I don’t know what’s next

Yesterday was the first day I missed since I started writing here in this space. If I’m being honest, yesterday I didn’t feel very close to God.

Yesterday, I felt angry.

I’ve written here before about being slow to anger, as instructed by this verse in James: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).

I’m not sure what to do with a true, slow burning coal fire in my chest, though.

I had an early tea with a close friend yesterday, and she gave me a piece of information that broke my heart. She didn’t mean to tell me to hurt me, she almost certainly didn’t know that I didn’t have that piece of information at my disposal. That is really not the point. The point is that I started out as heartbroken, but as the day wore on, regardless of how I tried to distract myself, I slowly grew more and more angry.

The specifics are personal, and not for this public space, but I feel comfortable writing that the details were about a past relationship, and that they made me feel completely betrayed, replaceable, and discarded. I have been despondent about the loss of this personal relationship over the past weeks. It has made me introspective, and it has made me be honest with myself about my direction for the future. It has been the genesis for great personal change, and it was the catalyst for my new faith.

And, of course, I still believe all of those are good things for me. I will continue to pursue that personal change, just as I will continue to pursue my new faith. I need both of them now more than ever.

But yesterday was really, really hard. It felt like a brick wall for the worst moments, and a stumbling block at the best moments.

In the evening, I went to see a movie with a church group, on the invite of the Pastor I’ve mentioned before. The movie, “A Case for Christ,” is a biopic of Lee Strobel’s investigation of the validity of the Christian faith. A journalist by trade, Lee is dedicated to finding facts, and believing in only that which the facts can prove. This investigation leads him all over the country, but in the end he comes to a fork in the road: the evidence he’s found for Christ’s resurrection is overwhelming, but still something is holding him back from believing. A close friend and mentor tells him that whether he chooses to believe, or not to believe, either one requires some leap of faith. You can guess, of course, which one he chooses.

The real climax of the movie is his first true prayer alongside his wife Leslie. He is humbled and relieved to the point of tears (been there), and doesn’t really know what to say or how to say it (if you’ve been reading this, you know I’ve been there, too). His prayers ultimately amount to a joyous request of “I don’t know what comes next, but I want that.” It’s a touching, relatable moment, particularly for me–I feel that not just in my faith, but in my life.

We can give people our hearts and hope for the best; we hope that they will cherish that and love us gently. But there is inherent risk in doing so, and sometimes that doesn’t pay off. I know that can’t stop me from moving forward, and of course I trust that God wouldn’t want my heart to be broken. But sometimes, the human element can get messy, and we get hurt. Sometimes we can get angry.

Sometimes that pain makes me feel farther away from God. I might want to retreat into a shell of unfeeling, like a turtle. I might want to lash out in anger, and say things I would regret. It’s easy when we’re betrayed by people close to us to feel as though everything, even God, has betrayed us. It is easy to lose sight of distant hope when the light is the lowest.

But one of the most important things I have written about here is hope, and in a way I think endurance is an outward sign of hope. Paul writes: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).

In the end, I know that I must trust that the future will be brighter, and that this will not break me. I know that my anger will not help in the long run. Only hope and trust and love can help me on my journey. My final verse for this morning comes from Psalms 34:18: “The Lord is near to those who are discouraged; he saves those who have lost all hope.”

Prayer:

Be near to me now, please, God, for I am discouraged beyond words.

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