Stop Embracing the Darkness

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Gentle Reader,

It wasn’t my plan to spend this day curled up in bed begging God to make the stomach pains stop. And spending intimate time with the porcelain throne. Third time in four months this has happened. Probably more doctor’s visits and tests in my not-so-distant future.

Which has me thinking.

Life is really hard. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something. Illness. Financial stress or outright collapse. Homes burn down in freak electrical fires. Friends move away. Jobs change. Divorce happens. Loved ones die.

It sucks.

Sucks more to stay in that place, the place you go to when the initial shock hits.

I’m just going to be blunt: We have to stop wallowing.

We have to stop embracing the darkness.

Not for nothing did I decide to kill myself three-and-a-half years ago. I get what it is to be so far down the rabbit hole of grief that you can’t even begin to imagine light or warmth. I don’t at all think that we should avoid mourning or working through our issues and feelings. I don’t believe that sorrow is tidy or linear.

I do believe that it passes. No, we don’t always “get over” something. Life will never be the same after a death in the family, the sting of betrayal or a loss of security. These kinds of things are forever-type changes that ripple through the years.

But if we’re still indulging in anger over an event years after it happened…. Still caught up in crying jags years after the death…. Still looking for someone to blame…. Searching for statuses or photos on social media from the time surrounding that hard moment and thus keep reliving it…. Still picking at the scabs, rubbing the scars raw, refusing to move forward….

That’s wrong.

It disturbs me when I read a post or an article airing grief or an offense written in such a way as to make that grief or offense sound fresh when it isn’t. It bothers me to see people stuck in mourning mode. I know what that feels like. I know the rage, the bitterness, the crippling nature of the tears. I also know that it can reach a point when the sorrow feels comfortable and even righteous. “How can anyone really expect me to move on? They don’t understand!”

Meanwhile, friendships fade and families suffer. Children are confused at best, neglected or abused at worst because Mom or Dad won’t come out of the fog. The boss wonders how to handle this newly-volatile employee. God becomes seemingly distant because we make an idol out of that which has been lost. We worship at altars of death and decay.

My friend, this should not be so.

A gentleman in my Sunday school class said something very interesting yesterday: “Every day is a holiday. You can choose to be happy.” There’s a lot of truth in that statement. In the immediacy of sorrow, there’s nothing to smile about. That is for certain. But as the days pass and the heart bleeds a little less with each pump, we are faced with a choice. Do we let God do the work of healing and comfort, or do we spit in His eye and rip open the wound time and again?

I am the last person on earth who will tell you that depression or anxiety put you in the “Too Far Gone” column. I won’t tell you how to mourn. I don’t believe that feelings are sinful – but what we do with them can be. The pain should be diminishing, however slowly, as the days pass. This is a great gift from the One who overcame the world, a store of fresh mercy from the One who never promised there would be no trouble.

Embrace Him, dear one.

Let the darkness go.

My journey to faith. (15)

The Life and Death Brigade

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Gentle Reader,

Many thanks to the secretive Ivy League club and “Gilmore Girls” for the title.

I’m going to get heat for writing this. I know it as I type.

Brittany Maynard was wrong to end her life.

Cue explosions and much hand-wringing.

I am NOT saying that Maynard is in Hell. I have absolutely no idea about that. I am NOT saying that she was an evil person. I never met her. It hardcore sucks that she was dealt such a blow so early in life. What her family has had to deal with since the diagnosis is terrible. I am acutely aware that there are real people who are hurting and grieving. I don’t at all wish to throw mud at anyone.

What I want to talk about here today has nothing to do with this specific person or this specific family, but rather the more nebulous realm of the topic itself. I’m talking about suicide. Dress it up with the phrase “death with dignity” if you want, but the result is the same. Death.

It’s wrong.

I can say that. I can say that because I took steps along that path. I decided that I no longer wanted to live. My pain was too great. I thought that it would be better for those around me if I were gone.

