Write From the Struggle
June 23, 2016
Don’t be afraid to write from the struggle. You don’t need to wait until after you have something all figured out to write about it.
This was said by Lysa Terkeurst, an author I greatly admire. I can’t quote her exactly because she said this in a video seminar about writing. She said that when she was writing the book Made to Crave, she wrote many chapters while she didn’t have all the answers and solutions about having peace with her body and her eating. But there was something very real and compelling in her writing as she was still wrestling through the issue. She said don’t be afraid to write from the struggle. Once you’ve gotten through it, you lose some of the angst that can be very powerful for your readers.
So I’m determined to write from the struggle today. I don’t think I’ve done this before. I like to write while looking back, after God has taught me something and I understand how it fits into my life. But today, I just want to write about where I am. Even though I can’t tell you what it means yet.
I’m facing disappointment. A couple of months ago, I applied for a job. I really hoped I would get it. As I went through the interview process over those months, I felt like it was perfect fit for me and my family, and I thought it was going to be the next path for me to go down. A new ministry. A new life. My heart was very, very invested in this dream.
I didn’t get the job.
I was surprised. And very disappointed. I had been covering the whole job application process in prayer. I had friends and family praying. The potential employers were praying too. So when I didn’t get the job, I knew it was because that was God’s answer. It wasn’t meant for me. It isn’t His plan.
You know I trust Him. He just doesn’t always explain His answers to us. His ways are higher than ours, and sometimes, in His infinite love and wisdom, He knows it is better for us not to know the future. Better for us not to have all the answers. It keeps us humble. It keeps us dependent upon Him to be our guide.
But it’s ok if it hurts us along the way when we don’t understand. He cannot bring beauty from the ashes in our lives if He never allows any ashes.
So I’m facing the death of a dream. I’m grieving the loss of a future that I really, really wanted.
The day I got the news that I didn’t get the job, Seth was out of town. I realize that was a good thing, because I don’t think he would’ve dealt well with all my crying. I needed to cry. It’s ok to cry. But he probably would’ve tried to “fix” it. He wasn’t home, though. So I cried.
I called my parents and cried over the phone. They prayed with me. My mom said they’d come over to be with me, but I told her I probably just wanted to cry and pray.
I texted my best friend and she felt my deep disappointment. She said she was crying with me. Then she said something that sparked hope in my heart. She texted, “It’s ok to be disappointed in the moment. Just don’t let the enemy lie to you. You have worked hard on knowing & standing on His good promises! I’m sure you don’t want to share this kind of news, but something tells me God will be speaking to you & soon you’ll have something else to blog about. We can all relate to disappointment- now tell us how God gets you through. How you praise Him anyway, how He turns our sorrow into joy!!!”
That’s beautiful. That’s Who God is. He uses all things to work together for good. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
When she said that to me, I decided to take a picture and capture my sadness. So I could write about it. So I could remember the pain. And so I could honestly share it with others. I’m a little self-conscious about it, but here it is. The ugly cry. It doesn’t even look as bad as it was. I went through a box of tissues, and then, since I was too tired and sad to get up, started reaching down to the floor to retrieve the used ones and use them again.
As I cried, you know I was talking to the Lord and standing on His promises, as my best friend mentioned. Many Bible verses came to mind. It’s so important to know what the Bible says, so that when the time comes, we can use God’s words to live well and defeat the enemy.
I quoted these verses to myself that night as I was feeling hurt and confused:
I don’t have to understand what God is doing in order to trust Him. My disappointment is part of a bigger plan. My life is meant to tell His story. He can tell it however He wants to. I just have to surrender.
God says He has good plans for my life. I don’t always know what’s best for me. But He does. And He gets to lead, whether it makes sense to me or not.
If he does not withhold what is good, then I can trust He has what is good still in store for me. This path, this job, was not what He had in store. But good is still ahead of me.
I always rest on the truth of God’s Word. He created everything, all of us. He knows how we should live. I trust Him. I trust Him. I choose to trust Him.
I texted with a few other dear friends that night, some of whom had thought to check in and see if I had heard news about the job. Thank you so much. You know who you are. That meant a lot to me. I felt very loved and encouraged. I have really precious friends.
Later I sat at the computer working on a blog post, through my tears. I wasn’t writing about my current disappointment, but I was writing. It felt very purposeful, like feeding one dream (of being a writer), while another one had to die. I was typing fiercely thinking, “Take that! I’m going to be a writer, just wait and see!” Haha. It felt good.
I woke up with some very puffy eyes the next morning. And tears crept out here and there throughout the day. While I was driving, the sky was gorgeous. The sun and the clouds and the pure blue. God makes the most beautiful things. I felt so loved by Him. I cried and knew He was holding me close. He cannot be anything but good. So in my loss, I knew it was still a good thing. Somehow.
