What’s love got to do with it?

Last week, I told you that you are loved – present tense. You are and that will always be true. But I would understand if you didn’t believe me. I would understand if you were frustrated by those kinds of claims. When you look at your life or the suffering around the world, I would understand if you had a hard time seeing God’s love in it. I would get all of it because I’ve been there.

When I think of someone loving or taking joy in me, especially God, I expect to be rejoicing. I expect that same love and joy to intrude upon my circumstances and change the atmosphere. I expect it to change me. I do not expect to remain in struggle, pain, or fear. I do not expect to remain brokenhearted. Really, I don’t expect to suffer at all. Yet, we do.

There are times when my war with depression, anxiety and PTSD seems to be on the brink of a victory, though not in my favor. That rowdy bunch seem like they are winning on days when the dosage of my medication is no longer high enough, or when my hormones fluctuate and collide, or when too few sunny rays have penetrated my skin. On their own, this doesn’t sound like much. But in real life, they are a force pushing me to the end of my rope.

On those days, taking a shower or making a sandwich require a herculean effort. Just having the routine, a bit of an odor or a growling stomach aren’t enough. It takes more than a need. On those days, all I see when I look in the mirror, despite all the evidence to the contrary, is failure. It breaks my heart and holds me down.

On those days life is interrupted by painful flashbacks that disrupt the business of everyday life, at work, while driving or cooking dinner. On those days, even my dreams are no escape. There nightmares are the norm. On those days, any demand placed upon me makes panic flicker across my shoulders like lightning and all I want to do is run and hide. On those days, nothing around me looks like love. Nothing is joyful. It is all dangerous; a threat to my very being.

When I made the choice to pursue God and accept Jesus, I thought I was on the road to being fixed. I expected an end to my loneliness, correction of my flaws and protection from new pain. I hadn’t bargained for a depression that would dig its heels in, panic attacks or trauma. I hadn’t known they were even possible for someone that knew God. But they were. In fact, they are. We suffer with God and without God. So, what’s love got to do with it?

There are many verses in the bible that speak to our suffering. Among them, are these: “He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds” (Psalms 147:3). And “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed” (Psalms 34:18). My interpretation? When my heart is broken, I am not alone. God is right there in it with me. God helps me and rescues me from my grief.

Even though I would rather be saved from suffering all together, at least I’m not in it alone. I mean, if suffering will be a part of life in one way or another, then I’d rather not face it by myself. And when I think back, I can see it. I can see God in it with me, invisible, yet helping me along.

Out of bed, into the shower, ordering food, making a doctor’s appointment, putting pen to paper, or finding a quiet place to pray. It’s God’s strength making me strong enough to move through this episode of suffering, to survive it, though in my mind and body, I feel weak. God bears it with me, so that I am not crushed under the weight. Isn’t that how love is demonstrated – not in the absence of struggle, but in the help one receives within it? Isn’t that love?

©2022 Creatorskind

Your “crazy” new friend?

In my imagination, I see you, my new friend, looking at me with wide eyes as you slowly walk backwards to the door. Noting a forgotten engagement, you make your apologies and are seemingly through the door and down the steps almost as soon as your hands touch the door knob. Now alone with my thoughts, I’m wondering, hoping really, that you haven’t come to the conclusion that I fear … that I am stark, raving mad – as my grandfather would say.  It’s a reasonable conclusion.

What are we … seven posts in? You’ve just met me, but you’ve learned some (maybe) unsettling things.  Your new friend (me) struggles with mental illness for which she takes medication, claims to have a relationship with God, and just told you that this God somehow inserted God’s own love of the world into her body for a whole day, allowing her to see everyone and everything through God-tinted glasses. Yep … that’s definitely a little strange. That’s the thing about opportunities to build faith, they often come in strange packages.

But let me ask you this … when was the last time that you created something? It doesn’t matter what it was. It could be a song, a cake, an IG post, an important report or even another human. When you look at that thing (or person), how do you feel? Do you find yourself returning to it again and again to either perfect or simply enjoy it? Do you watch, read or listen to it, in awe over the simple fact that it came from your own mind? Does considering its transformation from thought to a tangible thing excite, inspire or bring you pride?  Does it bring you joy?

I’m an arts and crafts, DIY kind of person. So when it comes to making my house a home, I like to decorate it with objects that reflect my sense of style and imagination. One of my favorite projects is to add paint in rich colors, dazzling beads and other found objects to a canvas to add a splash of color and texture to an otherwise bland white wall.  The final product may not look like much to anyone else. It may not be everyone’s style. But it’s not for everyone else. It’s by me, for me. To me, it is a masterpiece. And my guess is that, when it comes to your own creations, you might feel the same way.

So let me ask you, is it that far-fetched to believe that the one who created you might feel the same way about you? Would that really be so strange?

One of my favorite reads is a book, that was also made into a movie, called The Shack. It tells the story of a man’s journey through tragedy after tragedy and into an unexpected relationship with God – The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  It’s a beautiful story that turned what I thought I knew about God on its head in a variety of ways.

One of the things that was so profound to me, in the book especially, was the unbridled interest and joy that God took in experiencing creation. Whether it was a bird on a windowsill, the music of a generation, stars in the sky, or in healing invisible wounds, this was a God who fully immersed himself in his own creation and took pleasure in it all.

Isn’t that a clear side-effect of love? Isn’t that what love does … bring joy? I had learned that God loved me and realized that I loved God in return long before I read The Shack. But until that day of unmatched joy, I hadn’t realized that joy figured so prominently in that love. 

One pivotal point of the story (spoiler alert, but it’s still worth reading or watching) is when the protagonist, Mack, is forced to choose who among his children he will save and who he will condemn to hell because of their wrongs in life.  Mack finds it to be an impossible choice and instead, because of his love for them, offers himself in their place.  At that moment, it clicks and we see the impossible position that God was in when man fell. Here we see how joy, love and sacrifice are connected. And too, how it applies to us – how God sees us. 

As for me, it put an exclamation point on the supernatural joy that I felt that day, years before, when my heart sang at every single thing around me. And because of that, as scary as it is, I’m willing to risk your rejection.

I want you to know that there’s a God who is interested in you, loves you, and takes immense joy in you just being you. Whether you are in your splendor or in a mess, this God loves you yesterday, today, tomorrow and forever. Believe me friend, there’s nothing crazy about that.

©2021 Creatorskind