Yesterday, I wrote a post about not being a hypocrite. I’ve realized that hypocrisy isn’t just faking it so that others will see how we’ve got it all together. Hypocrisy is also being silent when things are falling apart. It’s like a lie of omission. Sure, we didn’t outright pretend to be perfect, but we concealed our true selves. We hid what was real. You know what? Sometimes life sucks. It really does. You know what else? Sometimes the most encouraging thing I can do is allow others to see my imperfect life.
Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” Jesus Christ has been where I am. He knows how I feel. Empathy is vastly different from sympathy. Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone without truly knowing the situation. Empathy comes from experience; it is completely understanding someone’s hardship, because you’ve already experienced it yourself.
Christ does empathize with our weaknesses. He knows every trial and temptation we face. If we are to be like Him, we must be honest like He was. He didn’t stand aloof looking down on us for our struggles. He chose to experience the same thing for our sake. If He exemplified vulnerability, shouldn’t we do the same?
In my attempt to be honest, I’d like to share something I wrote a few months ago about what’s been going on in my head. I’ve been struggling with some serious depression and just the overall feeling of being alone. I actually wrote abandoned to describe how I’ve felt. I had always heard that this was a taboo subject among Christians – like you weren’t a good Christian if you struggled with that. I now know it’s true from trying to talk with other Christians. No, no one said outright that a good Christian trusts God and always feels contentment. They did, however, try to act like the problem didn’t exist. They’d either change the subject or pretend I hadn’t said anything at all.
I had originally written this after a Beth Moore conference. She’s been doing topical word studies. Her word for that particular conference was secrets. All secrets come out – good or bad. Whether it is a sin we’d rather hide or a truth from Scripture, it will come out at some point. I left there agreeing that attempting to hide my depression was futile. I’m a pretty transparent person anyway. Whatever I’m thinking will inevitably show up on my face. Hiding my depression was like one of those cartoons when the character tries to stop a dam by sticking a finger into the hole . . . then a toe . . . then the other hand . . . and eventually the whole thing gives way.
I decided to do my own word study on the word abandoned.
Webster defined this word as “wholly free from restraint or given up.” “Given up” paints the picture of a woman giving up her child at birth, placing it on the steps of a church or fire station. This accurately depicts how I feel about God – like He brought us here then vanished. (We moved to VA, because we truly felt it was where God wanted us.) Even if that child grows up to be a model citizen, he will never know his mother. Even though we have worked hard for jobs/ministries, it seems like God is still uninterested in bringing us out of an extremely hard time.
When I looked up the idea of abandonment in Scripture, the word used was forsake, which Webster defines as “to renounce or turn away from entirely.” “To renounce” makes me think of the idea that God changed His mind. The word entirely is like the final nail in the coffin. In Hebrew, this word is zanach. It means” to push aside, reject, cast away, remove far away.” This definition makes me think that God had better options. People around me are being blessing and prospering while we’re having to rely on others for basic needs. Defining this word help me to more clearly pinpoint how I’ve been feeling.
I’ve used the word feel a lot. That’s because, in my classically-Sunday-school trained mind, I know none of this is true. But in my heart, in the deep, dark recesses of my marrow – my very core, I feel abandoned – forsaken, rejected. That is my secret that I desperately wanted to hide long enough in the hopes that it’d just go away. That is my bad secret. On the other hand . . .
There is a good secret, and that is that God is near, and He NEVER left. The first verse I’ve been studying is Psalm 34:18.
Psalm 34 is taken from the context of 1 Samuel 21:1-15. David, the rightful king of Israel is beginning to flee from Saul. He ends up lying to priests to get something to eat (eventually resulting in their deaths) and acting like a mad man to avoid being killed by another king. When he should be king, he’s running for his life, lying to good people, clawing at doors, and drooling in his own beard. To be “brokenhearted” and “crushed in spirit” basically means to be humbled.
Charles Spurgeon expounds on the first part of this verse by saying,
“[The Lord’s] near in friendship to accept and console. Broken hearts think God far away, when he is really most near them; their eyes are holden so that they see not their best friend. Indeed, he is with them, and in them, but they know it not. The run hither and thither seeking peace in their own works, or in experiences, or in proposals and resolutions, whereas the Lord is nigh them, and the simple act of faith will reveal him.”
I may be serving God with all I have, but I doesn’t mean I feel His presence all the time.
The second half of the verse is the formula to finding God’s presence. The first half shows the futility and end result of trying to earn God’s presence by my own merit. I will inevitably become “brokenhearted.” Leaning on myself means I am leaning away from God. God hasn’t moved away from me; I have moved away from Him. To get back in right standing with God, I must be humble. I can either humble myself, or God can allow me to be humbled. Spurgeon gives another beautiful reminder. Once we are humble and looking to God, searching for His presence, He does not condemn us.
“If we chasten our own spirits the Lord will spare us. He never breaks with the rod of judgment those who are already sore with the rod of conviction.”
John Calvin describes the brokenhearted as “half-dead.” They are the Christians that have been brought low by a severe trial. When we are at the point when we are ready to die, God is able to prove Himself most faithful.
The God’s-honest Truth: He is most faithful when I am going through my darkest trial.
So, if you are brokenhearted or feeling humbled, take heart. You are not alone. I’m going to throw this side note in here just ’cause . . . Sometimes people around us are the ones that have the hardest time understanding or even seeing a problem, and sometimes we’re just not comfortable talking to them. Feel free to comment or e-mail if you need somewhere to unload. Sometimes it’s just easier to confide in a stranger.
John 14:17 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.