God is a good, good father. He always wants to teach us to be more like Him. Sometimes pain refines us. And so He uses it for our good. A recent Bible study I did was called Malachi: A Love That Never Lets Go by Lisa Harper. There was a story she told that came to mind this weekend while I was hurting. Lisa’s friend Eva had severed her spine in a car accident when she was 17. This happened the week that Eva came home from the rehab hospital.
“…her mother, May Bell Whittington, announced that it was time for her to learn to put on her blue jeans by herself. Eva told her mom she was looking forward to the day she could dress herself too but they hadn’t gotten to that part yet in occupational therapy and she still needed help.
"May Bell- normally a timid and very tenderhearted woman- stood her ground and gently insisted that Eva needed to put on her own pants. Eva said she’s embarrassed by the things she screamed at her mama then- how she vented her anger and bitterness on the one person who would’ve gladly traded places with her if she could have. But her mom didn’t bite back. She simply stretched out the jeans on the bed so they’d be within her only daughter’s reach and walked softly out of the room.
"Eva said she was so furious that her mom ‘abandoned’ her in her hour of need that she threw herself back on the mattress and began to sob. A little while later- when her mama didn’t return to rescue her- she sat up and reached down and grabbed the waistband of the jeans and slowly began working her floppy feet into the pant legs. She said it took her 15 minutes just to get both feet into the right and left holes. After which, she fell back on the bed and cried again. Later- when her mama didn’t return to rescue her- she sat up and wrestled with the jeans another 15 minutes to work them up to her knees. Then she fell back on her bed and cried some more. Awhile later- when her mama didn’t return to rescue her- she sat up and began tugging those stiff Levi’s towards her hips. Fifteen or so minutes later, she fell back onto the bed sweaty and exhausted. She said she was so spent she didn’t even have the energy to cry anymore. Then- after her mama still didn’t return to rescue her- Eva sat up one last time and inch by inch painstakingly worked her jeans up over her bulky back brace and finally buttoned them with a sigh.
"Then, when she collapsed on her bed the last time with a victorious 'Yes,' she heard her mama crying. May Bell had been in the next room the whole time. It nearly broke her heart to listen to Eva struggle, but she loved her child way too much to rescue her. She wisely understood that Eva’s path to physical independence would include pain. That to do everything for her would be to truly cripple her. So May Bell went against her mothering instincts and allowed her baby to battle, knowing that like a butterfly working its way out of its chrysalis, the fight was necessary.”
That made me cry just typing it out for you. I love that story! So powerful. God loves us too much to rescue us from everything!
Over the weekend, I went to a friend’s house and she and her husband each gave me an example of a time they didn’t get a job they really wanted, but later it was clear it wasn’t the right job or it wasn’t the right timing. In retrospect, they can testify to God’s goodness in the situation. Their stories really helped me. I felt lighter.
On Father’s Day, I called my dad while I sat on the beach at the river, watching my kids play.
He told me how much he loved me, and that he was so proud of me. He said sometimes God allows us to go through difficulties so that we can help others. He told me that when he thought about my disappointment, he thought of Mary Magdalene. She was a companion of Jesus. My dad said Jesus was her whole world. And then He died. She was devastated. And then when she went to care for His body, it was gone! She thought it had been stolen. Could things get any worse?? Then she saw a gardener, and asked him where they had taken the body of her Lord. It was Jesus. But she didn’t recognize Him until He called her by her name. “Mary.” And all her life and breath and dreams were restored to her. He had given her all that she would ever need. In His own time He revealed the truth to her.
I’m like her.
During that phone call, I sat on the beach crying, right in front of a bunch of people I didn’t know. And I didn’t care. I felt so loved by my dad and by my Jesus. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. And hope. God will continue to be my everything. In His own way. In His own time.
I’m curious about what the future holds for me. I know that as long as I continue to put my life in God’s hands, He will use me to tell His story and bring Him glory. That is my heart’s greatest desire.
I’m still working through my disappointment. Yesterday I drove past the location where I had hoped to work. I thought, “Should I let myself look over there?” I knew it would hurt. I had envisioned that being a new “home” for me. I thought I’d be starting a new ministry and a new life there. I looked. And saw it with different eyes, knowing it was not going to be part of my life. And tears started dripping out of my eyes again. Dang it. I guess grief is like that. It comes and goes.
And I’m trying to turn my heart back towards my current job at the preschool. I love my job, but I had said a lot of goodbyes in my heart. I had thought, “This could be my last preschool graduation….This could be my last preschool field trip….This could be my last day of preschool ever.”
I had walked out to a cliff, spread my wings, and prepared to fly away to a new adventure. And then I was told I wasn’t invited. So now I’m folding up my wings and walking back down the hill. And praying about reinvesting myself in a ministry at the preschool. With gratitude. And joy.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4
So that’s where I’m at. I could’ve waited a year and written about this with the gift of hindsight, able to tell you all the blessings I found because I didn’t get the job. But I wanted to write now. Today. Because this is already a success story. Because God always keeps His promises.
He makes beauty from the ashes.