The Classroom of Suffering: His Presence in Our Pain

There has been an interesting shift in my understanding of suffering over the course of the past year. It is a shift that is downright offensive to my sensibilities and human nature, and I have fought against it for much of my life. I’ve come to understand that pain and suffering can be a gift; when held in the hands of our good and loving Father, it can be transformed into an invitation into something greater than we could ever imagine. I’m not saying that pain is by any means innately good or that we should seek it out, but I’ve come to believe that our experience of pain can be a catalyst for beauty and joy.

I don’t believe in a God who vindictively afflicts us with pain or causes our suffering—I believe that pain and suffering are natural consequences of life in a fallen and sinful world, and that, as Alister McGrath puts it, “the suffering of the world grieves God.” But I do believe that as a part of His redemptive plan for our lives and the world, God works IN our pain to accomplish truly beautiful and wonderful things. Pain is not “good,” but our God most certainly is; and I’ve come to believe that it’s in the midst of our pain that His goodness shines brightest. Read more

The Classroom of Suffering

In one of my last classes of the year, a professor read from the classic by C.S. Lewis, “Screwtape Letters.” If you’re not familiar with the book, Lewis provides insight into the Christian life through the fascinating perspective of a “Senior Demon”—Screwtape—writing to a “Junior Tempter”—Wormwood—about his attempts to draw his “patient”—a new Christian—away from his faith. In the particular letter that my professor read from, Screwtape writes to Wormwood about the “law of undulation,” or the series of peaks and valleys which is characteristic of the Christian journey. While Wormwood is excited about the valley which his patient is currently walking through, Screwtape warns him that such difficulty is instead a natural part of the way “the enemy”—God—works in the lives of “His creatures,” and as such is not in and of itself cause for celebration. In a striking statement, Screwtape warns:

It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it (the Christian) is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be – C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters

The Christian life is not a stagnant pool that we step into when we accept Christ as our Savior; it is a flowing river that takes us on a life-long journey as we grow and mature in our faith. It is a journey that will take us through peaks and valleys, along still waters and raging rapids.

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters … Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. – Psalm 23:1-2, 4

During the valley seasons of our lives we may experience God as absent, distant, or disinterested. While our experiences and emotions in these valley seasons may tell us that we’ve “gotten off course” or that God has abandoned us, Psalm 23 reminds us that even in the darkest valley, God is with us. And not only that, but these seasons can be a source of immense growth and blessing. When we view our valley seasons as something to escape or retreat from, we risk missing the work that God wants to do in our hearts and lives through that experience. I believe that there are important lessons to be learned in the valley seasons of our lives, which I have somewhat affectionately come to refer to in my own life as “The Classroom of Suffering.” Read more

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly Cry

come2Yesterday, I went for a drive in the mountains. I didn’t have a destination in mind or an agenda to follow, I just wanted to drive. See, my car is a sort of sanctuary for me – it’s not pretty, it makes noises that a car isn’t supposed to make, it’s covered with all sorts of scratches and dents, and it’s even missing a few pieces – but it provides me with a space where I can simply be. My car sees me at my best, and at my worst… it sees me when I’m joyfully singing at the top of my lungs, and when I’m ugly crying so hard I can barely see the road. My car offers me a reprieve from a world in which I often feel that I must “hold it together” and “put on a good face.” It’s the place where I can give voice to the parts of myself that I’ve deemed “unacceptable” or “unfit” to be seen by others. Read more

Hope Changes Everything (WSPD ’16)

hope2The other day, I did a quick search for “news” on Google, and that simple search yielded disheartening results; more controversies regarding candidates for the U.S. presidential election, a failed mission to rescue hostages in Afghanistan, a policeman stabbed in France, and a shooting at a High School in Texas. It seems like the news has been filled with stories like this for far too long, an unrelenting string of tragedy and pain.

