Overcoming Devastation


“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:1-4

When we face difficult things in life, it can leave us feeling very vulnerable, exposed, and even broken, completely shattered and ruined. How could this have happened? Why is this this still going on in my life? What did I do to deserve this?

As the experiences of our lives stretch out before us, we will face many difficult times. It’s the nature of life as a human being. Some of the things we face will be trivial, nuisances, aggravations, annoyances, peeves. Many of us, however, would be thrilled with facing something trivial instead of the major life trials that stretch on and on and on… Illness, betrayal, abuse, extreme poverty, ruined reputations, lost children, estranged relatives, slavery, paralyzing grief; there is no end to the potential of suffering that can be experienced on this earth.

Some lives go down to the dust in grief, after lives that have been shortened and marked by it from start to finish. You don’t have to go far to read or hear these stories. Maybe your life feels like one of them right now. Maybe your heart is bleeding into your chest with grief and sorrow and it’s more than you think you can bear. You don’t have to bear it. Give it up. Give up the burden of fixing this thing that is causing you so much pain. Become like a child and trust that God has got you. This is no puzzle for him and neither are you.

He has felt grief and betrayal. He has loved and lost. He has been spit on and reviled. Look at how he is portrayed right now. It is likely there are those around you who are sympathetic to your plight. When has God ever had that? True, He is God: Unbreakable, All-Knowing. Yet, the Maker of Hearts, has a heart. Turn to him in your pain. It really is too much to bear alone. You know for a fact that no amount of commiserating and whining will ease that ache inside of you.  You’ve tried it. No drink or pill or self-destructive binge or wild weekend will take away that pain that is so intense it is affecting your health and the relationships between you and those around you. Maybe you’ve found this out through experience as well. Maybe in your suffering you are trying to run away. You have tried to outrun your pain and your feeling of being misunderstood. You cannot run from this.

I have been there in the pain too. I have hurt so badly I wanted to carve out my heart and be free from all emotion. I have felt the crushing weight of grief and despair. I tried to run away. I have tried to run. I could not escape from the grinding pain anymore than you can. I have faced the question of what do I cling to when the things I thought were certain are shifting and unsteady. When I thought things were permanent that fell away like a skyscraper in an earthquake. The BIG temptation at times like these is to turn your back on God. If He is all-knowing, and all-powerful, then He could make this stop. He isn’t making this stop. What’s more, you may also be hearing a lot about turning from sin, perseverance, facing the giant, and so forth, every time you turn on the radio or TV. If you’re going to church still, people pepper you with trite “this too shall pass” advice. All through the day and night, however, you are faced with this glaring huge thing that is beyond your understanding.

Actually, as I write this post I am personally going through one of the most difficult things I have ever had to face. It is difficult to stay available for my family and not bury my head. It is agony to breathe at times, but I still draw breath. My heart is broken, but it still has work to do in keeping me alive. More bad news today, or at least no positive change, and yet my family still needs to eat. My relationships are still there, waiting for relating, my loved ones still need my love, friendships still need me to be a friend. I know these things in my mind, intellectually, but my bleeding, broken heart is making a pool of pain at my feet. Yours may be too. You may feel as though your drowning in a vast ocean of grief and despair right now. Who can save you and I when we’ve come to the last inch of rope and it’s not enough? NO, there’s no app for that, but there IS a Savior.

“It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”  ~ John 13:1-17 NIV

There are a number of things to take away from this passage. I want to touch on a couple of them. 🙂 For one thing, Jesus was experiencing his own ordeal. The pressure of his flesh and spirit warring must have been overwhelming. We see this a little later as he prays in the Garden of Gethsemane. He chooses to actively love the friends before him who had been with him day in and day out. These men who had laid down pride, over and over, and selfishness and prejudice and fear and all the things the rest of us face our entire lives, these men were loved by a Savior. He was about to go and die for them, and every friend or foe he would ever have. He had things on his mind, but he chose to put that aside and show them that he loved them. He involved himself in their lives, made a difference for the better. He took the time to touch them, to help them. He made himself uncomfortable, and got his hands dirty.

So, yeah, there’s that. I’m just going to set that down here, just right here on this table, and you can do what you want with that. It’s not what we want to hear when we’re hurting, I know; but it is the truth and it will help our own healing process. It also feels good to help other people and joy is a balm in the middle of your suffering. It gives us perspective as well as hope. 🙂

Another thing I want to look at is that, from the disciples’ viewpoint, Jesus was really out of line! He was humbling himself to do this thing for them. It was despised, demeaning, unclean. They assumed that Jesus was diminishing himself when he reached out and touched their grime. He wasn’t. Love never diminishes us. Jesus came to be the ultimate example. He came to help us and heal us. He came to find the lost ones and lead us home. Today, Jesus still washes feet. He washes the dirtiest, most shameful, embarrassing, shameful, embedded, over-reacting, un-balanced, self-destructive, off-putting parts of us. He touches the frightful places in us, the deep wounds, ruin, prejudice, unbelief. We think he could never…..but he has, and does, and will. Let him heal you. Let him clean you. Let him save you. Let the glory of God and his eternal, huge, believe-it-or-not love hold you today, in your mess, in your pain, where you need him the most.

YOU ARE NO INCONVENIENCE TO JESUS.

YOU ARE HIS DELIGHT!

“ARISE [from the depression and prostration in which circumstances have kept you–rise to a new life]! Shine (be radiant with the glory of the Lord), for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you! [Zech. 8:23.] For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and dense darkness [all] peoples, but the Lord shall arise upon you [O Jerusalem], and His glory shall be seen on you. [Isa. 60:19-22; Mal. 4:2; Rev. 21:2, 3.] And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. [Isa. 2:2, 3; Jer. 3:17.] Lift up your eyes round about you and see! They all gather themselves together, they come to you. Your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried and nursed in the arms. Then you shall see and be radiant, and your heart shall thrill and tremble with joy [at the glorious deliverance] and be enlarged; because the abundant wealth of the [Dead] Sea shall be turned to you, unto you shall the nations come with their treasures. [Ps. 119:32.]” ~ Isaiah 60:1-5 Amplified

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