I can also say that because an hour ago I was told that I have a tumor in my liver. Benign, praise God, but a tumor nonetheless. I’ll have to have major surgery. I don’t know what that is going to be like. I don’t know how difficult or long recovery will be. This will impact the rest of my life.

I hear the objections, things about apples and oranges and how dare I judge. But here’s the thing, and I believe it’s a thing that all Christians must address in the debate over “death with dignity”: Who is in control? Who is in charge? It leaves me staggering that the answer of many who claim Christ as Lord is so ill-defined.

It is my firm conviction that a follower of Christ must trust Him in all things. Of course, that’s a process. We’ve all always got room to grow. It is also my firm conviction that a follower of Christ does not, in any way, have the right to end the life of another human being. I stand resolutely in the pacifist camp, opposing all forms of violent action from abortion to war.

Nor do we have the right to end our own lives. I oppose suicide. I don’t care if it’s physician-assisted (which opens up a whole can of worms when one considers the Hippocratic Oath) or not. I believe that God has a good, unique plan for every single person – and that He alone is the determiner of life’s span. I believe that He is ready and willing to give us grace and strength for every situation, for every pain, for every sorrow, for every valley. Far sturdier than any umbrella, He will provide shelter in every storm.

This should be the witness of every Christian. Trust me, I know what a difficult witness it is. I know how easily and how quickly tortuous doubt descends. I know how overwhelming sudden loss, unexpected diagnosis and change of finances can be. Yet God has not failed me once. Not once. Things have not always turned out as I hoped or expected, sure. But He has always been there, always truthful, always faithful, always more and better than I could hope for or imagine.

I don’t know what you’re dealing with today. I don’t know how you’re being tried or tempted. Please, dear one, turn to the Lord. Seek His wisdom, His peace, His comfort. That is the way of life.

My journey to faith. (15)

A Theme for Spring

Spring

Gentle Reader,

The level of anxiety with which I live on a day-to-day basis has been bubbling toward the more-than-annoying point lately. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s time to adjust the medication levels. Maybe my diet is off-balance. Maybe there’s something bugging me and I don’t realize it yet. Maybe it’s just me being me.

Anyway, at this juncture I know that it’s not as simple as “just” praying or “just” realizing that I’m safe and that everything is okay. My mom reminded me recently that we all have things to battle, and this ill-defined fear and sense of unease is mine. If I’m not vigilant at guarding what goes into my mind, and therefore my heart, I’m toast. If I don’t take time to process a feeling or a situation, I’m sunk. If I start looking around, hoping to find satisfaction in “stuff,” I’m done.

So, I considered my next verse for this month’s SSMT 2013 carefully, and wound up with this:

To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. – Romans 8:6 (NKJV)

Put another way:

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. (NIV)

I’m sure that you know this, but allowing the mind to be governed by the Spirit is no easy task. The other day I was freaking out about something (I can’t remember what) and I found myself actually saying, “But, God! You don’t understand!”

Woah.

He did not strike me dead for such a statement, for He knows how deeply human I am. But that got me to pondering. When I go down the road of believing that God can’t or won’t understand, then I’ve taken a wild step off the cliff. I’ve jumped blindly into that pit of death.

I’d rather that not continue to be the pattern of my life, and so this spring I want to focus on what it means to live under the authority of God, and why choosing to do so (it is indeed a choice) leads to peace. To life. There is no safety, no joy, no breathing space to be found in living outside His loving boundaries.

Stepping outside those boundaries is easy, and it’s not always immediately noticeable. How many of us who claim the name “Christian” go through each day trapped by fear, anger, entitlement, the pursuit of power or wealth? At some point we have to acknowledge whatever it is that’s got a hold on us. Then we have to take another step – turning away from it.

A hard task.

But, after all, what did we celebrate yesterday? The Man who achieved victory over the grave! The Man who rose again! The Man who left His Spirit within us! Surely He will enable me to step out of anxiety’s chains, one day at a time.

Surely He will do the same for you, whatever the chains are.

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