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Why?

I’m Anna, and I am processing pain. Slowly but surely, God is exchanging pain for perspective. Swapping hurt for hope. This is not a place to discuss the nature of that pain, rather a space to explore my thoughts on grief, growth and figuring out where Jesus fits in the midst of all that.

I am not writing as someone who is sorted, but as someone who is still very much in recovery. This blog will be an open diary to myself, and anyone else who wants to follow my journey. Maybe we will all learn something. I want nothing more than to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, the author of faith, who I know to be my saviour. I long for more of him and know there is always more to long for. This is me, choosing to take hold of it.

For me, this journey has been defined so far by two phrases, hence the name of this blog. Have fun and feel things. The first, I am doing. This is a place to record the second. A place to feel things, draw nearer to the heart of God and write candidly on what healing can look like, in real time.

I am not sure yet exactly what this blog will look like. I hope it will be a creative space, and therefore an encouragement for me to get arty, get singing and get writing. I hope to begin to give more attention and time to the creative gifts I know have been placed in me. There will be some introspection, a lot of Jesus and in the process, time will pass and healing will continue to happen.

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6. Plans

Somebody asked me a question this week. A question that has lingered and haunted for the past 5 months. A question I have grappled with, put aside, contended against and asked myself endless times.
(I should caveat that it was asked with total grace, with an open ear and out of genuine curiosity to hear my answer.)

“Do you believe it was all in God’s plan?”

The overarching truth is that I honestly don’t know. But man, have I had some thoughts.

Before That Day, I honestly believed that my plans were totally blessed by God. I believed he was giving us his blessing, speaking into our lives. I believed his hand was over everything that was happening. And maybe it was. But how do I contend that belief I had with the reality of what eventually happened?

Ultimately, yes, I believe God knew what was going to happen. Because he is God and he is above time. But somehow, I don’t believe that meant it had to happen or that he didn’t bless it. Essentially, I don’t believe there to be one path, one plan for every person. God is utterly capable of blessing us no matter what path we take. Life is complicated! Life is messy! Plans change! And still God whispers “Play on!”.

Firstly, people make choices. That is one of the bedrocks of our faith. We are not robots created to do someone else’s bidding, but autonomous individuals. Somebody made a choice for me and it derailed everything I had built my life upon. Choices, for good or bad, have consequences and God usually doesn’t interfere with this. We are beings with independent hearts and souls and we are blessed with the ability to love and be loved, to choose and be chosen.

So if we are allowed to make choices, it follows that sometimes those choices may change our direction, may change the narrative of our lives. God may be outside of time, but we are not. God can bless our current reality, even if he knows that it will not always be that way. 

There is, perhaps, a paradox to get my head around. God knows what is going to happen, but we still get to decide. Those are big ideas and I hold them loosely. Friends, I am not God and some of these ideas are too large for the human mind to fathom. But I come back to this: I know God to be perfect in love and completely compassionate. If this is my starting point, if I trust in a God that holds me in the palm of his hand, who weeps with me, then these ideas start to fade into the background.

Christians often get wrapped and tangled up in the idea of God’s will. We beat God down into a tiny box. We believe he is only capable of blessing us if we make the right choice. Friends, the holy spirit lives in YOU! Therefore go and be free to make decisions because God is capable of blessing you in whatever direction you choose to go. Sometimes he says wait; sometimes he says no. He is God, and he is totally able to make that clear. But we can become paralysed in indecision. Waiting for a yes, waiting for a “Go!”. And God is saying YES. He’s saying YES, I trust you my child. Play on! Choose! I will bless you. And if we make a decision that maybe wasn’t for the best, he can bless that to. If someone else makes a choice for you, he can heal and he can bless.

I suppose what I am trying to say, is that God is far bigger than I often give him credit for. Was it in his plan? I have no idea. All I know now is at the point in my life I am learning more and more about his character all the time, and I am slowly re-learning how to put one foot in front of the other. I don’t know about plans, but I do know that we have a God who works all things together for our good. I intend to let him.

5. Rejoice

I cry. Like a lot, and all the time. And that’s okay. Jesus wept too. He knew he was about to rise Lazarus from the dead and he still wept because he was a human God that knew grief and pain and intense suffering. He wept and he wept bitterly. What a God.

In 1 Peter, he (Peter) writes this:
“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (v6-7, NLT).

In Philippians, whilst Paul is literally in prison and about to be executed he writes:
“Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.” (3:1)
“But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.” (2:17‭-‬18)

I can’t describe to you how much these words have challenged and changed me. Before the pain that is currently a piece of my journey, these words made me almost angry. Certainly frustrated. How am I supposed to rejoice?! When life is bitter and painful and I am angry at God, how can I be expected to rejoice? I can’t just dig joy up out of nowhere, conjure up happiness and peace and sellotape it onto my soul. I cannot find what is not there.

