Sometimes, I hate motivational posts and articles. It’s not that I don’t want to be motivated. It’s not that I think there is no value in having someone say, “Hey, you’re struggling, and here’s what you need to do to get through it.” It’s just that what they usually mean is, “here is how you step up your game so you can be successful at suffering rightly.”
Recently I read a post that said chronically ill people need to take more time to be alone with Jesus, it will help us focus more on Jesus than our illness, and thus help us in our walk with Him. I know that. Being alone with Jesus is vital to my spiritual life. How do I “be alone with Jesus”, though, when my thoughts constantly bounce around in my head, slinging around the room and distracting me 95% of the time?
“You have to practice being alone with Him so you learn to not be distracted.”
What if my distractibility is a consequence of the way my brain works (hello ADHD, anxiety disorder, depression), and not just a lack of discipline or practice? What if, when I’m silent for more than two minutes, my brain focuses more on the suffering of my body than on the Savior? I want to be able to spend time truly alone with Him in silence. Just tell me how to turn off my brain.
It’s a Process
One thing so many of these articles completely ignore is the fact that achieving what they’re posting about—whether it’s “counting it all joy” (James 1:2) or remembering that our troubles are “light and momentary” (2 Corinthians 4:17), or turning our focus to eternal things (Colossians 3:2), etc.—is a process. I can’t just say, “Right, I’m counting it all joy today.” Well, maybe sometimes that works, but not often.
Learning to do these things is also something that isn’t going to happen overnight. Some days it’s just not possible to even take a step in that direction. I am trying to do my part to get there, but sometimes I just want to hear someone (with an audience–not just my friends or family) say: “You know what? There are going to be days it just doesn’t work. Days when the weight of suffering is pressing down so hard it slams the lid on joy and makes it impossible to even form a coherent sentence to God.”
The good news is, God gets that. He knows. He is still there. He is not clucking His tongue at you because you can’t drag up enough energy today to “suffer rightly.” He’s going to hang onto you for all you’re worth and get you through this day, and all the days to come.
There will be days of joy, and days of pain, and you are not a failure if you can’t “count it all joy” sometimes. Or even most of the time. You stick with Him. Just hang onto Him. He will get you there. He promises that in Philippians 1:6. But you won’t be there instantly. Not just because you read a blog post or Facebook post and followed its directions. Probably not even just because you read a great Bible passage about suffering. It’s not likely to be “Boom! Got it! On to the next lesson!”
Real Life and Suffering Rightly
I don’t think “Suffering Rightly” is a Pollyanna outlook. I think sometimes it is counting it all joy. Sometimes, though, it’s just hanging on to the one shred of faith you have left. Or hanging on to the hope of one day having hope–the trust that there is actually a shred of faith left. Or simply telling Jesus you just can’t do it today and you need Him to hang onto you. Sometimes “Suffering Rightly” means nothing more than not walking away.
Real Life isn’t all polished up and sparkly. Real Life is often Real Suffering—gritty, raw, painful, full of anxieties and doubts, sometimes anger, sometimes bitterness. Jesus isn’t afraid of those things in us, and He doesn’t condemn (Romans 8:1). He sits with us in our ash heap and holds us as we simply try to take the next breath. He helps us be able to take the next step when we’re able to do it, not before. He is here for us, and I don’t for one minute think He expects us to “suck it up and deal” when we’re in the Valley.
He knows, little one. He understands.