Why are you striving these days?
Why are you trying to find grace?
Why are you crying?
Let me lift up your face.
Just don’t turn away.
- Tenth Avenue North, “By Your Side”
I’m a striver.
Merriam-Webster defines “striving” as to struggle in opposition against something. You can strive for many good things…but what I’m thinking about right now is the way I strive against God. There are things that I fight so hard with him about. And I’ve begun to think about how ridiculous it is. God’s will is going to happen regardless of what I want. So I can decide to want what he wants or I can keep striving.
Do you know how exhausting it is to fight endlessly for something and just NEVER GET IT? I’ve been crying out to God for some of these things for years. Joyce Meyer calls it “going around the mountain.” As in, you can choose to go up and down and around the high mountain of whatever you’re striving for and exhaust yourself…OR you can reconcile yourself and find some peace. In my head I know that.
Some things are just so…unfair. I know that the bible says that the rain falls on the just and unjust alike. I’m not the first person in creation to notice that bad people sometimes get a lot of good stuff. Good people sometimes get more than their share of heartbreak and pain. People who don’t even CARE about serving God seem to get everything their heart desires! Yet here I am, trying SO HARD to be of service, to grow and mature in my faith, and…I still don’t get the answers I want.
There’s been a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth in my world lately. I’ve been striving, to say the least. Regret has been eating at me. Every wrong decision, every wasted minute, every sin has been brought to the forefront of my mind. The Accuser has been having a field day with me. He whispers in my ear – If only you hadn’t done this…or if only you HAD done that…then your life might be perfect and content. You’ve obviously screwed your life up beyond redemption. If you’d just done the RIGHT things at the RIGHT times, you’d surely have what you’ve been striving for.
Friday was the tenth anniversary of my mom’s death. Most people, by the time they lose their parents, have already married and have had families of their own. They have bonded with their other people – they have cleaved unto their spouses, to use some old fashioned terminology. Losing a parent still hurts them, but I think it’s a different kind of hurt. For me, my mom WAS my family. We were really close. She could drive me nuts, don’t get me wrong. But we depended on each other. We spoke almost every day. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there was NOTHING I could do to make her stop loving me. No one will ever love me like she did. There’s tremendous security in that, and it’s a security I no longer have.
When I lost her, I was at loose ends. I’m still at loose ends without her sometimes – she was my sounding board, my cheerleader, my number one fan. And Friday was definitely one of those “loose ends” days. I had a meltdown on the phone with someone very dear to me because all of it had gotten to me – missing Mama, other family issues, disappointment, regret, shame – it’s all become a load that’s too heavy for me to bear. I was feeling really sad and hopeless. I told him I was disappointed in my life.
He said something to me that I know I’ve said to him in the past – “Don’t you think God wanted your life this way? He planned it all out for you and everything.”
Way to practice what you preach, Sassy.
I realize that God’s ways aren’t mine. It’s possible to be completely out of God’s will – been there, done that. But I’ve never been so far out that God couldn’t reach me and pull me back. The bottom line is that nothing in my life has been a surprise to God. He knows where I came from. He knows my broken spots and my weaknesses and the things that caused them. He also knows what those things can drive me to do. I am coming to believe that he wants to fix that brokenness and make the weakness stronger.
Scripture says that God has good thoughts toward us. He has good plans for us. Those good plans don’t disintegrate the first time you screw up. I don’t know how it operates, but God is working all of the screwed-upness of my life out so that I benefit from it somehow. It’s not pleasant. I don’t like waiting. I don’t want to be purified by the proverbial fire. But he can work around and through my sin and my stubbornness to make something good out of my life.
I know this. In my head, anyway. But deep down in my heart, do I believe that all the things I want but feel I’m being denied – do I believe that’s for my good? If I believed it fully, would I still be striving so hard? If I’m brutally honest, sometimes it feels like God is just being mean. The things I want are simple and common. Why does he keep saying no? Why does he keep saying wait?
I have no idea. All I know is that Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord your God with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” My own understanding says that I haven’t been treated fairly. I’m a kind, generous, empathetic person. I love to encourage people. I look for ways to help. I give my tithe. I let people out in front of me in traffic, for heaven’s sake! I should get what I want.
My own understanding is wrong. God is holy and perfect love. He can’t be anything other than that.
It’s time to stop striving and trust in the Lord my God with all my heart.