Oh friends, how pain can be exchanged for perspective. The thing is, rejoicing is not the same as being happy. Rejoicing is being thankful for what God does in the bigger picture even if your smaller picture is painful. And it’s so radical. Honestly, my whole outlook on joy has been transformed by my understanding of this.

It’s not that we have to feel joy in hard time. It’s that we get to! Because this life, this pain, this agony is not all there is! Friends, there is such wonderful hope in Jesus! We get to go to heaven! We get a God who has already walked the path to save us and who cares about the here and now. We get to be joyful in sadness because the sadness is not all there is. We get to rejoice deep in our souls, not out of obligation or fear but because the truth of what we believe is so so much bigger and better than we can possibly imagine.

I am sad. Jesus has beaten death!
I am angry. Jesus has saved me!
I am hurting. Jesus is ALIVE!
I am confused. Jesus is Lord.
I am sad I am sad I am sad I am sad. God loves and he loves and he loves and he loves.
Pain is my reality and I am dragging my feet through the slow lane. God weeps with me. I am still saved.

Life is hard. I know that better than most at the moment. The tears come and they will keep coming. But how I am feeling does not affect who God is or what he can do. My despair does not make him less real or the realities of the saviour less important.

I am able to rejoice in this time not by conjuring up a feeling or faking something that is not there. I am able to rejoice but I am so so grateful and relieved that there is more to my existence and my identity than my pain.

My identity is Christ. I am covered by him.

So I cry. Like, a lot. I don’t want this blog to be a place where I sugarcoat that. My soul is grieving and that involves a lot of tears. I can torture myself asking questions I will never know the answers to. I grieve and the reality is often painful and ugly and persistent.

But the paradoxical truth remains. I am deeply sad and yet I am capable of deeper joy than ever before. I cry more than ever before but how sweet it is when I laugh. I do that too, loudly and often. If every tear lets a bit of a pain out then each time I laugh I am filled with more of the reality of his joy and what it can do.

I am covered by him. I am still trying to understand how to carry on when life is so much at once. I feel. Wow, I feel. In all of this though, I am endlessly grateful, intensely and persistently grateful for the cross and the hope that it represents.

Friends, rejoice! For pain is not the end. Jesus proved that when he came back to life. You are covered by the Christ who saved you.

4. Sunday

Good Friday came and went and I have been reflecting upon the contradictory name we give to the day we commemorate our Lord carrying a cross on his back and hanging their until he breathed his last. It doesn’t seem good. It seems unfair, cruel, wrong even…

Except Jesus carrying that cross up the hill is the only good thing to ever happen. It is truly good news! As I think about the cross (which I have done from my bed, as I have been ill…) my heart feels heavy as I imagine how the disciples must have felt as they watched him die. The despair, the hopelessness, the utter disbelief weighing heavy on their shoulders as they watched the man they followed be murdered brutally.

In Matthew 26, Jesus cries out to God the night before he walks obediently to the cross. He literally tells his disciples “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death”. He then prays, saying to God “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” If we ever needed evidence that Jesus is both human and God, here it is. He suffers as a human. He knew grief, in all its form. He knew pain both internal and external. He didn’t welcome these things; he lays himself before his father and asks him to make it stop. Then the next day he walked willingly to his death. He was good. He was God.

Sunday arrived. Sunday dawned and he rose from the grave. I can’t even imagine the joy of his friends, his parents, his followers felt when the situation was restored and justice was served. He rose! He rose to beat sin, to show that he is God.

I can’t help but draw parallels with my own story. Friends, there is hope. We can be sure Sunday is coming in all situations because it already has. In life or the next, Sunday is coming and there is hope.

3. Time

Time is a funny thing

And what seems like a lifetime

Will one day feel

Like the blink of an eye

– me, on the notes section of my phone in 2014, thinking that putting everything on a new line makes it poetry.

This year is a blur. The days, and often the nights, pass. Sometimes they are brutal, sometimes they are gentle. Almost always they are slow. I am plodding through pain, dragging my feet through the miry clay. Slowly I am picking up the pace.

The fact it is April is frightening when January and February exist only in small snippets in your memory. With Spring daring to creep over the horizon I am greeted every morning by sun and smiles and birds and the thought resounds

HOW DARE YOU

How dare you be happy when I am not

How dare the world be the same when my world is so different. How dare Spring spring. How dare the sun keep rolling across the vast sky and how dare the lives of everyone else go on.

