A Letter to the Confused in The Valley

Hey,

I’m sorry. I know those words don’t mean much but they seem to be all I can really say. I hate the pain I see you in. I can feel it in your text. I can feel the hurt exude from your fingertips as you type how you feel. I can taste the struggle you breath out. And I’m sorry.

Pain is disorienting. Pain is not logical. It is all feeling. Even physical pain is your brain telling you how to feel. It’s all nerves and messages. And the message is, this hurts. When we are in pain, we can’t logically tell ourselves to not feel that way. We may have every logical reason to not hurt, and yet hurt lingers. Hurt doesn’t need a logical explanation to be present, it just needs the slightest invitation. It is the guest who often is uninvited and stays much longer than asked for.

The Valley of the Shadow of Death is a real place. It’s dark, it’s damp, and it’s very real. David knew it well. And the one thing that brought Him comfort in that place was not relief from it. Sure, he wanted that. You want that. I want that for you; for myself. But it wasn’t relief, then, that he was given. He was given presence; God’s presence. “Even in The Valley of the Shadow of Death, you are with me”. That brought David comfort. Can you be comfortable in a place called the Shadow of death? Can you find rest in the Valley? I’m not sure. But I know even there, you are seen.

I see you. God sees you. Your pain is real. It is valid. It feels like death. It might actual be death. A good death or bad death? I’m not sure yet. But life nor death separates us from our God. He sees. He sees you friend. He sees. He doesn’t need you be strong. He is strength for you. What does that mean? It means at your lowest point, at the point where it all seems pointless and worthless, at the point where the thorn in your flesh seems to drive and rip more flesh than you thought possible, He is strong for you. You are not alone. And you are so loved. So loved. Even now, through your tears and your sadness and depression, He sings over you.

I don’t want you to be better right now if you can’t be. I don’t want you to be strong right now if you can’t be. I don’t want you be anything you can’t be right now. But you can always be wherever you are in God’s hands. I don’t care what you do while there, but just know it’s all in His hands. Shake, cry, mourn, wander, come back, wander again, run, fall, pray for death even; all of it is in His hands.

I know pain is confusing. Why was God silent as the Israelites suffered slavery for 420 years? Why the promise of justice then 400 years of silence before Jesus’s Advent? I don’t know. Maybe a better Christian can answer that; I’m not that person. What I do know, is that it makes no sense for a God who would give up His Son for me to not want to save me. His timing is always perplexing; but He always find us. And He has found you. He found the blind before they could see. He found the lame before they could walk. He found the lepers before they were better. He is attracted to your brokenness because that’s where His glory is seen.

So friend, I see you. I know you want to give up. In fact, you just might. You just might give up and walk away. But know this: God will never walk away from His children. Even when we make our bed in Sheol, He is there. That may not make things better right now. These truths may feel like swallowing poison. But God sees you. He will not give up on you. I only ask that you cry out, one more time. One more prayer, one prayer step, one more lament. Please. But even if you can’t, it’s ok. He is faithful when we aren’t; Jesus saved us when we couldn’t; and the Spirit prays for us when we don’t know how.

This letter is to tell you I love you. And that I see you. And that you don’t have to be anything but what you are right now. But let me end this letter when a little more truth. Yes, you are broken, sad, choosing sin, running from God and confused and hurt. But that is not all you are; in fact, none of those is who you are at all. You are loved; you are found; you are secured and rescued. You are an inheritance for the King of the Universe. You are a treasure in the eye of Father. You are called worth the blood the Son of God spilled for you. You are not your brokenness. You are not your voids, your chasms, your flaws or sins. You are God’s. Right now the eye of the Creator of all things that have ever existed sees you. He sees you.

I love you. He loves you more.

Give God Your Holey and Mitey Worship

We are all broken. All of us, fragments of pieces shattered by the fallenness of life and our own experiences and choices. We all have holes. Voids, chasms, and caverns that seem too deep and dark to fill. I’m very aware of my voids. I’m very aware of the empty spaces that occupy my soul; very aware of the holes and vacancies that I carry. And it is in this state, not in some future fixed-up, better version of me, that God tells me to come to Him. To come and worship Him.

In Mark 12:41-44 we find the story of the widow’s offering. Jesus was sitting down watching people give their money to the offering treasury when a widow with a few coins came by:

 “And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭12:42-44‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This woman was a widow, meaning her husband had died and she therefore probably had no way of really generating income for herself. The text doesn’t say if she had children or not, but Mark is very intentional with his description of her as poor and as a widow.

Next, she is seen giving the smallest possible amount of money to give. The Amplified translation tells us that the two coins she gave equaled a mite, which was the least valuable of the Roman coin and equal to about 1/64th of a day’s wage.

So here we have a poor, husband-less woman with only two poor coins to give to the offering box. Although she gives an extremely small amount, you get the feeling that this is actually all she has to give. That she is not being stingy with her offering worship, but is actually being quite risky.

Jesus confirms this to the disciples. He not only notices that the woman gave all she had to give, but highlighted the fact that it is in this spirit that she actually gave the most! How so? Because she gave what she could. In fact, she gave all that she could. Knowing the risks, not knowing the future, probably unsure of when she would see income like that again, she gave. This widow, aware of her circumstances, aware of her shortcomings, her needs, and her holes, instead of waiting for a better fixed-up life, worshipped where she was. It was not her abundance that Jesus highlighted; it was her poverty. Her worship was only worth a mite to her and everyone else; but it was beautiful and invaluable to the onlooking Savior.

