Faith

The Betrayal of a Friend

“If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide.

But it is you,

a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked among the worshippers.”

Psalm 55:12-14

One of the greatest pains you can face is the utter betrayal of a close and trusted friend. Indeed, I have felt no greater pain than when I was rejected by those I loved dearly.

It is the ultimate rejection – to be known and then forgotten.

Wounds that deep are not easily healed. But take heart, there is a path to healing.

Healing takes time. Don’t rush it! Instead rush to God:

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” Psalm 55:22

Those who run to God in their distress will not fall. When others fail you, trust God.

Faith · Forgiveness

Two Authors, Two stories, Two Perspectives

I often read books on difficult topics like the holocaust, residential schools, slavery, war and about the horrors of living under communism. Some might think that I favor books like these because I’m a person drawn to drama – focussing on the negative events in world history…or that I’m a Debbie downer, one of those extremists who always seem to have their undies in a bunch about something.

In reality, I hate drama, especially in my own life and I’m incredibly sensitive when I read about it. I have to be careful how much I allow myself to dwell on these things, because I know that it affects my mood and my day-to-day life.

What was interesting is that in the past week I read two books: one written about slavery and the other about the horrors of residential schools in Canada. Both addressed the horrendous acts of those who felt that they had “God’s right” to behave the way they did. Both books shed light on some of the most shameful behaviour done by those claiming to follow God. Both highlighted racism, extremism and abuse. And of course, my heart broke for both of the authors and the torment that they had to experience in their lives.

But that’s where my comparisons end because each book was so starkly different from the other. They were obviously written for different purposes: One was written as a path to healing and the other tried to become the victim all over again, ever trying to draw sympathy out of the reader. It got me thinking about the real difference between the two books, and not just these books, but the differences between each of the books I have read about suffering.

I realized that the majority of stories on suffering can be lumped into two categories:

1) A message of forgiveness and redemption

2) A theme of bitterness and regret

The first category is refreshing and hopeful. The writing is hard, but uplifting. The experiences dark, but the message is light.

The second category is equally dark and hard, but comes about it with a feeling of hopeless. And honestly I feel gross after reading such books.

The one book, which I will not name in respect for the author and her experiences, ended her story with these words: “Some people say I need to let go of the past and learn to forgive… I say bullshit.”

This, my friends, is the saddest, most hopeless end to a trial I can think of.

In the well written words of author Lynn Austin:

Bitterness is one of the deadliest emotions we ever feel. You can’t look forward when you’re bitter, only backwards. Thinking about what you’ve lost, stuck in the past. In the end it devours all hope.

Bitterness is a subject that I don’t like to talk about much, particularly because it is one of those “acceptable” sins where we justify our legitimacy to feel the way we do. It’s also an awkward thing to address in others as one cannot simply listen to someone sharing about a difficult experience and then joyfully say, “just forgive and forget!” That would be cruel and cold hearted! Only a person with zero empathy could respond in such a flippant way towards suffering.

But one only needs to spend a few minutes with a soul who is deeply bitter, to realize that it is the most draining, depressing and deadly things to be.

I’ve shared before about a past church and the painful rejection my family experienced there with a leadership couple, but what I didn’t share much about was that at beginning it started with the confrontation: You are bitter.

To this day, this remains one of the most painful things that has been said to me. Not because it was said of course, but because of the timing and manner in which it was said. I was going through depression, health issues, loneliness, and a lot of changes in my life at the time. We had just moved homes, churches and jobs, and we had a baby that cried constantly. I was just beginning to open up about my struggles with it all for the first time and this well-meaning confrontation caused such a devastating break of trust in my life. Because of this painful experience, I avoided even using the word “bitterness” for a long time. But the truth is, no matter how hard it is for me to talk about, it needs to be addressed!

Bitterness.

Is it a lack of forgiveness? Is it a negative outlook on life? Is it resentment towards your position in life?

I think to some degree, we all experience bitterness in different areas of our lives. Some experience it to a much larger degree than others. And some people are more easily offended than others! Whether it’s towards coworkers, or spouses, extended family or friends…

OR maybe It’s not towards people, but towards the suffering in your life, towards your situation that seems helpess…maybe even to God for putting you there!

I know I most definitely have felt bitterness. I’ve seen it too.

