want to clarify that there was never a time in my life where I didn’t have friends. I talked with friends from church and I met new people when others stopped talking to me. But everyone had their “group” of peeps. I understood. So I floated around. Then God did something amazing.

He brought me my best friend. A person who was going through the exact same thing I was. And she was distanced from her friends as well because she was chasing Jesus. For some reason, we started hanging out. At lunch we sat by each other and shared what God was doing in our lives.

My best friend was one of the first people I talked to about Enlightened and  she stood beside me to get everything together and set for what God did that night. She shared her story that night, about her lonely path during her first two years of high school. It was amazing how we realized that God has been calling us to great things and we needed to pursue Him to do that. We knew that pursing Him instead of that empty happiness was worth it. And He brought along a friend to encourage the other during the journey.

I now have a group of really close friends in my life that love Jesus and are chasing Him. Ones that I can share with about what God is doing in my life and they can share the same with me. I share this because I’m thankful. Thankful that God provided me with these friends to talk to, get to know, and spend time with.

Even if I didn’t have these friends, I am still thankful that I went through that lonely period of my life. God taught me so much. He taught me how to rely on Him and spoke to me in those quiet, peaceful times.

I want to encourage you. If you are a Christian, there are times that your life is going to be really lonely. You may be all by yourself or you may lose friends when others make decisions that you don’t agree with. High school is all about “memories with that group of friends you hung out with”. That’s great, but that’s not why we’re here. We’re not here to be comfortable and find our identity in a group. I am thankful that I have a group of friends that knows that and doesn’t want to chase an identity in something other than Jesus.

You can find those friends. God will provide those friends. He doesn’t want us to do this alone. But it’s important that we were never alone in the first place. At the start, He was there. In the end, He’ll be there.

In the times that you feel lonely, seek Him. Don’t sit in that middle ground where you’re not chasing anything. Chase Jesus.

Proverbs 3:5

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

John 15:18-19

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

John 14:6

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”