This is the image I think of when I attempt to drag myself to church most days. It’s what I try to remember as I pathetically lift my head to God after committing offensive sin against Him. It’s what I try to imagine as the pain and turmoil in my soul begs me to give up and find a way to end the suffering. I try – oh, how I try – to remember that God is not waiting for this more abundant and prosperous version of me to bring to the cross. For it was in my worse possible state, not my best, that He loved me, died for me, and saved me.

So when I think of all the things I need to work on, He says “Then worship me unfinished”. When I see how far I am from where I should be, He says “Then worship me where you are ”. When my pain and suffering feel like chains that won’t release me, He says “Then worship me in prison”. It is in the impoverished state of soul that the Lord loves to hear His children worship. Not because He is some mean God who enjoys watching His children suffer; but because He knows our fragile state and how that can often hinder us. But when we choose to worship Him where are, instead of thinking there’s more to be met before we do so, we trust Him with our all.

If you have anxiety, worship Him there, not when you worry less. If you are struggling with sin, worship Him there, not when you have your life together. If you are depressed and sad, worship Him there, not when life gets easier. If you are hurting, struggling, barely making it, it’s ok; worship Him there, not when your head is above water. This may seem hard. But it’s actually less burdensome. God is not expecting us to have it all together; that’s what Jesus is for. He wants us to trust Him where are, so that He can take us to where He is. 

Jesus knows what it’s like to have holes. Just ask Him to show you His hands and feet next time you get the chance. Our worship will often not come out of abundance. Sometimes it will and praise the Lord when it does! But even if your life is poor, for whatever reason, give Him your poverty. Give what you have to give, even if it’s a measly two coins. For God loves holey and mitey worship. 

Don’t Lie About Your Contentment

Contentment often seems like the golden snitch of life, fluttering and flying about, only being grasped by the truly worthy and the truly gifted. Which means I must be neither because although I can point to moments where I experience contentment, it has not been the undergirding current of my life.

For those lost on the Harry Potter reference, the golden snitch is a small ball played in the game of Quidditch in the Harry Potter fantasy world. It is the most important ball in the game for the game can only end once the snitch has been caught by the Seeker. And seeing as it’s the most important ball in the game, it makes sense that it is also the hardest to catch. 

Contentment often feels like the golden snitch: highly important and valuable for success but ever elusive and hard to seize. The reality is that some people actually have, or seem to have, caught this sought after prize. They walk around confident and at peace, their lives stabilized, their faith secure, and their joy fulfilled.

I’m not one of those people. I think I’ve wanted to be one of those people for while and I’ve tried to be, act and fit in with those people; but I’m not. I’m not content. I’ve experienced contentment here and there, but I cannot say contentment has colored my existence thus far. 

Instead, I have longings and desires I crave to be fulfilled and see no opportunity for such. I have wants and urges and impulses I attempt to bring to the feet of my Savior daily, all the while wondering how long, oh Lord. I experience dull soul aches and pains of past mistakes and shames that creep up nightly as my soul and mind attempt to rest. I have doubts, questions, fears, and concerns that have yet to find an answer that quiets them. This is my reality, more often than I want to admit it.

But that’s the problem, really. We don’t admit it. We think everyone else around us has contentment, and since we don’t, we feel the need to lie about it. Instead of owning up to the fact that we actually hate our singleness, or that we feel so much like a failure at being a first-time parent, or that we can’t seem to get past this sin that constantly comes back for us, we lie. We hide. Somewhere along the way we got the false message that good Christians always suffer well. That they always take their discipline on the chin, head and hands to the sky, thanking the Father for their suffering while their hearts explode with joy. 

While this may be true at times, it’s not always the case. Paul asks 3 times for his thorn to be taken. Elijah swore the Lord had left him and sentenced him to death. David fought often with his own soul over whether the Lord was actually on his side. What I appreciate most about these men and many others is the fact that they didn’t lie. They didn’t act like they weren’t in pain, in confusion, or in anger towards God. They didn’t save face to keep up with their peers. They weren’t content in their circumstances and they made it known.

We need to stop lying. God doesn’t need your strength, for He is glorified in your weakness. He’s not looking for those who struggle well; He just wants those who can admit they are struggling. God is not impressed with our ability to handle suffering. Faith pleases Him, and faith in discontentment leans on the Lord, asking, begging and pleading the blood of Jesus over their life. Sometimes the answer is to have the trial taken away; other times it’s simply to keep going. Faith, though, is not lying. It is not acting as if you like your life while bitterness secretly eats away at you. It is not posting bible verses on social media that you barely believe yourself. It is humbling yourself by casting your cares onto the Lord. Casting is admitting, not lying.

I’m thankful for my salvation. I’m grateful for what the Lord has given me. The Lord is Sovereign. He is compassionate. Abounding in steadfast love. But even in all of these truths, I can’t say I’m fully content with my life right now. I still have longings unfulfilled, desires unmet and questions about my pain that still seem unanswered. So today I admit I wish my life was different, while asking The Lord for the grace to accept the life I’ve been given. I’ve just simply decided to start talking about it. You should too.