During the most difficult time of this conflict in the church, I met another couple who were going through a church split. I was having a hard time forgiving and processing our own experience so I felt some comfort in being able to share my struggles with this woman. However, when she began sharing her experiences and I heard the hateful words come out of her mouth: “I just wish they were dead!” I realized that forgiveness wasn’t just a good option, it was the ONLY option.

Bitterness unchecked is ugly. And it kills.

Offences committed against us and the pain that follows MUST be dealt with in a compassionate way, with much grace. The more painful the wound, the more time it needs to heal. One cannot expect to be fatally injured one day and then skip about smiling joyfully the next…such an expectation is unreasonable and unhealthy.

Forgiveness is much like taking a difficult course. At first, you may sit down and have no clue what the professor is talking about. The books don’t make sense, the assignments are daunting… but as the course goes on (provided you’ve decided to continue), you begin understanding more and more about the subject. The longer you take to study and absorb the material, the more your experience and capacity is expanded. Only after long months of lectures, homework and studies, are you ready to write the exam.

However, just stepping into the room and writing the exam on the first day would’ve never worked out! It couldn’t of been expected of you, you wouldn’t have passed! You needed time, growth, knowledge and experience.

You can pass the exam, but you need to first decide to say in the class and keep working at it!

The first step to forgiveness is simply deciding to walk that path.

At first it’s so confusing and difficult you may even doubt you’re on the right path. But as you begin learning and seeing the situation in the right perspective, the path suddenly doesn’t seem so impossible.

Yet there are always difficult days! Dark thoughts and painful feelings will come out of nowhere. This is expected. Don’t get down on yourself.

Keep walking forward, don’t look back. The secret to forgiveness and redemption is this: Don’t give up.

The moment you give up trying to forgive, is the moment you let go of the lifeline that is saving you from the deep pit of bitterness and offence.

Uncategorized

More than Conquerors

In the midst of World War 2, in the middle of a German death camp, a sixty year old woman whispered these words and in them found hope:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword….No! In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Romans 8:35-37

Corrie ten Boom faced an impossible and hopeless situation…worse than anything I could possibly imagine. Everything she listed from the scriptures above happened to her.

Death, starvation and evil prevailed.

She stood for hours in the cold, naked and filthy as she watched the women around her get beaten and shot when they could stand no longer.

Her dying sister was mocked and brutally treated by even the nurses in the camp.

And yet, somehow, these very words brought such comfort to her soul that she was able to lift her hands in adoration and face each new day with courage.

I’ve been pondering these very scriptures in Romans 8 for the past few days now and I have come to the conclusion that while these words deeply move me, I will never quite know the depth to which they comforted Corrie until I face the very trials and pain of which they speak.

When I wake up, I am well fed and warm, healthy and clothed and it is SO easy to feel like I can conquer anything. But take even one of these “rights” away, and I become miserable, discouraged, perhaps even angry and bitter.

The true test of our faith comes not when things are good, but when things are hard.

I’ve recently seen two different people: both were pleasant and joyful, both claiming to have faith, both strong and admirable. There was no difference between the two when all was well.

Yet something terrible happened to each one. And here’s when their true colours showed. One of them grew angry, cold, hard and bitter, isolating themselves from the people around them, bullying anyone who tried to reach out and help.

Yet the other person stayed soft, thankful, kind, and gentle…not only this but they continued to even bless, encourage and even help those around them.

Somehow I think God wasn’t surprised.

Many times I look at the world around me and see people who don’t seem to care for God at all and wonder how they have their lives better put together than mine. I ask myself – is there any point?

Ahh, yes. Then I remember that right now, things are quite comfortable.

But a time comes for each person where they are tested to the core of their being. Only through Jesus Christ can we stand against these trials and say we are more than Conquerors.

I have a feeling that someone reading this today is going through such a trial now. My heart breaks for you. I am crying as I write these words, because such hardships can nearly destroy us forever.

But Jesus.

Jesus understands it completely. He was beaten almost to death. He was naked on the cross. He was mocked. He was betrayed. He saw evil reign. Yet he conquered it all!

AND because He conquered all of these things, we can be confident that he will never ever leave us and that through him we are MORE than Conquerors!

Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

What’s coming will FAR outweigh all the suffering we will experience here. Just like in childbirth, the reward is worth the pain. In fact, ask any mother and she would willingly go through it all over or even worse for her precious bundle. All suffering is forgotten when she receives her prize. I believe it will be the same with our reward in heaven.

Don’t let your troubles destroy you, dear friend. Even as you feel weakened in the flesh, may your spirit grow strong in Christ. Allow yourself to be purified in this time of testing.

 

 

Uncategorized

The Hard Days

It’s been hard for me to write lately.

This isn’t an attention seeking post. In fact, for the most part, I’m embarrassed and feel awkward when people know that I’m struggling. But honestly, I’m not doing too good. I can’t parent well. My schedule is all messed up. My house hasn’t had a good cleaning in months. My eating habits are deteriorating, I have no motivation to run. And I still write, but I can’t for the life of me focus enough to write a post that makes sense. It’s like I’m just jumping from topic to topic, trying to make sense of what’s going on inside. So I don’t post anything.

I’ve been so isolated. But I’m not sure that’s the main problem or if it’s just a side effect of everything else going on. The silly thing about isolation is that it’s sort of self inflicted in many cases. I mean, it’s not like there’s no people out there. There’s a lot of people I know, who I could call and connect with…But then again, when we’re together do I actually really connect? Or do I just talk about things that don’t really matter to me?

I guess that’s where I’m at right now. Stuck in the middle of raising a busy family, watching everyone around me buzz around to this event or that one (mostly I just do the driving), all the while I’m just dying for connection.

Why is it that I can have such a busy day that I haven’t had a second to sit down, but when I come to the end of it there’s just deep sadness – and no one to share it with? My mind is desperately trying to keep it together, but not knowing how much longer I can do it.

How does sadness take over a once joyful life? How do fatigue and loneliness drain the soul so deeply? Why does everyone seem to feel the same way, but no one want to talk about it? How can I achieve true connection again? Was true connection ever there to begin with? Or do I just like to imagine it was there, in the “good old days”??

I don’t have the answers.

But for some reason, maybe just honestly sharing tonight is enough. Maybe I don’t have to end with hope, or some encouraging message. Maybe tonight, for once, it’s just enough for me to say that today, I’m not ok.

And maybe it’s enough for me to just know that somewhere out there, someone else knows exactly what I mean.

Family · Parenting

The Struggle and the Blessing

Lots of people ask me if I’ve always wanted five children. I really don’t mind answering that question. I actually enjoy it, for the question amuses me.

The answer is no. Never in a million years would I have chosen to have five children. Nor would I ever have thought that I of all people would be a mother of FOUR boys. I didn’t even like being around boys when I was really young. I grew up with only sisters. I was much too calm, too organized and I liked all things girly. I also liked being alone, playing or reading quietly. I remember being appalled at the boys I did come in contact with who would burp or fart loudly and then obnoxiously laugh. These such people I avoided at all costs.

The question on the heels of that answer is, “So why in the world did you have five children?!?” Ha! Another good question. And there are actually two answers to that one.

First of all, I changed. I no longer look at life as something I can mold and manipulate to be what I desire. I discovered through many hardships, that some of the biggest challenges bring with them the biggest blessings. And when I try to control circumstances around me to fit what makes me feel safe, what provides me with stability, and what essentially is ‘my way’ often it doesn’t be turn out to be what I expected. So I became open to see what life would hand me, rather than what I could make it do for me.

Second of all, we were never the type to carefully family plan. We got pregnant when we got pregnant, simply because I was unable to go on birth control and we weren’t a fan of some of the other methods out there.

When I had my first two kids – a boy then a girl (exactly the genders I wanted and the order I wanted them in), I very seriously considered being done having kids. We had one of each, the million dollar family – or so it’s called. After all, there is a lot more you can do with just two kids. Hotels are set up for four. Cars easily fit a family of four. Two parents…two kids, each one takes a child and it’s SO much easier to have control. I could make sure that they get disciplined every time, that I can always be there to comfort them if they get hurt, that we could afford to buy them all the things they need. Each child gets new clothing, no hand me downs.

