There's a lump in my throat. I feel like someone is sitting on my chest and I can't take a deep breath. Desperation struggles to the surface and wants to be heard, my wide-eyed panic suppresses my faith and I want to scream and cry and run. Panic, panic, panic is the one in charge and all of my striving doesn't cease it. I turn to the word and find this:
Romans 11:22 "Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe toward those who disobeyed, but kind to you if you continue to trust in his kindness. But if you stop trusting, you will also be cut off."
The lump returns larger this time, my trust in God is weak and now the condemnation that is not from God but a disguised godlike serpent joins the chorus in my head.
"You're not going to make it."
"You can't provide for your family."
"Look how you struggle, how the bills aren't paid, how you rely on others to provide Christmas for your children. Two years in a row now."
"You won't be any better next year."
"Some thing's got to change."
"You need to fix this."
"You're just like ______ who doesn't pay their bills."
"Look how irresponsible you are."
"You're 33 when are you going to get your shit together?"
"It's almost 2 years that you've been single now, why haven't you figured out how to live without child support yet? You knew he'd never pay that consistently. You should know better than to depend on that."
If all of that self abuse were not enough then the voices of those who have walked through my journey with me join the swelling chorus.
"Your decisions are not well thought out. Why can't you support yourself? You play the victim and always need to be rescued."
"You're failing your children, you don't even attend church regularly anymore, that's so disingenuous."
"You take on more than you can handle but if you don't do more you will certainly continue to be a victim."
There's many more of my own failures that are haunting me lately. That coupled with the holidays and the extra stress and my mom's hospital stay compounds it further. There have been moments of joy but the pervading sense of me not being enough is clouding the good. I'm nauseated, snappy and scared.
I don't know what the answers are. I only know that I don't have them. I struggled and forced church to happen for my little family this morning, only to lose my temper and yell in order to make it be so. I feel lost adrift in the sea among 1000 questions, all the while answering my 8 year old's unending curiosity about the world and how it works.
I will survive. I excel at surviving. But that doesn't stop the panicked feeling. I'm sick of surviving. I titled this blog with the sole intention of not just surviving any more. I have tried hard to learn to rest and not just survive. I have tried hard to lean into the words of Paul "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand."
Except that doesn't happen for me. I don't get the peace. I get a little relief from panic for a little while. I don't point this out to extract pity from you. For Pete's sake don't pity me. I point this out to say, do you really?
Do you really experience the peace of God?
After you pray for something that is plaguing you do you just get back to washing the dishes like it was no big deal? That's it? Is that how it happens for you? Because that is not the case for me.
Further on in Philippians Paul says "I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength." I wonder as I read this if Paul could do this because he wasn't feeding three littles. Have you mastered this?
Have you ascended to the spiritual height of
while watching loved ones succumb to cancer,
when you don't have money to put gas in the car to get to work,
when your children won't listen and you're a loss for how to raise them
when you have a broken relationship and your attempts to fix it aren't enough
If this is a spiritual gift, a level of faith that one day can be reached, I am far, far from there. Some older, wiser people would probably tell me that I'll look back on this time and see how strong I was to get through it. Or they would tell me that the intensity of today's struggle and the pressure on my faith will guard me later on in life in hard times.
To all of those ideas I say 'You're probably right, and right now I can't care about that.' I only want a solution, I want to fix my life financially, to fix this stress. I want to not struggle right now, starting tomorrow or sooner, much sooner, as in now. I hate this desperation. And yet the frantic job hunting has been fruitless and I don't know where to turn. I'm sick of believing it will be ok. In 1 Thess it says "He alone examines the motives of our hearts." God knows that I don't desire to lose faith, to walk away from his path instead I want to live him and serve him and my family, effectively now. I want to stop being stressed and move more fully into what God has for me now.
Perhaps what God has for me now is this struggle, perhaps there is some lesson left for me but if so I have failed to see that. All I see is my failure to provide.
Amidst all of this I wonder, where is that peace Paul speaks of? I certainly have prayed, I'm certainly still praying. How have I tried so hard to follow and listen only to feel as though I'm not listening well enough to God, or I'm too angry or not spiritual enough to ascend from this mirey pit.
Am I alone in this?
Have you faced this too?
Have you faithfully prayed and laid things before the Lord and wondered why the peace never came?
This valley of doubt and desperation feels lonely but I don't think it is. I don't want to bring you down to join me, but if you're already here and I can't see you, maybe we can begin to push each other toward a better place. Maybe we can practice church wth each other, tenderly caring for one another, despite our painful lack of peaceful positions.
Maybe peace is found in meeting each other in the pit.