RE: My Advice
Date: January 2020
I know you cringe when someone tells you to keep your chin up and everything will be fine. I know what you’re thinking: “You have no idea how this will actually end for me.”
Oh, we know that all things work together for good for those who love God. And we know that in the end God wins and we get to celebrate with Him in heaven. But that’s not what you mean. You mean, it’s easy once the struggle is over to tell someone else that their problem will work out.
You want to hear from someone in the trenches. Someone with mud and tears still on their face. You want to hear them say it’s going to be okay. You want someone whose heart is currently breaking to look you in the eye and say, I hear you. I understand. This path is hard. I don’t know where it leads either. Nevertheless, you are going to make it through.
That’s what you want to hear.
So here I am. I am the future of your former self, so I know what you’ve been through and how you got here. I know the path right now is hard, and I don’t know where it leads. But here is what I have to say.
It’s hard when you’re in the middle to even know the next step. For every voice in your head that shouts at you to dig in and hold on there is an equally compelling voice that says it’s time to let go. You’re not even sure what those things mean. You just know they are tearing you up inside so that sometimes all you can do is fall to your knees and physically scream.
That’s okay for a time. But here’s an image I want you to see:
Imagine putting it all in a box. All of it. Leave the top open so you can still look inside. You can still watch and see what’s going to happen. Now hand the box to God. And grip God’s hand.
You’re still holding onto it. You’re still fighting for it with everything you’ve got. But God’s hand is between you, and it.
That’s how you hold on and let go at the same time.
Do you remember when God asked Ezekiel down in that terrible valley, “Can these bones live?” My answer is the same as his: “Lord God, only you know.”
Only God knows your path and the life it leads to, but there are amazing things that you are going to witness. Miracles that bring life to your dry bones.
Someday you will set down all this confusion you’re carrying around. Not because you get answers to your questions, but because you will reach a point where your questions no longer matter. Like those bones clattering one atop the other, your despair will turn to hope and your confusion to purpose. When it happens, it will be God’s doing, but the path to get there is yours to walk. Not because you must change paths in order for God to work, but because the path is changing you.
You will be loved deeply. It may be another person who comes alongside you. It may be a revelation of God’s love that becomes more real and palpable to you than anything you’ve ever experienced. Either way, that need for love and belonging that burns so fiercely in your heart – and every human heart – will be filled to overflowing. In turn, you will reach out with the love of God to others in ways that were never possible before.
You will experience what it means to fill yourself with God. It may come directly from His Spirit like Ezekiel in the desert or the disciples in the upper room. It may come from His Word, from scripture-based teachings and books, from His Creation, from unexpected places. Ask Him and ask Him and ask Him, because he promises “I will be found by you.”
Remember, God is holding your box now. When it all becomes too much, stop and remember that. Then keep pushing forward. Make mistakes. Try again. Fall down. Get back up. Hold onto God’s hand with everything you have – not to keep God from slipping away, but to keep your hands off things they shouldn’t be on.
And He will work. And you will make it through.
Janet Beagle, Ph.D. serves as director of graduate programs for Purdue University’s College of Engineering and is a writer, a Bible study teacher, and a student of God’s word. In her spare time, she likes to eat other people’s cooking and hike with her dog, Marly, who recently passed away but is not forgotten. Read more of Janet’s Christian reflections at www.mustardpatch.org.