And yet…I knew deep down that as much as this life may be the goal for other families (and it’s totally great to see families of four) that this is not what I really wanted. I enjoy big family gatherings, with lots of cousins. And I wanted someday to see my family come together at Christmas with lots of personalities and games. That’s what I grew up with! So I was torn between what I felt I could handle (two) and what I wanted deep down. My husband wanted four boys and so I humoured him that we would have kids until we had exactly that.

After we had our third, parenting as I knew it changed drastically and I became aware of who I really was. For some people this happens after one or two kids…for me it was three.

It’s SO easy to act like you have it all together when everything is good and under your control. It’s when hardships come that we are faced with who we really are. Not to say that my first two kids were perfect by any means…there were huge challenges there as well, but things changed. I couldn’t go out and feel safe with my kids anymore, I only had two hands – one to hold that five million pound car seat (praise God I’m done with those!!!) and another hand to hold the hand of my 18 month old daughter. My firstborn son, who was still two at the time, had to listen perfectly or he ran the very real risk of being in danger. If three kids woke up at the same time in the night, I could no longer give my husband a nudge to take one and I the other; we were now outnumbered and one kid had to learn to wait. And when I was nursing the newborn, my toddlers would fight!! Now what? My poor new baby never got to finish a meal!

I became frazzled, feeling like there was no peace, like there was never enough of me, like someone ALWAYS wanted SOMETHING from me and I just had nothing left to give. And it was no longer possible for me to dress them the way I wanted, to discipline them every single time, to spend the daily one on one time with them, to do my devotions, to make the fully balanced homemade meals, to have the spotless house, to get my workout in, to…well you get the idea. Suddenly I was forced to choose: What is really important?

And you know what? Slowly things in my life that at one time had seemed like necessities (nice clothes, staying in shape, clean house, perfectly obedient kids) now seemed less and less important. I began to ask myself, who do I want my kids to remember me as? A beautiful woman, who got sitter after sitter while I did my hair, nails, workout, tanning, etc? A woman who had the perfect, spotless house that they could barely play in without damaging? A woman with a strong career they could be proud of, that provided enough for name brand clothes and fancy vacations? The woman who constantly yelled at them because they were never good enough?

Or did I want them to remember me as simply ‘mom’? Who was there for them, in my bed, bible on my lap when they came in the morning for snuggles? Who wanted to spend time in the morning preparing my heart for the day, rather than my face? Who cleaned, but also knew when to stop cleaning to read a book, or build a Lego house?

I wanted to be a person who cared more about my children then the mess they were making. I wanted to spend time training them to help me with the housework, rather than hiring someone who would obviously do a much better job, even though it meant a house that felt disgusting to me at times. I wanted to be a mom who saw children as a lifelong blessing, not a temporary inconvenience.

Children ARE a blessing. They just are!

Yet why is there that content struggle in us, whether we admit it or not, to see children like a burden to carry or as a season to bear through? Why do we Mothers (and Fathers) constantly think to ourselves: When they just get a little bit older, or, once they’re done this stage, THEN I’ll enjoy them more? Why, when we look back to when they were smaller, do we all feel at least a slight twinge of regret knowing that deep down we wished some of the most precious years of their life away? I don’t want to live like that!

It was after my third child, that I came to embrace the struggle of motherhood with all that I am. And how appropriate that Jonas’ name means “a gift from God” for this is exactly what he is, he was a gift that made me realize that struggle is not something to be avoided at all costs. For in the day-to-day struggle, in those difficult stages, memories are being made, characters are being formed and I am growing more and more into who God wants me to be. And some days (ok LOTS of days) I still see that old girl, the selfish me, who wants the quiet house, the clean house, who wants order and control, who would rather finish my doing my hair before church then clean up the box of Cheerios that was just dumped all over the floor, who would rather finish this blog post then be interrupted yet again by another fight to solve…but that’s not who God wants me to be.

Because in the struggle He’s answering those prayers I’ve been praying all these years: he’s making me more patient and less selfish. He’s teaching me to gently guide my children rather than to harshly require right behaviour. I’m becoming less independent and relying on him more. I’m becoming a servant, rather than a boss. I’m becoming like Jesus.

And then I look at the neat little life I would’ve planned out for myself and I go ‘Ha! I’m glad God ruined my plans!’

