So, what do you do when your faith and emotions seem so entangled? What do you do in the MOMENT when things are fresh, raw, real, and overwhelming? How do you have faith when you're sold into slavery and eventually end up in prison for something you didn't do (Joseph)? How do you not fall apart when your family and livelihood gets wiped out and you're afflicted with physical turmoil too (Job)? How do you embrace being "strong and courageous" (Joshua) when you have to rise up to a monumental task or you're on the run from someone who wants to kill you (David)? How do you deal with sitting inside a prison wondering if Jesus really is the Messiah you thought He was (John the Baptist)? How do you cope when things don't look or feel very good and Romans 8:28 doesn't appear to be "working out for good" the way everyone tells you it will?
Having faith doesn't mean that we can't feel. In fact, acknowledging and dealing with our deep feelings of fear, worry, sadness, etc. is what helps us build our faith even more when we face it and allow Christ to bring healing and wholeness. When we bury unpleasant and perceived negative emotions and trauma, we end up building up walls of protection and reacting out of an unhealthy and broken place.
The irony of all this is obviously timely. We haven't told many up until now, but my husband lost his job again; third time in two years. So, now my "part two" comes from the fresh experiences and perspective of an insider rather than a hindsighter or sideliner (if those even count as words).
It wasn't until the Good Friday production of "The Passion" that I had a fresh revelation. Over every rehearsal and performance since I've been involved with 3:16 Community Theatre, I've been ministered to and transformed in some way. It certainly was good medicine for me to be immersed in these performances these past couple weeks. Much like a recent Facebook post I shared, the REAL Jesus showed up through Jesse (the actor that played Jesus this year) and ministered to my heart! At one point, I was in the process of walking around "Jerusalem" before the show and felt so heavy-hearted because Chris and I had just learned that day that the job he was certain he was going to get wasn't meant to be. I kept telling myself that I needed to snap out of it and remember to "walk on the water" and keep my eyes on Jesus. I started praying in the Spirit; giving thanks, praising, and reciting parts of the Psalms to encourage myself. I just didn't have time for a fresh cycle of grief! I needed to "Paul and Silas" my way out of this with some chain loosening and wall shaking praise and prayers! But, if you're like me, even when you press that "emotion override" button to walk in faith, it can still feel awkward and fake because you still feel the hurt. That's when I felt God saying, "It's going to be ok, Melissa." I teared up and asked, "When?" Then, I heard that word, "Soon." I thought of that part in "The Chosen" (S2, Ep2) where Jesus says, "Ah, there's that word. Soon. It's the most imprecise thing in the world. What is soon? A few hours? A few days? Years? A hundred years? A thousand years? Ask my father in heaven how long a thousand years is. Then, talk to me about 'soon'."
As I thought about how long our "soon" would be, I wondered what I was supposed to do with all the emotions that I didn't know how to get rid of. I walked around and started thinking about Jesse and how he would grieve in the garden that night while we would sing, "Could you not tarry with me one hour? Could you not watch and pray while I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders....". It made me think of Dutch Sheets post about Jesus in Gethsemane; describing His agony and grief as He anticipated what needed to be done for us and how painful it would be. He had the weight of the world on His shoulders. He grieved deeply, but could (and did) say, "not my will, but yours be done." Jesus experienced and expressed those difficult emotions and hurt to God AND still had faith at the same time. Faith and emotions can coexist! Much like when we're told that we can "be angry and sin not" (Ephesians 4:26). We are allowed to feel what we feel; it's just how we respond and heal that matters. .
I wanted to kick myself for being so dull! How many times have I been the one to weep with people and encourage them to grieve; telling them to give themselves permission to do so? Yet, I had forgotten to give MYSELF permission to grieve because somehow I got it in my head that grief and faith couldn't exist together! I had to tell myself, "You're not weak because you hurt and mourn. Being strong doesn't mean you can't be broken. Brokenness DOES make me stronger."
THAT is the difference between "leaning in" and "sinking in". As a counselor friend of mine once said, "When we're broken, we're teachable." Brokenness really does teach us, grow us, refine us, and bring us fresh revelation and renewal. How often do we truly attain it any other way? How much stronger do we actually BECOME when we ARE broken and our exposed weaknesses have a chance to mend (IF we surrender to the One who can heal us)? We have a much greater opportunity to gain wisdom and understanding when we are going THROUGH pain and hardship because we're more open and vulnerable. Think about it. How open and teachable are we when we're in a state of self-perceived strength and wholeness? Our pride can get the better of us! We're at the peak of the mountaintop basking in victory and glory; forgetting that we were once in the valley and the struggle we went through to get to our highest points. Trouble in the valley seems so far removed when we feel on top of the world. But, that strength came at a cost. We had to go THROUGH the pain and hardship. "Through" being that key word. We walk THROUGH the valley; we don't pitch a tent and live there. He walks WITH us (and maybe some supportive brothers and sisters walk alongside us as well). THROUGH it, we acquire a new perspective that we might not have ever gained otherwise. If we are willing to sustain the pressing and crushing, that new wine will come! We can do ALL things THROUGH Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). Yes, listening to and leaning into that brokenness is hard, but it's far less painful in the long run. If we allow ourselves to feel and listen to the pain and emotions, as if they're dashboard lights on our souls, we can understand and let Jesus fix what's going on underneath the hood. Then, we can move forward IN and WITH faith after Jesus has met us in our pain and helped us release it and heal.
Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when the laughter ends, the grief remains. -Proverbs 14:13.
Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. - Ecclesiastes 7:3.
Experiencing God When You Get a Raw Deal