"Rejoice in the Lord always..."
Do you ever read scripture like this and, amidst feelings of guilt and frustration, just want to say "suck it, you don't know my life!"? Have you ever rolled your eyes at a Christian platitude and wanted to literally punch the person talking in the face (again, amidst feelings of guilt and frustration)? Have you ever shouted profanities in prayer that would make others blush and question your salvation?
I was talking to a friend tonight about not being where we wanted to be, about feeling like Israel stranded in the desert, about being angry with God. In fact, I've had a few conversations about this topic recently; about being mad at the way life has worked out, about being bitter, about feeling guilty because we are bitter. I've wrestled with God, asking Him why He hasn't given me certain things, why He has allowed me to face certain struggles, and then feeling guilty about my complaints, knowing what others suffer. It seems to be a theme lately; discontentment, bitterness, numbness...
I don't have an answer. I haven't been given a flood of peace that washes away all my anxieties and allowed me joyful contentment even whilst sinking beneath waves of stress and hurt. The guilt I feel doesn't bring me back to reality as I consider how other suffer so much more than I do, how blessed I really am. Rather, in a lot of ways I'm learning to embrace the pain.
I do such a fabulous job of hiding from it, of escaping into the stories I write or the shows and movies I watch and the books I read...but God has been yanking me backwards, making me aware of the ache that accompanies this life. There was never a promise of satisfaction and paradise on this earth, never the comfort of total peace and comfort this side of heaven. When God came down, He Himself was poor, a wanderer, an outcast, charged as the worst of criminals, beaten, and consumed with a wrath He did not deserve.
The sin we brought into this world brings pain down upon us, and I think that sometimes we need to embrace it, allowing it in, drive us to our knees no matter how much it feels as if our prayers are bouncing off the ceiling. It's tantamount to a fast: in our hunger we are reminded of how we ought to hunger for spiritual food, for the presence of God; in pain we must be reminded of the paradise we lost that Christ gained back.
Only in this can we be brought, slowly but surely, to rejoicing as Paul says in Philippians 4, only in this can we release the comforts of this world and long for the comforts that lay ahead.
"...again I will say, rejoice!"