Yesterday I crossed over the end of my ability to process, to cope, to navigate, to be considerate or unselfish. My sweet husband has been in bed sick for the past two days and I’ve been mad at him for it. He’s been going so hard for so long and is way overdue for a total crash, and even knowing this, I showed no compassion.
This same lack of compassion has been prevalent in the way I have interacted with my children. I’m out of compassion, apparently. Also, I’m out of kindness, patience, goodness, unselfishness and generally those things that look like Jesus. What might be worse is that last night as I saw clearly how awfully I was treating my most loved ones, I didn’t really care…or what concerned me was more about what they were seeing than genuinely being changed.
If you’ve ever felt that sort of mental collapse – not just fatigue from working on some academic project until too late at night but the type of mental black out where you really feel like one groping in the kind of darkness where you can’t even see your own hands, that is about where I am in relation to that first sentence up there. And utterly losing one’s bearings is not just disorienting, it can be suffocating. And it isn’t just suffocating, but it can be maddening. And it isn’t just maddening, because it also feels like being in one of those rooms where the walls are closing in on every side and unless a way out is created quickly, the room will squish you.
they flung me alive into the pit and cast stones on me; water closed over my head; I said, ‘I am lost.’ “I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea, ‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help!’ You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear!’ Lamentations 3:53-57
How does one engage with the poor and disenfranchised without becoming poor and disenfranchised? What about when it seems the poor and disenfranchised only want to use you up until there is little left? What do redemptive friendships look like between individuals from vastly different cultures and classes? Are such friendships really even possible or will they always be unbalanced? Over and over it seems God calls His people to go to the poor, to the lepers, to the needy in all regards and to the outcasts as a reflection of what He has done in coming to us, coming to me. And I suppose I can see also in those Scriptures that His people used Him up until there was little left, but He willingly gave unto death.
Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Matt. 26:38
Throughout His days on earth, Jesus withdrew to be with His Father to sustain His strength. He eventually, as the cross drew nearer, was overcome with sorrow to the point of death. The weight of sin, the reality of its corrupting effects on every aspect of man and creation, is that kind of pitch darkness felt also by a room where the walls are closing in and will kill any life found inside. And yet His suffering wasn’t just for the sake of endurance, or for meaningless martyrdom but by His wounds WE have been healed. He bore the suffocation of darkness so that I can breathe.
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. 1 Peter 4:19
It is not a matter of “must I suffer?” but rather, do I entrust my soul to a faithful Creator? Do I really believe that He is with me in my suffering, that He will never abandon the work of His hands, that He is the Good Shepherd of my heart, soul and physical living? I think I haven’t believed this, which is why I have felt so angry, lacking in compassion, stretched too thin and certain of being squished. And, let me as clear as I am capable of being, much of my suffering is a result of my own sinfulness – which is often the worst kind of darkness. My heart is too powerful for me to steer, to control, to navigate…but He is greater than my heart and is working all these things together for His glory. Not my will but His, even in transforming me. Oh may I entrust my soul to my faithful Creator and not grow weary in doing good.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. John 10:27-29