My mind is at odds with my heart. Ever have that experience? I call it ‘The Great Disconnect.’ It’s where you have an intellectual understanding of a truth, yet, your heart perceives it to be a lie, a forgery, a falsity. Intellectually you get it. In fact, if asked to, you could explain the in’s and out’s of it seven ways to Sunday. In such a way, even, that the Skeptic becomes Believer. But feeling the truth of it for yourself, is incomprehensible. Instead, your heart is like a limb that got lost in the snow, numb and without feeling to Truth’s certainty.
This is the season of Advent. A time of hopeful expectation. An expectant waiting for the one who has come, the one who will come again: Jesus. Jesus, the great rescuer of mankind, the one who was foretold by the prophets:
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6)
Almost 700 years past between the time of Isaiah’s prophecy and the birth of Jesus. Imagine. Seven centuries of silence fell across the face of the Earth like an oppressive blanket for those who were waiting, year in and year out, for the Messiah. And then one day, a child was born who came to take away the sins of the world. A Rescuer, known as the God-man, Jesus, whose death would freely exchange our sin and enslavement for his righteous and freedom. And with that, the gift of eternal hope.
But, what happens when the reality of this world, at this present time, snuffs out the joy and peace that Jesus offers? What happens when this season that is meant to remind us of the hope we have, instead presents itself as a bitter token of the hope we’ve lost? What do we do when the tapestry of our life is torn apart by suffering—whatever the form be (death, divorce, illness, broken relationships, barrenness, etc.)? What do we do when the weight of life’s crash is so heavy and the brokenness so profound that we feel ourselves suffocating underneath the weight of it all, and we’re left feeling without hope?
What do we do when we feel like our suffering has ‘out done’ what Jesus has done on the cross and that he isn’t enough?
What a lonely and frightening place to be.
Preach truth to ourselves
We remind ourselves that sometimes what we feel isn’t always true. Just because you feel something or don’t feel something, it doesn’t necessarily have any bearing on its truth. Sometimes I feel I’m hungry when really I’m just bored. Other times I don’t feel tired when I really am. And most the time, I feel like I’m being funny when really I’m just being obnoxious. If I was married I could use a slew of analogies here. My point is, our feelings have a limitation when it comes to trust and we have to remember that. It’s okay to feel, but we have to remind ourselves that reality through the lens of grief is oftentimes distorted. Even if we don’t feel it we have to preach ourselves truth, allowing our mind to be filled with it until our heart catches up.
We pray like hell. We offer up cries of prayer to the one who can save us. I’m often trying to remind myself that “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, his ear attentive to their cry” (Psalm 34:15). God can take anything I cry out at him. He knows my heart anyway, whether I speak it or not. So why hold back? Why censor? We need to pray that Jesus keep us from distorted thinking and self-pity. Two things that lead us toward a downward spiral that is hard to come back from. We must ask him to save us from the disbelief that runs rampant in our hearts when grief gets a hold of it. Primarily, I find myself praying that God save me from myself. That he save me from my own sense of what I think is ‘fair’ and ‘best’. I pray that he keep me from becoming like the Pharisees who tried defining who Jesus was on their own terms, telling him who he should and shouldn’t be, how he should and shouldn’t act and therefore missed out on who he was altogether.
Remember that Jesus is our Suffering Savior
Yes, Jesus bore my sins on the cross, but he did more than that. He took my sorrows as his own. The book of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus is the perfect High Priest, and not just because he is the pure and spotless lamb that absorbed the wrath of his Father for my sin, on my behalf. But, because he empathises with me in my weakness. Jesus was spouseless, childless, betrayed, abandoned, chastised, beaten, ridiculed, imprisoned, and put to death. He is not some God who sits far off and aloof. He knows your pain and mine. He is our most comforting suffering savior. He has felt everything that you and I will ever feel.
He is a Good Father
He is a good father. In his giving and his taking, no matter how painful it is, no matter how many tears you’ve shed. No matter how many times you’ve screamed at Him at night lying alone in bed, strangling your sheets in clenched fists, while his silence is deafening and your tears are inconsolable–I promise you, and myself, he is a good father. It may not feel like it at the time, but it is true.
What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead
of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give
him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give
good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly
Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13)
So, what do we do then, when it seems Jesus isn’t enough? We preach, pray, remember, and believe even when our hearts don’t feel it.