My hope is only a flicker. The winds of life blow and almost extinguish it. What has happened? Where is my faith in the midst of constant attacks? My heart aches and I don’t understand why I feel so much sorrow and double the fear. Anxiety hits me without reason, my spirit anticipating difficulty before its even here. The reasoning of my mind takes me to the worst. My body shakes in fear from the actual realities of my life. But, if I stand back and consider, all the circumstances appear to be some entertainment sitcom, not the depth and breadth of my life.
Almost three months in the books of this pain filled year. My mental, emotional, spiritual, financial and physical capacities are stretched to complete capacities. All of them. My faith may be stronger than I understand and my light flicker may be more stable than I comprehend, but all I can interpret is being a blurry mess. For weeks I have no ability to communicate how I feel.
Exhaustion stays as a heavy blanket. When I sit down to read, I fall asleep. My endurance levels are absolutely minuet, waking up at 7am and wanting a nap by the time I walk to the couch. Each day I am making the choice to walk 15 minutes and drink 32oz of water. Maybe a subtle help? Food has never been something I think about, so I make a conscious effort to remember to eat. The demands of two jobs and the hundred or so people who come to our house every week all take energy from my depletion. My hands never lift a broom to sweep or a sponge to clean the basin. My bed stays unmade and once a month or so I hang up the clean clothing in the basket by our bed. My energy is rather conserved for people, work and meal prep. My body is weak. I’m too small. Medicine makes me feel drunk. The cold, the flu, allergies, stomach aches, the common plagues, that’s what takes me.
My mind is scattered, thinking of how this circumstance or another circumstance will impact our family. An unexpected vehicle accident, personal accusations, complaints, sensitivity, unmet expectations, imperfections, bills, etc. My mind is overthinking every situation and the variety of situations feel too many. No trust, only a runaway overactive brain. My thoughts are far from held captive and I’m thinking on the wrong things. I preach to myself, but I’m still struggling. My imperfections seem heightened and my humanity dominate.
Most every day my eyes read the pages of my Bible. My brain processes and tells my heart to trust, to remember the faithfulness of God, to rest in His love. My spirit is weak. I feel far from Jesus even though His Spirit lives in me. My life is a sold out mission for Jesus, a surrender and an offering, but it feels so lame and ineffective. God keeps refining me in spite of me. More of Jesus is what I want and I delight when I understand what He tells me, when I sense His presence and when I see Him act. Our God acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. He does. I’m a witness to His goodness. Worship fills me and podcasts, as well as praying, listening to testimonies and studying His word. But it’s like I’m starving and surviving on morsels when my soul needs more. What do I do? The days fly by and whether I get an hour or four, I’m still famished and desperate.
Emotionally I fake it to I make it. Well, kind of. I hide myself in our home, pushing to keep going. The hot tea is served to the visitors that stop by, meals are cooked to sustain us, and I keep pushing through the work lists on my calendar. My contribution feels paltry. Tears are always wanting to fall, but I push them back, not knowing what to do with them or how to handle such intrusion. Some moments I want to be held, but most often I don’t want to be touched. My heart feels crushed, beat down by the life we live. Shame comes running because of the guilt I feel with my little flicker of light faith and my repeat sin of anxiety. Incapable of pulling it all together, God shoves me in a leadership role. Doesn’t He know I can’t do it?! He always chooses the wrong people, or the right people, who are incapable of the calling without Christ. People keep asking questions and watching my life. I don’t have it together. I’m dying, while I’m living. I’m trying to breathe. Long gasp.
And then there’s money, those round coins and sheets of paper. Why do I think about something tangible? Why do we have to seek it every day to survive? We are working with all we have and it never feels like enough. The enemy uses people/circumstances/the temporary to steal, kill and destroy my joy, my contentment and my hope. Every day we need to pray for provision, a constant need in our lives. And almost every day I panic, worrying about tomorrow, when today is good. But thus far. We can pile the stones. We can testify to the thus far. Why am I afraid?
Before proceeding with a self-diagnosis, I’m reminded that I still laugh out loud, my kids still capture my attention, God is equipping me to be a fully present listener, I like to eat when I remember, and my life really is so incredibly good. Even if I am a basket case, God loves me. And deeply. He is using everything to refine me. When I wait, I am expectant. When I’m afraid, He is peace. Even in all the exhaustion and fear, He never leaves me.
The valley of the shadow of death equals terror to me. I am committed to a hallway, somewhere around midway, holding onto the door casing, fighting with everything in me, not to keep walking. I’m terrified of the attacks that will hit me at every open door so I don’t want to walk down the hall. I want to run down that hall or maybe fly, but the hall is my life and I have to walk it or crawl it or somehow get down it. God has chosen me and clearly given me life with a calling. My wants and desires do not matter. I have to get down the hall and to keep going makes me hyperventilate. The thought makes me grip the casing tighter. How can I walk through the shadows? What will blindside me? I don’t want to talk to an attorney. I don’t know which bill to pay. I don’t know how to get more rest. I don’t know if my kids will rebel. I don’t know how to bring peace to chosen chaos. I don’t remember to eat. Everything is out of our control.
God is with me. Why do I fear? But in my humanity I cannot let go of the door casing. The hits that have come through the open doors, I have already passed, have bruised me, tormented me, broken my heart, caused pain, and taken from me. I don’t want to keep walking, I want out. Not suicidal out, but free of this world, eternity with Jesus out. The Spirit does live in me and for freedom Christ has set me free. But how do I live free in the midst of the attacks that come from every side.
How do I suffer better? More fully? How do I embrace pain and sorrow? I don’t like it. How do I cope with conflict and loss when peace does not seem to come? Is it normal this dull ache in my heart? The life of following Jesus promises suffering and trials, but can I live this journey well? Can I really walk through the valley of the shadow of death, down that hallway called “my life,” and hold my head high, confident in Jesus, with no fear of what’s to come?!
For this I hope. For this I endure. For His glory. My little hope flicker shines because Jesus is in me. I am fully used up, impossible for this journey, not capable to keep the flame burning. He is the hope of glory. He fans my flicker. He sustains. He will teach me how to suffer with rejoicing. He gives rest, love, peace, joy in the midst of turmoil, death, uncertainty and rejection. With God’s enduring fanning into my flicker of a flame, it will not be snuffed out.
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” – Colossians 1:24-29
A flicker is enough.