When life is not what you wanted

I didn’t write as much as I thought I would last year—I count exactly four posts in 2016—but a common theme among those and all the posts I didn’t write is loneliness. I wonder now if I was trying to prove something, like, see, Lord, I have learned All the Lessons, so please relieve me from this pain. Because we tend to do that, don’t we? We think God gives us trials and suffering and unwanted life circumstances to teach us lessons, and the sooner we learn them, the faster the pain will pass, and we’ll be rewarded for hanging in there.

But life is—God is—not so transactional. We are not characters in a video game—shoot enough poison flowers, get an extra life. Gather enough coins, get a new weapon. Defeat the Big Bad, free the princess. A good theology of suffering is not about what we do, or how well we bear it, but about what God is doing with it. Who can know exactly why he does what he does? The Sunday School answer, of course, is “for my good and his glory,” but why sickness for this person and health for another? Why singleness for this one and marriage for another? Why this, why that? I am tired of asking such questions, for they offer no answers, and possibly never will, because despite my best efforts, I’m actually not the one running the show here.

Ecclesiastes says that even wisdom and knowledge are ultimately meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I don’t think that means it’s wrong to be wise or to know facts, but that answers are not the goal. Job didn’t get any; why would we?

Sometimes I think, I did not sign up for this. This life feels arbitrary, or like I got gypped, or even like God has forgotten me. But a few things the Spirit keeps impressing upon me:

  1. God loves me the most—not that he loves me more than he loves others, but that he loves me more than any person ever could. So whatever he does must be borne out of that perfect love, and be good.
  2. He will bring us to a place of abundance. A few verses that I have meditated on over the last year, sometimes through tears, are from Psalm 66:
    For you, O God, have tested us;
        you have tried us as silver is tried.
    You brought us into the net;
        you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
    you let men ride over our heads;
        we went through fire and through water;
    yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance. (v. 10-12)
  3. Better this life, with all its aches and pains, came from God than from Satan, or from myself. Many words have been and will be spilled over God’s sovereignty, human responsibility, and Satan’s role in suffering. This isn’t the place to rehash all of it, but my hot take is that I am more at peace believing that my suffering comes from the hand of God himself, because he loves me and wounds to heal, not kill. If suffering came from Satan or my poor decisions apart from God’s direction, then God would merely be a paramedic who rushes in after the damage has been done, not a wise, trustworthy, in-charge Father.

Rolling into 2017, exactly zero things in my life look like I thought they would at this point. I can’t analyze the one I want into being, or learn the right lesson in order to move on to the next level. All that’s left to do is to just live my little life—the one I’ve been assigned, my portion.

Life is hard. God is good. Let’s roll.

Lazy Saturday

You allllllllll. It is 4:01pm on Saturday afternoon, and I’m so happy to report that I’m still in my pajamas. Well, and a little embarrassed but mostly happy. Now I’m debating whether to continue watching season 1 of Psych or pay a visit to my good friend Ann Taylor Loft. I know, this is a riveting, ground-breaking decision but I’m just so happy about the pajama thing that I can’t think straight.

Speaking of Ann Taylor Loft, let’s talk about Pintrest (you might think they are unrelated but oh you just wait, my friend. you. just. wait.). Have you discovered the wonder that is Pintrest? It’s basically like a virtual bookmarks page for all your favorite things, so at first glance, it seems redundant. But without Pintrest, how would I find fabulous things like these:

or my new favorite:
(If you ever ask me where I live or where I am, I am totally going to reference that quote above)
So yah, Pintrest is amazingness. However, Pintrest is also dangerous. In addition to ideas for crafts and recipes and things that make me LOL, there are also a lot of “motivational” weight loss pins. Some are kind of helpful in putting things in perspective (“No matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch”); others are downright mean (letters on the fridge spelling out, “Walk away, fatty!”). On top of that, I’ve seen a lot of pins with skinny women and the comments below them say something like, “My goal weight!” or “I wish I looked like her.” 
That, coupled with totes adorbs pins like these:
or
leave me hoping in outward appearances for my acceptance. 
Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely one of those people who could use some of that motivation to lose a few pounds myself. I get where these ladies are coming from and sometimes, when food is a big problem, maybe we need to be a little harder on ourselves in order to be more disciplined. But I also know that looking at pictures of skinny, air-brushed women and lamenting the fact that I don’t look or dress like them that tend to distort my perspective. I start attributing all of my problems to my waistline, like this: “Maybe if I lost more weight and wore more jewelry and had nicer clothes and a better haircut or wore more makeup or always had on nail polish… maybe I’d be married by now or people at work would take me more seriously or I would have more friends.” 
That part is whack, man. Yes, one should eat healthy and take care of one’s body and look clean and polished in professional settings and if you can’t even take care of some basic grooming habits or know how to dress yourself, well, things will be different for you is all I’m saying. But it’s a lie to say that my clothes or nails or hair should determine the quality of my relationships.
I’ve been reflecting on the truth of 1 Peter 3:3-4:
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear — but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.  
Scripture does not say that we should not dress up or work out. However, God does say that we shouldn’t find our hope in such things. So maybe while I’m shopping at Ann Taylor Loft, I should remember that my joy is not made complete in the cute cardigans or darling dresses, but in Christ alone. 
(If I have to tell you the caption for this picture, we can’t be friends).
If you need me, I’ll be at the corner of Awesome and Bombdiggity. Happy Saturday!