But there’s something else that you may be seeing on social media today, regarding another tragedy that affects every city, state, and nation throughout the world. It’s something that isn’t talked about much, in fact many would consider it a “taboo” topic, as it carries a vast amount of stigma and shame. You’re probably hearing about it today more than usual, but it’s no less of a reality any other day of the year. Today is World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD).

Read more

Better Days Ahead

Sand and CS LewisAround this time, 7 long years ago, I was packing up my childhood room and counting down the days until I got to move out of my parents’ home and into the college dorms. That day feels like a lifetime ago, but I can still recall the excitement and anticipation that I felt (in fact, for the past week Facebook has been reminding me of how excessively “18-year-old me” used my status updates to count down the days until move-in day). As I sit here now, 7 years later, there are many young adults just beginning to embark on their own college journey. I live just down the street from a University, and this week I have seen an explosion of excited and energetic young people at every local Starbucks and Chipotle… it’s “back to school” season!

As I reflect back on that time in my life, I remember receiving many well-intentioned messages, meant to encourage and inspire me. They were so positive and optimistic, so full of hope and expectation. Maybe you’ve heard them too (or told them to a student heading off to school):

“These will be the best years of your life!”

“The friendships that you will form in college are the ones that will last a lifetime!”

Simple messages that convey the hopes that we have for each of our loved ones as they enter into a new season of life… but what about when those messages that we so eagerly receive don’t turn out to be true? Read more

Created for Community

img_2072About 6 months ago, I showed up to a Life Group launch at my church… just a random Tuesday night in the middle of winter. Leading up to this night, my plan had been to launch my own group at this particular launch, but I felt challenged and convicted by God to join a group instead. So I showed up, looked through the list of available groups, and put a little star next to the ONLY women’s group in my age/location range. With a crazy schedule of school and work, I only had one night available, so I figured that finding a group that worked was going to be a long shot. I walked up to the table corresponding with that ONE group that I had marked on my list and, lo and behold, they met on the ONE night that I had available.

Here’s the thing, I do NOT believe in coincidence or chance… As I elaborated on in one of my recent posts, I believe in a Sovereign God who is often times up to FAR MORE than we know or comprehend.

Let me tell you, this particular group of ladies have been such an incredible blessing in my life, one that could only have been orchestrated by God Himself… and God has worked through this group to teach me so much about community, and through that community, about Himself. Read more

Lessons Learned from a Journey West

It’s July 28th, 2013.

I stuff the last few items into the back of my 1002864_10200272712292265_1516226447_ncar, take a deep breath, and catch one last look at my childhood home in the rearview mirror.

I’ve packed my entire life into my little Hyundai Sonata; anything that doesn’t fit has to stay behind.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve said goodbye to the friends who have walked with me for the past 4 years. I’ve been trying to put on a brave face, all the while choking back tears with each parting hug.

I’ve been dreaming of a grand adventure for years now… but the past few years have taken a toll, and I’m a broken shell of the girl who once dreamed of blazing her own trail in a new land. Read more

The Secret Shame of an Introvert

Quiet.jpgI like to think of myself as a happily introverted person. I’ve always preferred a quiet night at home to loud and crowded environments, and I’ve always been a fan of listening more than talking. I’ve been an avid reader since my childhood, when I discovered a reading program where if you read enough books, you could earn MORE BOOKS (there may have been other prizes involved, but that was the only one I cared about). These days on a Friday night, I’m hoping to get off work early so that I can curl up in bed with the book that’s waiting for me on my bedside table. While friends and co-workers go out to dance, drink, and party, I relish the idea of a quiet night doing laundry, watching Netflix, or organizing my books. Read more

The Only One

IMG_1751-0I have a serious love/hate relationship with writing; it’s something that I love to do, and something that (for some crazy reason) I feel called to do… the part that I hate is where I press the “publish” button. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ve probably noticed that the things I write about are “personal.” I write about my own life, things that are deeply significant to me; the things that weigh heavy on my heart, and the things that keep me up at night. Read more