In The Midst
Do you ever wonder why bad things happen to good people? I’m sure you’ve all heard this expression but when have you actually taken the time to think about it more deeply? Actually reflect on what it suggests.
Take a moment.
Let it sink in.
Why do bad things happen to good people?
Do you have any clear answers?
This question has circled my head and my heart a lot recently. I’ve struggled to try and understand a type of pain that can only be described as unfair, or unjust, but mainly it’s unexplainable. It’s the type of pain that brings you to your knees. Tears burn your cheeks and your heart cries out for help as you attempt to take one more breath in the midst of emptiness.
How often do you find yourself in the midst?
In the midst of confusion and questioning?
In the midst of pain and suffering?
In the midst of heart wrenching hurt?
When I first became a Christian I felt a type of peacefulness I had never felt. I latched on to that feeling and raised my hands to praise the power that I had found in Jesus Christ. I began crying more tears of joy than tears of sorrow for all the new blessings in my life. I felt free. Until one day I didn’t feel as light anymore. I quickly realized that being a Christian didn’t mean that I somehow got a free pass on pain. Actually it was quite the opposite. I was gifted the strength to take on new pain. To feel pain deeper than I ever had before. To face pain head on. Instead of running, instead of numbing myself, I leaned in to the anxious feelings as a sign that God wanted me to unpack my pain.
Which leads me to my next question. Have you ever heard about the invisible backpack we carry? Essentially it’s the idea that if you took off this backpack and laid it down in front of you there would lie all the things that have impact on you, past and present. All the things that define who you are. The moments that make you, and the moments that break you. All on the table. You’d see the things that are important to you. The things you are proud to claim, along with the vulnerabilities you bury deep inside. You’d also see the anger or hurt or resentment that you carry with you. Along with any personal bias or judgement you hold. You may not even realize it exists, but it’s there. Does this imagery scare you or entice you? I hope it’s a little bit of both.
I’ve been unpacking my own backpack a lot in the past year. Trying to navigate why I am the person I am today. Why did God create me this way? What is the purpose behind all of this? What I began to realize is that a lot of my defining moments are the painful ones. Most of my personal strengths stem from moments of weakness. I would not be where I am, living and loving so passionately without facing times of trial. I would not be here writing this if I had not faced rejection and hurt. It was that hurt that drove me here. Searching for personal freedom, without a clue where to find it.
Now looking back I can clearly see it was God all along. I was looking for freedom and he was holding the key in the palm of his hand. Waiting for me to take his hand. That key allowed me to break open a new world, a world that is now breaking me wide open.
In those moments of incredible confusion and pain God was molding me. He was building a resilience that would prepare me for the path he has laid out. He was teaching me that there is power in pain. He was creating space for vulnerability so I could begin speaking into the lives of others. He filled me with anxiety to help me unpack my resentment. He created guilt so I could transform the way I love others. He held a mirror in front of my face and said “look a little deeper” so I could live a life of transparency. And he allowed me to feel his love so fully at first so I would lean in even deeper once the next wave of pain came crashing down.
I’ve been wrestling with these words in my head for a few days now. I wasn’t sure where to start or how to speak on such an overwhelming topic. The topic of pain runs deep for most of us, and an attempt to dive deeper threatens the very thing we crave most. Peace. It’s late and I’m writing this in bed because I'm struggling to rest. I feel mentally exhausted, and yet I'm spiritually moved. I know that God is trying to reach someone at this very moment. Maybe you’re reading this because you too can’t seem to find rest. You feel an unexplainable pull to know more. Maybe you wish to understand the deep darkness that surrounds you at times. Or maybe, like me, you wish to feel God's presence despite the darkness.
While attending Vitalpoint recently, Pastor Ron mentioned this idea in his sermon. Ron explained that God wants us to long for his presence more than we beg for the pain to be taken away. He created that space for us, and I am beginning to realize that this space is filled with incredible hope and peace even in the midst of my own mental madness.
I’ve spoken the words “this isn’t fair,” “this hurts too much, and “why me” far too many times to count. But God has shown me that life isn’t meant to be fair or painless. Jesus died for our sins because He knew that our lives wouldn’t be perfect. He knew that as humans we were flawed in nature. He laid down his life so we could experience love in the midst of pain and suffering. He saved us so we could one day escape the hurt and live in eternal peace. But the most beautiful thing He did was create space for a relationship with us. A relationship that provides comfort while we walk through times of darkness. A relationship that fills our emptiness with incredible peace. A relationship that allows us to boast about our weaknesses. A relationship that teaches us how to live a beautifully broken life.
Looking at what it means to live a resilient life has given me more questions, but not the same questions I used to hold.
Instead of “Why are you doing this to me?” it has become “How are you transforming me?”
Instead of “When will this end?” I wonder “How much stronger am I becoming?”
Instead of “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I question “How many more people are you trying to reach through this story?”
I'm reframing my questions to focus on the powerful love of God. A God who sees us in our midst and longs to welcome us in to his warm embrace. A God who turns pain into power. A God who transforms weakness into strength when we allow His presence to reframe our biggest questions.
A God who provides rest, even in the midst.
God your plan is so much bigger than the pain we face today. I pray you take this hurt and weave it into something beautiful. I pray you wrap your arms around the broken-hearted and your truth works in and through those who long for peace. I pray that we are able to unpack our hurt at your feet, and be thankful for the thorns you place in our lives. I pray for your warm presence, even in our midsts. I pray this all in Jesus’ mighty name, amen.
In loving memory of Maverick Daniel Hamming.