Lacking Lift

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:17

Gazing out over the lake in front of the cottage, I notice a wasp crawling up the arm of my Muskoka chair, and moving perniciously close to my hand. I knock it away with my pen, but he doesn’t take flight. He just falls to the ground close to my feet. I flick him away expecting that he’ll lift off. He doesn’t. He just crawls across the flagstone patio in front of me.

I notice he doesn’t seem to have anywhere to go. He just continues crawling and periodically stops to clean himself (I think, but I’m no expert in insect grooming practices). Perhaps he is one of the displaced wasps from the nest my husband, son, and cottage neighbours recently – even gleefully – took turns knocking off the cottage with a football, the carefully crafted paper house – and all its precious contents – mercilessly ravaged to a pulp, its papery insides left ragged and exposed in the nearby grass.

I suppose that in mid-August in Northern Ontario, it’s already that time of year when the bees and wasps seem to grow a little groggy and you’re more prone to getting stung by them. Maybe, between the cold and homelessness, this wasp doesn’t have the strength to fly. Probably all he can do now is simply crawl.

I think some days our lives bear a striking resemblance to this crawling wasp, and his destructed home, maybe even some weeks, some months, or some years. Strangely cold and numb, we feel all we once knew has been knocked out of the sky, when the coldness of winter whispers word of its cruel onset, when we only have the strength to crawl when we used to fly – soar even.

But now we are relegated to the ground. No marvelous scenery, no lofty heights, no busy work with which to contribute, no friends and family buzzing around us, no perspective in the dirty, low-altitude dwelling places. We’re grounded, with no sign of flight.

Praise has turned to pallor, dreams to drudgery, and light to dark.

How can this be? How can we have experienced such heights, such faith-filled intimacy, been so on top of the world, only to fall to such depths? Has God abandoned us, we ask. Is He withholding His loving kindness? Worse, is this some kind of punishment? The silence can be that stifling.

Though backward thinking perhaps, I’m growing more and more convinced that these trials are the exact opposite of what it appears in the natural. That the darkness of the valley of the shadow of death does not exclude those living in Christ; the trials, and even the voiceless silence, an act of supreme kindness and love by a God who is willing to have us think He is anything but, to invite us to the very best.

For by them, we find faith that looks to things unseen (2 Corinthians 4:18), we are refined as silver and tested as gold (Zechariah 13:9), we learn perseverance, character, hope, and gain the ability to love more fully (Romans 5:4). And, amazingly, these heartaches become the rugged pathway to eternal glory (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Do not despair if you seem to be lacking lift. It is a temporary place in preparation to ascend the other places God intends. But first you must be trained in order to endure higher altitudes – the places where eagles soar.

Though you may not see tangible evidence today, may you rest in the truth of what you know of God.

Light Giver

I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. ~ John 12:46

There is a kind of suffering only God understands. A kind of grief, loss, heartache, emptiness, and loneliness nestled in the silent recesses of our souls we can’t find adequate words to utter within a quiet room, let alone speak aloud to another human being.

These intense feelings reside in the deep, soundless groaning of the heart, and require expert attention before they mute all joy.

But we neglect to go to the Physician.

Instead, we try.

Sometimes we try harder. Sometimes we try medication. Sometimes we try others. 

And sometimes these offer some measure of comfort and help. Other times they do not.

That’s when it gets even more painful. 

When we suffer and there seems no remedy. When we try everything but repeatedly face a brick wall. When we are confronted with impossible situations. When mountains rise up on every side blocking out the sun. When the water keeps rising and there’s no relief in sight. That’s when hopelessness threatens to suffocate and lies seep in to convince us that we aren’t worthy of joy, love, or life.

However hard we try, some things can’t be fixed. However compassionate, no other living soul can fully comprehend your pain or be all you need. However successful, helpful, and necessary, medication is not the true life-saver. 

What we really need is a different kind of giving up. Not giving up on life, but giving up our life as we know it. Not admitting defeat and giving up, but admitting defeat and giving in. Not handing it off, but handing it up. Not declaring it is the end, but recognizing there is a new beginning.

Because no matter how dark and hopeless it appears, a second chance is just a prayer away. 

These fierce battles are God’s domain. You were never expected to fight them on your own. You weren’t made to be impervious to hardship, but to be equipped with God-fitted armor. 

But to be fitted for it, we must admit the need for it. And all the while we are trying hard, covering over, and looking for quick fixes where serious surgery needs to take place, we will not find relief for our weary body, mind, heart, and soul. We will not find peace.

We need to admit our weakness, accept our failings, and ask for the soul-cleansing forgiveness we so desperately need. We need to drink deeply from the well of God’s love to quench our thirsty soul and renew our spirit. God removes the weight of heavy burdens, illuminates the darkness of our soul, breathes new life into the dead places, and lets us truly live. 

Pain is part of the human experience. Though we try, we cannot escape suffering. But we can choose to bring the pain, grief, loss, heartache, emptiness, and loneliness that is lodged deep inside and hand it to Christ: the One who died to rescue us and the only One who fully understands.

Then we find we no longer need to stagger around in the darkness. Christ is like a light illuminating the far reaches of our souls and helping us out of the darkness.

God, I admit my desperate need for you. I cannot do it alone anymore and I give my life over to Christ, the One who died to save me from death. Forgive me for my sins, cleanse me, and make me new. Teach me how to live side by side with you. Amen.