Most who know me would hesitate to ever use speechless to describe me. We have running jokes in my family that if you ask Meghann a question, she’ll take you all the way back to the third grade to give you the answer. (What can I say – I like to be thorough!) Clear communication is important to me.
But what about those times of life when it seems that life has utterly left us speechless? Those in between stages where we know we don’t see a full picture, the pain or discomfort is still relatively fresh, and life has just been the oddest mixture of pure hardship and pure joy?
This is the concept I’ve been pondering lately. I love to encourage you all, my readers, to seek freedom and joy in Christ. But I simply haven’t even known how to do that this past year. Moving, a difficult job transition for Chris, walking our toddler through the nearly unbearable 2’s (Who the heck stopped at “terrible?” I think it demands a little more drama than that, folks.), having a fairly severe emotional breakdown, starting over in nearly all areas of life, shocked with the incredibly sweet news that we were going to have a second baby, experiencing the absolute highs and lows of pregnancy, finding out my mom has breast cancer. The year has been weird – and awful – and upside down – and awe-inspiring. And I’m just not sure what to say about it all.
And so after nearly a year of choosing NOT to write, of feeling utterly speechless, and truthfully STILL living in the discomfort of an incomplete chapter of our lives, I’ve decided that the best, most stable place for me to rest my head at the end of the day is in a fact: God loves us, and He gives us space to not understand and be upset about that in the middle of our incomplete picture of this life.
So it’s probably not all that shocking that this same Meghann who loves clarity of communication absolutely cringes at the idea and – even worse – reality of an unfinished story. I writhe in discomfort as if covered in slime and unable to rinse it off as I have to continue to sit in the middle of the unknown. So this season of odds and ends and incompletes has been that much more difficult for me, until I realize that even when we are “settled” and appear to have a rhythm and a plan for life, we’re still not in control.
This may sound morbid to some, but it actually gives me peace. And this season of unknowns and frustrations and goodness and grief becomes a grace in my life that points me back to the always present truth that we don’t know what the next moments of our lives will hold. And sometimes in the midst of the Lord’s sovereignty and immense grace for us, He allows us to acutely feel the rush of life’s uncertainties. We often label these moments “tragic” or “unbearable.” But David writes in Psalm 119:75, “I know, Lord, that your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” Yes – for the Christ-follower, one of the great tensions we hold is that God is sovereign and life sometimes hurts us terribly. And we’re left with a choice: do we believe that God is still faithful over the confusing seasons of our lives?
I recently listened to a podcast, sharing the story of a 35+ year old lady who had totally lost her hearing when she was 4. Although she now has hearing aids, her cumulative ability to hear is only 20% of full capacity. Consequently, she struggles immensely with social anxiety, in particular when she knows that she’ll be in a place with lots of competing sounds…like church. What?! What kind of a cruel Lord would allow affliction to come upon this woman that would cause her to have anxiety every time she enters the church? Her answer? She deems it a grace in her life that every time she prepares to enter the church, she’s already had to place her heart in a position of surrender before the Lord.
Just this year, I was finally able to discover – via counseling – that I have been struggling for 9 years with OCD in my thought life. I have a difficult time calling an odd passing thought just that, and I start to panic that those thoughts are defining me. Consequently during those past 9 years, I, an otherwise very people-fueled, lively, funny, energetic, talkative lady, had morphed into a more quiet, uncomfortable, fearful, even agoraphobic version of myself. Anxiety rested on my shoulders like a constant heavy load I carried wherever I went.
I’ve been working through this issue with my wonderful, Christ-centered counselor for the past 9 months, and some days I feel on top of the world while others I feel like I’m back at the bottom of this insurmountable obstacle. But when I really consider the benefit, I too have found a space where I must lean on the Lord more fully. My trust has grown in Him as I’ve learned to go to places outside of my comfort zone and watch Him care for me. And I’ve learned that my immensely analytical brain is excellent for studying and researching, and those things can often fuel me toward greater mental health and enthusiasm for life than I had before all of this first took root.
These are only two examples, but honestly, any one of us could share what “cripples” us. And all of them would be valid and heartfelt and challenging, I’m absolutely positive. But to stop short at voicing our agonies is to short change the power of the gospel’s transforming work in our lives; we have the opportunity to look at our afflictions and find reason to trust the Lord’s immense faithfulness in it. Yes – IN.
I know that my life will eventually settle into a rhythm because that’s what happens years after you move. We are hopeful that my mom’s cancer will be defeated by surgery and chemo/radiation, and we thank the Lord that she caught it early. I believe Chris will hit a groove with his job and cease to view it as the daunting task it frequently can be right now. And I am confident that my toddler won’t be a toddler forever (thankfully they grow to be teenagers, right?! Insert a tiny bit of sarcasm, while also knowing that I do have a soft spot for teenagers, since I taught them for years.)
But God may never restore this woman’s hearing. He may never allow my chronic battle with OCD in my thought life to fully cease. And He may never lift the storm cloud that always seems to threaten your fullness of life. But He is faithful, and He is unchanging and His love for us is the anchor for our souls. And through that, we too can look for how our weakness is a grace to our lives.
David goes on to say in Psalm 119:76, “May your unfailing love be my comfort.” He didn’t say, “may your resolve to solve my afflictions be my comfort.” Nope. (I wish you could hear my son say that right now; it’s super cute and involves a hand motion…anyhow…) Instead David rests on the unfailing love of the Lord.
Here’s the deal: one day, all those who have proclaimed the name of the Lord Jesus Christ will no longer wrestle with these things that cause us so much grief right now. But in the here and now, we’re being sanctified partially if not primarily through our afflictions. We’re being refined to continually and increasingly look more like Christ so that we aren’t complainers but are rather a people who can rest in His unfailing love, despite our crippled legs.
And along the way, He will teach us how those weaknesses can be used as strengths for His glory. And He will place new songs in our mouths as we learn to praise Him through the hardships. And that’s something truly supernatural – for us to experience grief and learn to be grateful for our affliction. That’s something I want to be able to do.
In the meantime, if you’re in the struggle, don’t feel like you have to force yourself to a “better” attitude. Of course that’s where we all want to be. But this past year has taught me the value of honesty with the Lord. He can handle our mixed up bag of emotions. He is gracious. And His patience far outweighs what we could imagine. He loves us…when we’re on a roll doing all of the things that we think He would love and when we’re struggling to function. He loves us. I haven’t really had much to say this year. But this much is definitely clear.
And if you don’t know Jesus, please let me or another person know to share with you the immense Good News of what He has done for us.
Oh – I guess I’ve also learned that it’s not always a bad thing to be speechless.