Thank God.

Thank God the world keeps turning! And time keeps passing. Thank God for Spring! For the sun rolling in the sky he made. It’s disappearance marking the end of a day over and over again. It marked the end of that day. It will mark the end of every day and the end of every day will mark another day I have lived and breathed without you.

Thank God that the world does not revolve around me and my pain! I can choose to stay where I am or choose to look at the sky and marvel at its maker. In doing so I forget. Sometimes for whole days.

Thank God for life. Thank God that he gives it us to live.

Ah, isn’t it the simplest joy to be grateful for being alive. Our most basic desire to thank the one who made us. Makes us. Will continue to make us. Thank him for what he does in the desert and because he does not leave us there.

2. Grief

It took time to understand that what was happening to me was all an outpouring of grief. It seemed so boundless, so without end and so unexpected.

Grief is a whirlpool. Grief is merciless. It leaves a mark when it grips onto you. In your ear it whispers lie after lie after lie. This is it. This is all you will ever feel. There is no way out. I am drowning in a pool that has no sides and no bottom. I have forgotten how to feel. Breathless, I yield.

But Grief is a ghost and it cannot stay. It lingers, for a time, my friend, and slowly, it begins to pass. I can breathe again and the air in my lungs is sweeter than before. When Grief returns, as it will do, I lose myself in the whirlpool again, hour after hour. But then, day after day. Week after week. The wave washes over me, consistently unexpected. Oh, it hurts. But oh, I am lighter than before.

And I stopped believing that just because I keep sinking it means I had never found the surface in the first place. I am just learning to swim, after all. Time passes and Grief loses its power. In my ear my God whispers over and over a million different ways I love you I love you I love you with a love that rages; a jealous love; I love you and I will not leave.

I believe him.

1. Forgiveness

Okay, so I’ve started big. I’ve started about a hundred miles away from where I am. This is by no means a manual. Rather, a collection of thoughts I’ve been compiling.

Four years ago, I did a talk on forgiveness at a Christian camp. Isn’t it funny how God often prepares us for our biggest battles far before we are aware of what we will have to face. Reading through my notes for this talk was, to say the least, emotional, illuminating and moving.

“However, forgiveness is a process – just because you decide to forgive someone that doesn’t mean it is a done deal – sometimes you have to decide to try and forgive someone, and every day it is a new decision. But because God has already forgiven us this is possible. We can do anything through him andwe are not on our own.”

The funny thing is, when I wrote this, I thought I had it sorted. I thought I had this part of my faith figured out. I thought I had forgiveness down. Don’t get me wrong, 20-year-old me had some legitimate forgiving to do. Pain is relative, right? The things I was talking about forgiving then may not be on a level to what I have to forgive now, but 20-year-old me was not to know that.

Okay, let’s stop. Let’s break it down. Forgiveness is a big word.


Why do you even want to forgive? You don’t owe anybody anything.

There are two things I want to address here.
Forgiveness is not, at least initially, for the one who is being forgiven. To put it simply, I have never wanted to be someone who carries around anger, bitterness and hatred. I can feel it, bubbling inside of me when something pops up on social media I’d rather not see, or the tiniest things reminds me of the pain I am plodding through day by day. I can feel that anger inside of me and sometimes it threatens to consume me. And it turns me into somebody I don’t recognise – someone who wishes harm. I don’t want to allow it to do that to me. There is such freedom in letting go.

Secondly, I wish to forgive quite simply because I am forgiven. I have found great comfort these past months in the shortest verse in the Bible.

“Jesus wept.”
John 11:35

Jesus wept! What joy! What a God! Not a God who watches us suffer, silent and unmoved. A God who WEEPS. A God who came to earth, suffered unendurable pain and who was moved to tears. I know that God was just as hurt by what was done to me as I was. Yet he chose to forgive – even though it cost him everything. I want to forgive this because I am loved by the forgiver and I seek to be like him.

I take comfort that God does not just call us to blindly “rise above it” or let pain go into nothing. Rather he offers us something infinitely more precious. He chooses to take it from us. He is just. I can trust him to be just. His justice is good and it is his, not mine.


How?

The short answer is that I have no idea. This is all lovely theory for now – my heart is far from healed and there are days when I feel worlds apart from even believing what I write.

But the best piece of advice I have been given so far is this: “Pray for your enemies.” I am choosing, consciously, to let it go piece by piece and tear by tear. To give it to the God who grieves with me. I am willing myself to say, out loud, words I do not yet believe to be true. I have faith that one day they might be.

20-year-old me was pretty bang on. This is a process. Every day it is a new decision. I intend to keep on making it.