strength.

* The majority of this post was originally written in October of 2018 and was never shared, the last half was written June 2019*

Lately, I have been a whole lot of confused. This confusion has mostly stayed deep within me, or at least its existence has not bothered me.

Until now.

I finally hit my breaking point a few days ago, and lemmeee tell ya, there were tears all over the place. I couldn’t even control the leakage in front of people (how embarrassing!).

Ever feel like that?

I doubt it’s just me.

Anyways…

My mom has been trying to encourage me, and she reminded me how writing has often been a safe and healing place for me. She is SO right. I haven’t been really journaling very much lately and GUYS my soul has so felt trapped by the lack of getting my thoughts and feelings out. Some real deep reflection outside of my own head and heart is so necessary for sanity.

Since letting my thoughts out onto paper a couple days ago, God has started to speak and encourage my heart.

A quote that has really been apart of that is this:

“Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face, Trust God. And embrace the life you have.” -John Piper

This seriously hit me so deep. I am finishing up my last year of college. Most of my closest friends are gone, and honestly a lot of the expectations I had for what my life would look like have disappeared faster than I can keep up. More and more lately I have found myself driving around talking with God as I think of what was and what could have been.

I know God is faithful and that He has been faithful. But there’s also so many dreams that I had that have just died, and I have realized now, since I am allowing myself to process, that I need to walk through those sad feelings.

So often God has given me strength to endure such hard, hard things in my life and in others lives, yet God also knows that it is so necessary to mourn over what we have lost. He desires for us to be hopeful people, and when our hopes and desires, though good, are not those that line up with His specific plan for our lives, He kindly redirects our gaze. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t painful.

Allowing the tears to fall has brought healing to my heart, because it shows that those dreams and people mattered to me. Not allowing myself to mourn what I lost stole away the significance and depth of the desires and dreams that had years of prayer sowed into them. Just because God has broken off ties and changed my heart in so many ways does not mean I cannot be sorrowful. The difference lies in how I walk through that sorrow, and whether or not I choose to stay in that place.

Another verse that I have been reflecting on comes from Ecclesiastes 7:3 and it says “Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us”.

I really want to emphasize that I am not saying that we should live our lives from a place of sorrow and despair. That is not it at all. I pray often for the joy and kindness of God to be what pours from my lips, and through the Spirit I believe that is who I am.

What I do know though is that over the past few years, my idealistic personality has been hit with a lot of realism. Disillusionment is a real thing and when it hits you, it hits hard, and it for surrreeeee becomes extra difficult to not be overwhelmed by bitterness, cynicism, and even depression.

God has been my strength in these past few years where it seemed like a never ending  season of deep, deep sorrow, confusion, and pain. He has shown me how this sorrow can reveal where we draw our strength from and it even shows what we are made of. I know now because of what I have walked through that it is possible to praise God even in the darkest of places, maybe even more possible.

A few weeks ago I was sharing with a sweet friend some of the things I have walked through in college, and she just looked at me and then said,

“Jessie, you are so strong. You are such a sweet and kind person but so many people have no idea how strong you are. Even though all of that really painful stuff was happening, you continued to show up and lead and be present.”

That smacked me right in the heart.

Strong.

This word has been such a theme in my life. Really it has been more like a promise full of truth that God has been continually speaking over me.

I have felt so so so weak. I am weak. And I am certain that you have felt weak so many times too. It doesn’t matter how many times I am faced with my weaknesses, I still wish it would just leave me alone so I can live free.

A super current focus on weakness for me has been the frustration I have with being a more introverted personality. Almost every time I go to a new place I feel like I have to start all over with getting comfortable and fully revealing my silly yet deep personality. Ya see, I like myself the best when my full self is revealed.

So many times I have wished that I could just jump in and be outgoing, but I am just not like that. I take a while to warm up. But it makes me feel weak that I can’t naturally be as engaged as extroverts. Comparison and perceived failed expectations from others steals so much of my joy and confidence in this area. It is a literal daily battle to fight against the assumed thoughts of others that go through my head.

Along with strength, grace is something I feel God is really trying to seal my heart with.

I have often not looked at the seasons God has walked through with me and seen that he has strengthened me to not only endure deep emotional and physical pain, but to also push into his presence so that I would flourish in the midst of it.

He has shown me time and time again how His presence makes me strong. But sometimes I am only seeing how weak I am, when the gift is that because God’s strength covers my weaknesses, I also become strong.

God’s strength becomes my own, but it does not exist apart from Him. It is an overflow from delighting in Him. Even in great sorrow, delighting in God brings such deep peace and joy. God’s presence and truth anchors our souls in steady ground even when everything around us is shaking and crumbling into ashes.

It is my belief that the more tender the heart, the more strength God has instilled into the deep places in that heart. A tender heart is a heart that has experienced heartache and has been humbled by the grace of God through difficult times. It is a heart that is well aware of its need for God to place His hand there to help it keep beating on for any longer.

In every moment there is a leaning in on the Holy Spirit—to be a friend of encouragement and life in the middle of ongoing pressures. The ones that are continually fighting to get a chance to suffocate you and take away any strength you have left.

The thing is though, that when your strength comes through God in your weaknesses, that is a strength that cannot be suffocated, especially when we are in constant communication with the Helper within us (the Holy Spirit, obvi).

I don’t know what your life looks like. You might be experiencing sorrow or feeling super weak, or can even think of a time in your life where you have felt this way. I truly hope that my experience is able to speak to you in some way and that you leave here feeling encouraged and blessed knowing that God sees you.

I pray that He strengthens you in whatever you’re walking through.

Be at peace.

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