Anne Jackson asked “What is it that you can’t say in church?” on her blog in 2008. The answers led to a recently published book, and lots of discussion among Christians. Anne discovered that there were all hundreds of topics that people felt (rightly or wrongly) they could not talk about in their church. As a pastor I thought about how I might help my next church be a bit more safe for those who ask these questions. But I also considered what it is that I don’t seem to be able to talk freely and honestly about in Christian circles. At the top of my list would be I sometimes get discouraged.
Most of the time I’m pretty balanced. As I wait for God’s perfect timing as to my next church and ministry I’ve mostly been able to keep a clear head and a joyful spirit. Yet some days I find myself discouraged, down, a bit depressed. At times it is generic, but some days there seems to be a sense of being overwhelmed by loss. Some of that has to do with my personality, some may come from spiritual battles, probably most deal with my humanness and sinfulness. All of it has to do with the way life is – the way it unfolds in a broken world. I trust I am learning through this long season of waiting … that I’m seeing God despite the things that wear on my soul.
What are those things? At the risk of sounding like I’m throwing a pity party …
- The cost of change. I’ve been through personal and corporate change before. I’ve experienced the emotions that come with change. I’ve talked others through change. Yet this time it seems at times to catch me off guard. Maybe because it is not yet a completed change. I’ve left something, but not arrived, and my feet are firmly planted in the air … waiting for the rest.
- Speaking of waiting. It’s hard work! Staying in place; waiting for clear direction from the Lord; waiting for acknowledgment of an application; waiting for … well, just waiting.
- With the significant change in my life comes the pain of leaving and losing friends. As circumstances change, their lives go on, their lives change, they have commitments to things I have left, they have new commitments. Our paths don’t cross. It is a great reminder as to the value of true friends – especially those that transcend the circumstances – but there are fewer of them. Some days it just feels lonely.
- I realize that I am but a small player in the larger story of the lives of most of those I know. Even those whom I’ve known well must move on with their life, their family, their ministry, but I miss knowing the unfolding details of their lives.
- I am reminded of how many Christian clichés there are and how often they don’t really encourage.
- I’m hurt by those who assume that something must be wrong with me, my Christian life, or that I have made misguided choices, or that maybe I’m deficient for the work of God … why else would I have to wait so long?
- I am human in more ways than I would like to admit … that in itself sometimes becomes discouraging. Yet there it is. Yes. There. It. Is.
- I really dislike knowing that I am whining while some people are truly in very desperate, scary, situations. Situations that are far beyond mine.
Yet God continues to be gracious to us. I’ve seen signs of his grace and mercy even in small things. His mercies are new every morning. God has not forgotten me. I know that God will provide, I’ve experienced his provision before. I’ve been frustrated that I’ve burned through almost everything, only to experience his generous provision, and have my ability to be content expanded along the way. He continues to use me, even in my great weakness, to redemptively connect with people. There are those jewels of friends who transcend circumstances and redemptively and lovingly remain in my life.
Ps 145:9 The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.
Ps 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.