I’m so glad you’re here!
If you had just walked into my (cluttered) kitchen, I’d offer to put on some water and make some French Press coffee—decaf if it was late afternoon. There are few things I love more than getting together with a friend for coffee or a hike. OK, mostly coffee. Sometimes those coffees are just me and Jesus. Sometimes another friend will join us. But even if you’re sitting in your own kitchen instead of mine (hopefully it isn’t as cluttered) I’ll ask, “How are you? Really?” And if you stay long enough and God prompts, I’ll ask an even more important question:
How are you and Jesus?
I remember the first time someone asked me that. I froze. What was I supposed to say? What was the right answer?
I can guess what you’re thinking—I just needed to be honest, but sometimes I get all caught up in my head. I worry about burdening others. I worry about not representing Jesus well. We’re supposed to be joyful and leading the abundant life, but sometimes my life is quite a mess. Is it OK to say that I’m scared or lonely? That yesterday I lost a wrestling match with sin? That my finances are in shambles? That my spouse is distant? That my daughter is wrestling with what she believes? That my mother-in-law won’t get off my case? That my dear friend is dying and there’s nothing I can do? That God is silent? Or that taking care of my parents is utterly exhausting?
No—I haven’t experienced all of these challenges (especially my mother-in-law: she’s amazing!). I’ve experienced tremendous fellowship with Jesus and great joy, but I’ve also walked in the dark and silent valleys. In those shadowy places I’ve been tempted to pour the rest of my lukewarm latte onto that bubbly, skinny gal in the bright pink shirt at the next table talking about how #blessed she is. Hawaii was amazing and her friend absolutely has to use her new personal shopper. I should have some compassion, though. Her life isn’t perfect. The new granite countertops were two days late, her daughter got a pimple, and her husband forgot to put the lid on the toothpaste. Ugh.
Over the years what Jesus has taught me is that abundance and blessing don’t always come in the way we expect them to. No one’s life is as perfect as it might look—we’ve all gotten pretty good at putting on a show. Deep inside, though, sometimes we’re doing our best to figure out where God is or why He has allowed this to happen.
I don’t know what your this is. But I’m guessing that you have one. Sometimes life hits us upside the head and all we can do is hang in there like a hair in a biscuit. I grew up hearing my dad say that. And as I’m getting older (can we say gracefully maturing instead?) I appreciate the analogy a bit more. Sometimes we are hanging in there, but we have no idea how. We didn’t have the energy to tie a knot in the end of that rope.
If you really don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m happy for you—I’d rather celebrate for you than throw my own little pity party! Preferably over lattes and scones. But you might have a friend who’s struggling, and you don’t want to just offer empty platitudes. Or maybe you are in the pit and are desperate to hear from God. Sooner or later that 2×4 hits us all. We live in a fallen world where children die, spouses leave, jobs are lost, and doctors call with dreaded diagnoses. We don’t get to choose the path. We only get to decide how we’re going to walk it—I’m hoping we can do it together.
Here I hope to encourage you with my own journey. I want to share with you how Jesus, the Scriptures, and my life experiences have shaped my understanding of who God is and how He works in His people. Especially in the shadows.
Maybe your path will be easier or maybe you’ll make a little more progress a little more quickly than I have. Maybe you won’t. But you’ll know that you’re not alone on this journey. Jesus is there. And I would love to come alongside. So, put down that coffee. Grab some water and sunscreen. Let’s go on that hike and talk about how you and Jesus are doing.