You know, we try to avoid the hard places. We try to avoid places where we are on our hands and knees, bloody and bruised, with our faces inches from the ground while we just try to breathe, and all our brains can come up with is, "God help me." Those places shred us. The pain of those places is deeper than any human words can speak, and what I have found in the last five years, and so vividly this year, this is the very place where God becomes so clear. This is the place where healing we never imagined happens.
I think, though, often we only see how hard it is. We live in our anger, feelings of abandonment, and pain. We choose to see that and only that, and we don't see the people fighting for us or the way God provides for us.
One of the passages I pray over my kids and myself personally on a regular basis is from Ephesians 3.
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
I confess to you during October and November that when I prayed this, I was expecting some kind of warm fuzzy. I thought I'd feel all...well, new romance-ish. You know, like when you first fall in love and you're just overcome by the joy and excitement of it all. That is kind of what I expected. Looking back, I realize that was shallow, but really, I was at a place where I really wanted to feel better and warm-fuzzified joy and excitement would have been better.
Except, what I got was even better than that because what I got was beyond the emotion of new love. What I got was the depth of established love, the kind of love that you lean into on the really hard days when you've got nothing lovable to offer, and instead of having something to give, you simply need.
I started praying that, and the Lord started reminding me of different parts of the year. He reminded me of hard parts and hurtful places and the utterly feeling of exhaustion, and then He reminded of the people who gave a hand, gave a kind word, or stood there until the battle was manageable again. He reminded me of the love He had poured out through people, through the right verse at the right time, through the right song on the radio just when I needed it, through a vacation filled with mishaps that have become sources of laughter.
And when the year was over, I looked back at the year, and I saw the hard places and overshadowing each one was the gift of love God poured into it, a gift that would have meant nothing without the hard stuff. I looked back and saw the wonderful things and saw the beauty of His fingerprints on those, too. It was just an amazing year of seeing God love me in amazing ways with amazing determination and amazing depth.
As the New Year slid in, I read the posts wishing people prosperity, joy, and all good things. I tried not to wish anyone anything because if I could give anyone anything, I'd give them my year last year, with all the joy, adventure, and wonder...and all the hard, the empty, and the feeling lost. I would give them the God I experienced and the intimacy I've learned. And I would give them the truth from this side of all that: It's worth every moment. It's worth the hard stuff you go through because of all the God stuff you get.
The hard part of being loved by God is the road to the reality of just how much you really are loved by God.
And it is so very worth it.