We were sitting in church this last Sunday as our Pastor preached on the book of Colossians. He wanted to know where our hearts were at, or rather, he wanted us to know where our hearts were at. Where are they rooted? This is something I have written about recently. I’ve considered how what is in our hearts comes out in the language we use in prayer, towards God, and with others.
But a new thought presented itself to me as I sat there, thinking deeper about the condition of my heart, and it was this: have my burdens become my gods?
I will confess to you that the phrase, “a beautiful mess”, has almost become a tagline for my life. Infertility, illness, waiting, dashed hopes, uncertain futures…these things have wrecked my world. And yet I have sought, as many of us do, to find the beauty in them. I’ve set my eyes hard on watching what God will do with my suffering. I’ve hungered for His presence to become real in tangible ways in the midst of them. I’ve given myself over to the mindset that because God has asked something hard of me that there must be some kind of unimaginable beauty waiting for me at the end of all of this. That one day, everything I have felt in the depths of my heart, all the hurt and disappointment, and brokenness would be worth something. Did you catch that? I thought it would make me “worth” something.
Our suffering won’t ever make us worth something. That is the hardest point to take…but it’s the whole reason that Jesus came for us. He saw that we would suffer. He saw that we would die. He saw that no matter how many times we strive to be refined in the fire…without Him we would simply disappear. But Jesus…His suffering makes ours worth it.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
You see, I keep records of wrongs. I remember the blessings that have not come my way. I remember the hurt. I remember the pain. I remember how I felt when I thought God had wronged me. And while I probably am not likely to speak this out loud, the truth is that the hope I often feel, especially in my infertility, is that God has seen me suffering, and because I have suffered…He will provide for me. Maybe if I’m being honest, I haven’t separated my suffering from who God is. Instead, I’ve added it to a running tally of why God should show up for me.
I have wanted to claim that my mess is beautiful. But I have looked for beauty in the wrong place.
The beauty of our stories, laced with hurt and disappointment, is not actually found in how well we have handled things or in how we have used our pain for something good. It’s not really in how well we fought our battles. It’s not in the outcome. It doesn’t arrive when we finally receive what we are praying for. The beauty is not in us at all.
The beauty is in who God is. It’s written on the palms of His hands and the tears He himself cried for us in the form of Jesus. It’s in the way He perfectly loves us. It’s in all the prayers He has heard us shouting up to Him. It’s in the way He bends low to reach us, even as our hearts sink deeper. The beauty of our pain is actually the truth of His resurrection, that though we feel as dead we are alive. That though our pain seems huge, Christ’s strength is stronger. That no matter the outcome of what we hope for in this world, we know that the outcome of our salvation is always Victory.
Because of Him, the disappointments of this life will NOT be the disappointments of our eternity. Our hardships here have to loosen their grips on us, because they can no longer hang onto us forever. Better things are coming.
“…Because God is love.” 1 John 4:8
The beauty in our mess has nothing to do with us at all, and everything to do with the beauty of our God who saves us from it. The most beautiful mess of all can be found on the cross of Christ, because that’s where all of our sins and sufferings were nailed. Jesus stretched His arms wide and took it all away, because He knew nothing but destruction would ever come from our suffering without Him. We could never sacrifice enough. Our suffering couldn’t save us, couldn’t bring us closer to God. Hard things would and will continue to come our way, but we wouldn’t choose them for ourselves. Jesus chose the suffering on the cross so that our suffering and sin would no longer define us, and instead we would be defined by His grace for us. Know this friend, it is not Jesus who wants us to hurt. It is not Jesus who brought about infertility, or illness, or suffering, or shame. It is Jesus who saved us from all of it. And it’s not any amount of suffering that we have come through or any amount of our lives that we used for His glory that catches the attention of our Heavenly Father…It is really only Jesus.
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10
The beauty is in Him. Always Him. Only Him. And because of Jesus, we get to see that beauty on display. We get to “walk with Him, and talk with Him, along Life’s narrow way.”