Take This Cup.
If seasons could speak, fall would be my love language. Summer, spring, and winter are great (I guess) and there is beauty to be found in each season (if you’re that person) – but fall holds a special place in my heart. Memories of picking out pumpkins with my little brother, drinking hot chocolate at football games, and the warmth of a bonfire surrounded by family and friends fill my mind and speaks to my soul in a way the other seasons never could. Picture your typical “basic” Pumpkin Spice girl who starts decorating her house in full fall decor on September 1st, while getting out her big, cozy sweaters and boots, with a hot cinnamon something Starbucks in hand, even though it’s still 70 degrees outside – and you’ll find me there. You will also find me at TJ Maxx, much to my husband’s despair, buying every single fall scented candle I can get my hands on.
While others grieve summer’s end, I’m already daydreaming about pumpkin patches, apple picking, and Thanksgiving festivities. You might be wishing for more poolside days and sweltering afternoons that require loads of very inconvenient sunscreen application, but I’m enthralled with the artistry displayed by the changing of the leaves and the crispness of new autumn air. Once October hits, it’s all over – I’m in full fall swing, and there is nothing that can be done to stop me. I will drag you to that apple orchard, I will force you to carve that pumpkin and you will drink hot apple cider and be happy about it. Because to me, that’s the essence of fall. To be cozy, to be captivated by the secrets of the leaves, and to dunk yourself completely in everything Pumpkin Spice flavored. It’s ok, you can call me “basic” because I am 100% owning it and loving every minute of it.
There’s a drawback though. Do you want to know what the worst part about fall is? It ends. It freaking ends. It lasts for literally two seconds, and then you’re putting your gorgeous fall decorations away to make room for the dang Christmas tree that looks like it’s been through the wringer, and suddenly it becomes awkward to offer someone a Pumpkin Spice flavored beverage. Ugh, it’s the worst. So, while I’m busy complaining that everything looks dead because the leaves have all fallen, and my ancient but reliable (most of the time) car won’t start again because of the freezing winter weather, I am humbly, not happily, reminded that every season must come to an end so another can begin.
Suffering. Ew, even looking at the word makes me uncomfortable. We’ve all experienced it though. We’ve all been molded and changed by it at some point in our lives. It’s a nine-letter word that brings with it anguish and hardship, pain and adversity. It’s not a word to be taken lightly or to be skimmed over only to be revisited at a later time. No, if you’re in a season of suffering, that nine-letter word becomes your entire world. Darkness seems as faithful as the morning light, and the light starts to seem like a bad joke.
As we have begun the month of November, the one month out of the year that celebrates the art of giving thanks, I think it’s important to bring attention to those who don’t feel like giving anything at all.
I want to speak to those who are in their very own season of suffering. You’ve hit your exit on the warmth of summer and the exquisite colors of fall, and you are finding yourself in the cold and lonely darkness of winter season, where it seems promises and parts of you have gone to die, rather than flourish and grow. I’m talking to the mother of three littles who has just been given a cancer diagnosis. I am looking at the girl who has just had her heart shattered by a boy she gave everything to; her dreams, her body, her whole self. I’m pointing at the woman who just lost her husband, had half of her whole heart and soul ripped suddenly from her, and is desperately trying to convince the rest of the world that she’ll be ok – even as her words fall flat on her own ears. I’m speaking to those who are harboring immense pain, and who are wondering and questioning how a God that claims to be so “good” could ever allow such agony and devastation. I’m looking at you and I see you in your season of suffering – of waiting. Waiting for answers, waiting for hope as you gripe through the haze of trying desperately to understand this hurt that plagues you, while your entire being feels like it’s breaking. I see and understand that you are trying to put on your bravest face, but being thankful and celebrating this idea of Thanksgiving is really the last thing you want to do – nor do you have the energy to fake it.
Friend, Broken Daughter, your King sees you too.
He sees you in your season of suffering and knows your heart can’t muster up the words, “I am thankful.” He sees your anger and your fear and your sadness, and instead of being offended by it, He welcomes you to sit at the throne of His Grace. No, He doesn’t just welcome you…He begs you to run with reckless abandon, throwing yourself at His feet as He comforts and wipes away those tears you’ve been holding back in the presence of everyone else.
I think we forget that Jesus, the Son of God Himself, has experienced every single ounce of our angst. He, too, begged His Father to be freed from His season of suffering. The very night before He was to fulfill His destiny – freeing the world, liberating us from the chains of our sins – He asked the Father, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26, verse 38 tells us that Jesus’ soul was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Jesus doesn’t shun you for your inability to feel thankful, He weeps because He understands exactly how deep your sorrow runs.
I am here to give you freedom from your guilt and help liberate you from those chains that tell you to hold everything together because “good” Christian women don’t question the goodness of God in the midst of suffering.
In Genesis chapter 32, Jacob physically wrestles with God. He is on the run for fear of being found by his angry brother. God seeks him in that place of fear, and Jacob wrestles against Him.
David, a man who God proclaimed as a ”man after His own heart,” was also a man who murdered and committed adultery. This same David laments and questions God throughout the Psalms. Take a look at Psalm 13 where you find David crying out, “How long Lord?! Will you forget me forever?! How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?”
Jesus, Jacob, David… all three of them tell tales of sorrow and pain, of suffering, of bringing their questions and pleas to the Father. Do you know what all three of these men have in common? They chose to walk through the fire, to take their anger and their questions and their sorrow, and wrestle bravely through their seasons of suffering with The Creator.
Out of their seasons of suffering, magnificent victories were born, history was made.
Jacob, after wrestling with God, was blessed by Him. God gave Jacob a new name, a new identity – a fresh start.
David, after all of his mistakes – all of his sorrow caused by his own choices – was celebrated for his creation of the city of Jerusalem, for being a valiant Warrior after God’s own heart, and was the very bloodline that Jesus Himself would be born from.
Jesus, the man born humbly in a dirty manger, who took on the role of a servant, who walked through the ultimate fire so we could have our sweet freedom received the ultimate blessing – eternity with you because an eternity without you in it – to Him – is pure hell. Jesus’s season of suffering gives us access to the ultimate gift.
Seasons of suffering come to an end, and on the other side – if we so choose – is a stronger woman waiting to meet you. Seasons of suffering shape us into warriors only when we choose to submit our grief to the One who holds our hearts.
So, beloved friend, broken daughter… I sit with you today in your lonely season of suffering, and I am sad with you. More importantly, Jesus sits with you – He weeps with you and aches to hold you.
The first step in moving towards thankfulness amidst suffering is crying out to Jesus, rather than crying away from Him. Get angry – get angry at Him – I’m telling you right now, I promise you, He is more than capable of handling it. He can’t stand it when you walk away from Him with your anger, taking your broken heart with you to bind up yourself. You weren’t meant to carry that kind of pain on your own. He longs to process it with you. True peace, true thankfulness, can only come from taking our pain to the feet of Jesus. So we can process it through the lense He offers us, rather than our own lenses fogged over by the lie laced words of this world.
Though you feel like He has taken from you, though you feel slain by a God you believed to be good up until now, my prayer is that you would turn to Him despite your overwhelming desire to shut Him out. I pray that this week, His love would engulf you, His presence would heal you, and from the ashes of this season of suffering, a Warrior with unwavering faith in the goodness of her God, would step forth and take her rightful place. Her place as a Broken Daughter of King Jesus.
*Check out “Though You Slay Me”, by Shane & Shane.