On my more philosophical days, I have been known to think that I am far more blessed than those around me who seem to live lives devoid of tragic loss and health challenges. Truth be told, I’ve not found myself terribly philosophical in the two and a half years since Bethany and Katie’s lives were stolen by the selfish and reckless actions of an unlicensed driver. But I remember those moments in what feels like the distant past.
Life is hard. Circumstances have driven me to my knees literally and figuratively. In fact, circumstances have led me to a full body prostrate position, the nubby carpet of my bedroom floor, imprinting my cheek as I’ve petitioned the Lord for the hearts, souls, and health of my children.
And I’ve lost. I’ve lost too many of the things I love most in this life. No great spiritually inspiring story to be told. Just loads of heartache, anger, and questions for the One True God of love and justice.
Loss and heartache translate into vulnerability and weakness. And in this day and age both are intolerable to society at large. We are a nation of overcomers. We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and keep going. We deceive ourselves into believing that through sheer force of will and dogged determination we can overcome every challenge, every trial in life.
We perceive ourselves as strong when we ignore negative feelings and refuse to be beaten by circumstances beyond our control. We pat ourselves on the back (as do others) for moving forward while we are really undermining our future health and happiness by ignoring or repressing emotional needs all in the effort to meet societal expectations and exercise control over the chaos that has somehow infiltrated our lives.
According to John Powell, author of Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? the two major causes of anxiety are supercharged repressed emotions and unmet emotional needs. Emotional needs include the need to feel accepted, approved of, believed in, forgiven, listened to, needed, important, useful, respected, valued, supported, understood, in control, trusted, and worthy to name a few. The cultural demand to overcome, to turn every negative into a positive promotes and encourages the unhealthy practice of ignoring emotional needs and repressing negative emotions.
I fear this secular theology of overcoming against all odds, when boiled down reveals that we believe ourselves to be, or are bound and determined to make ourselves, God. And these efforts, are obviously in utter and complete opposition to the doctrine of the Bible.
The philosophy that enables me to believe that I am far more blessed than those whose lives appear to be filled with unicorns and rainbows, is grounded on the Biblical truth that I am NOT God. I am not capable of independently and self-sufficiently controlling and overcoming the chaos that surrounds and invades my life.
Tragedy, weakness, and suffering have driven me to work out my salvation. I’m constantly comparing my beliefs to the Word of God which reveals secular untruths I have absorbed, personal misconceptions or interpretations that don’t hold up under stress or simply an incomplete understanding of scripture.
I fear that the average Christian, myself included, doesn’t hold up the shield of faith in order to protect themselves from Satan’s fiery arrows but instead in an effort to hide their vulnerability and project an image of spiritual maturity to a watching and expectant audience of believers and non-believers alike.
Somehow we have interpreted the shield of faith as an impenetrable barrier of protection from pain instead of protection against Satan’s deceptions and lies than weaken and destroy the very foundation of our faith; trust in God Almighty.
Weakness and dependence are paradoxically the strength of the Christian faith. The beauty of weakness is the revelation of Christ’s power at work within us. A supernatural strength is inexplicably revealed through our weakness and humility that far exceeds the strength manufactured by force of will alone. Is this not why Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9b-10, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”? (ESV)
In my humanity, I desperately long for a life filled with unicorns and rainbows. I long for a life that is filled with nothing more than common everyday hardships; car repairs, defiant children, financial fears. Garden variety, everyday frustrations, and irritations.
Given the opportunity, I would rewrite the story of my life. But in the recesses of my mind, the storm clouds of sorrow shift and briefly reveal the truth that hides behind; losses and sorrow have gifted me with things of great value. Empathy, compassion, and understanding poured out on others in an effort to help meet their emotional needs. The assurance of my salvation and an awareness of the solid foundation of my faith even as it is battered by the storm. The development of a more holy and heavenly perspective. And then the wind picks back up shifting the storm clouds once again obscuring those encouraging truths. And I am left frustrated and discouraged instead of philosophical; feeling more cursed than blessed, desperate to escape the suffering that plagues my daily existence and longing for unicorns and rainbows.