 

Depression · Faith · Forgiveness · Freedom · Prayer

Finding Joy in Hardships

Joy is easy…when times are good. But what about those darkest of times… those days, weeks, months or  even years where you find that everything you dreamed of comes crashing in?

These past few years have been the hardest years of my life.

Now if you know my story, that’s probably a bit hard to believe. But what about your teenage pregnancy?? What about the loneliness of losing all of your high school friends as they went on with their lives without you? What about the months you watched your son suffering in the hospital, wondering if he was going to live to see his first birthday? What about the time where your spouse lost his job and you had no idea how you were going to feed the three young babies depending on you? Harder than those days? Yes. A hundred times…yes.

It hasn’t been the outward kind of hard, where everyone can see what’s going on and rushes in to help. Our health is great, our finances have been good, our marriage is doing well. These are things we so often take for granted until they’re gone. Losing a loved one, failing health, money struggles, or having a rough marriage bring very dark times as well. But these aren’t the type of hardships I’ve faced this past year.

I was quite suddenly faced with a totally unexpected confrontation, during a very difficult season of my life. This brought about a dark feeling of rejection that I can’t, try as I may, find the words to explain. Maybe it’s hard to explain because I’m not free to tell the whole story… just vague little pieces to protect those involved. I think only those who have felt so hurtfully accused, deeply rejected and so utterly confused as to WHY, could fully understand what I’m talking about. But the hardest thing wasn’t that it happened…it’s that was happening for over a year. For months, I went to bed almost every night with my pillow soaked in tears, wondering if I would ever again lie down with peace in my heart. And for the most part, I carried these burdens alone – desperate to talk to someone, anyone who would listen…but my heart was torn because it involved those I loved SO dearly, so I kept silent.

My life, to the very core, was being shaken. At one point I truly believed that I had lost the favour of God on my life. I began to do everything I thought I could do to win his favour back. I tried so hard to admit all my faults, to confess and confess and confess, to not be defensive, to take the blame, to restore the peace…and through it all, I began to let go of something very important; my joy.

My joy was gone. Somewhere along the way, my eyes had turned from looking at Jesus and I began to focus on the problem. Like Peter among the waves, I had stepped out of the boat in full confidence; only to lose sight of the fact that I was never meant to walk on water…I was simply supposed to look at Jesus. When I realized this, healing could begin.

Here I was faced with one of the most difficult questions to ask during a trial: How can something like joy be found again…even if your circumstances haven’t changed?

The first step was to recognize the devil’s lies. I realized that I can’t do works to earn God’s favour. Period. God’s children receive his favour as they look to him. And when we have our eyes on him, he loves to pour out his favour.

I also had to let go of the way I wanted things to turn out. I felt that if I just did my very best, if I prayed hard enough…then God would make things better. As it turns out, God never promises to make the road easy or better. He does promise to work everything for the good of those who love him. And I needed to trust this promise. As soon as I was free from focusing on my problem, I could fully turn my attention to pleasing God.  Then and only then, could I follow the steps HE wanted me to take.

The final piece in my journey to rediscovering joy was found in the book of Philippians. If you haven’t read it before, or even if it’s been a while, read it. It’s a true gem. Here is a book written by a man almost 2000 years ago, who had been through so many trials. At the time he wrote it, Paul was in prison, facing a very lonely future, a trial which could’ve led to his death, and hearing of people against him actually preaching – all while he sits under house arrest. Despite all this, the letter is one of the most joyful and thankful books of the bible. Instead of complaining about the negatives events that surround his current circumstances he chooses to see the positive side of things. He also shares two secrets about finding joy and peace that I began to cling to:

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace…” Philippians 4:6-7

Pray. That much I had done. Telling God what I need. Check! Thank him. Thank him! Thankfulness is part of the secret to having the peace of God in your heart. And I began to thank God, even in my pain. Declaring his goodness out loud is SO POWERFUL! As I began to thank God, day after day, I slowly started to see some good things that had come out of my situation. And then, the final secret to joy:

“…I have learnt the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

I can have joy because he gives me strength.  

This realization, that God wasn’t just watching me suffer from the sidelines – but actively walking through the fire with me and holding me up, brought me great joy! Every painful moment, he was there. Every night I cried, he was holding me. And in my weakness he is beside me, giving me strength. I am not alone. Now that is a reason to have great joy!

“In your presence is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11