“I don’t understand.”
It’s a mantra that’s been ever-present lately, a thought that won’t go away.
And as we walked along an overgrown path in the woods outside of Birmingham, it was the mantra of our conversation.
Both of us felt rejected, lonely and even a little worthless. We didn’t understand what God was doing in our lives, where He was leading us. Each door we thought He had opened had been slammed shut, and with each click of the latch came a wave of disappointment, sadness and hurt.
We wished we could be more level-headed about it all. We wished we didn’t sound so melodramatic. After all, it’s not like someone had died or something truly earth-shattering had happened. We realized that. But still each click brought a different kind of loss — a loss of hope.
We knew God wanted the best for us. We knew His promises. But we didn’t know how the situations we were in could be perceived as good.
For months we had been running headlong into closed doors, and we were bruised and confused (rhyming intended). And for months we’d been wrestling with God in the privacy of our respective rooms, trying to deal with it and just move on. But instead of it getting dealt with, it was like we were stuck in one of those revolving doors that never opened and the ride was about to make us truly sick.
And then we went for a hike. And in the open air of spring, she let out all the feelings that had been welling up in her soul. And as she talked, I thought, “Thank God it’s not just me.”
Her struggle, her situation, her pain — all of it was almost identical to mine. The difference between the two of us? She was strong enough to be honest about it and share it with someone. I was ashamed of my struggle and couldn’t bring myself to tell any one person the whole, ugly truth.
That is, until I was sitting on a stone wall overlooking the rocky landscape we had just climbed. Her honesty was like some kind of permission that I didn’t know I needed. But once I got it, every detail of how I had been feeling just spilled out.
And do you know what happened? Nothing. The earth didn’t quake, God didn’t let out a big sigh of disappointment, no one’s life was ruined. And I wasn’t — and still am not — completely healed. But walking someone through my struggles, confiding completely in someone who could give me godly encouragement … that changed my outlook completely.
Instead of feeling like the “I don’t understand” mantra would forever be the funeral dirge of my life, I felt a renewed hope spark in my heart. Not necessarily hope for the closed door to be opened again, but hope for a day when I would fully trust in the beauty and wholeness of God’s plan.
John Piper once said, “Every millisecond of your pain from the fallen nature … every millisecond of your misery in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory you will get because of that.
“It wasn’t meaningless. It’s doing something — of course you can’t see what it’s doing! Don’t look to what is seen.”
“Don’t look to what is seen.” Now that is a mantra I want to mark my life.
Don’t think that your struggles are somehow a shortcoming. You’re not disappointing God by having feelings. It’s what you do with those feelings, how you confront your struggles and what you learn about your relationship with Him that He cares about.