Friday, May 13, 2011

Strength in Struggles

This week I’m working at a conference in Prince Albert, a northern community in the province of Saskatchewan. As I approach the conference centre my eyes are drawn to this ramshackle gazebo on the exhibition grounds. It’s a gorgeous spring day, bright sunshine and brilliant blue sky overhead, but the decaying screens flap in the wind like a panicked swimmer flailing frantically to keep his head afloat. Despite the warm day a shudder goes through me as I imagine this same gazebo as part of a thriller movie setting, deserted, and creaking in darkness. You just know the killer is lurking inside, your adrenalin pumps as you strain with all your heart to send a subliminal warning message to the protagonist...but to no avail.

I contemplate this train of thought for a few minutes and then begin to wonder how many of us are going through life like this gazebo. My imagination wanders for another moment...I’m sure when the gazebo was built it was endowed with a fresh coat of sparkling white paint. The newly installed screens prevented the plague of Saskatchewan (mosquitoes) from interrupting love struck couples as they paused to steal a few kisses inside its cozy interior. Newly married couples snapped pictures beside it and husbands laughingly scooped up their new brides to carry them across the threshold. In its glory days the gazebo was clean, pristine, it was popular and it served a purpose. OK, enough time in my imagination!

As I stand staring the gazebo I wonder how many of our own lives are buffeted in the wind like the torn screens of the gazebo. Did you have plans, hopes and dreams ten years ago that now lie in ruined shreds? Did your marriage break down and no matter how hard you try you can’t trust yourself to fully love another person again? Did you lose a child and nothing fills the gaping void in your heart. Do you live with painful consequences of poor choices? Perhaps you want to be happy but no matter how hard you try you just can’t win the battle with the monster that threatens to drag you down into a deep pit of despair and depression? Let’s face it, our lives aren’t easy, they never were and they never will be. I’m not going to sugar coat things and tell you that all you have to do is trust God, accept Christ as your Saviour and you’ll never have any sorrow, pain, anguish or suffering in your life again. That’s just not true! I’m also not going to tell you that if you had enough faith you wouldn’t be in pain, or you wouldn’t have lost your child, or you can just believe yourself out of depression. In my opinion those are lies that simply increase feelings of pain and add on a pile of useless guilt!

Here’s what I will say. I know from personal experience that by trusting God and embarking on a personal, prayer-filled relationship with Him you find a supportive friend who is there no matter how you feel, no matter what you’re facing, no matter what you’ve done. Does your pain instantly go away? No. But you’ll find God gives you enough strength to get through each day. Claim the promise of the prophet Isaiah who says, “...but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) You may not feel the presence of God, or even believe that there’s anything different from day to day. I know I didn’t FEEL God when I struggled with depression and anxiety. But in the middle of the dark night when my body was wracked with sobs and all I could do was cry out God’s name I did find comfort and gentle relief from tears. Now, in the aftermath, looking back I realize God carried me through that bleak time in my life and brought me out on the other side, set me down, brushed me off and gave me a gentle push to move me into the brighter future He had in store for me.

You can cry and scream and beat your fists at God, you don’t have to be afraid or hold back, He’s a big God and He can take it. Eventually as you go through the venting and praying process with God you’ll be strengthened, you’ll be renewed, you’ll be able to find peace even in the midst of your sorrow or pain. If you’re hurting, please cry out to God today. He’s there for me and He’ll be there for you. too.

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