Scripture as an Antidote for Despair

I am a glutton. I have gorged myself on the news, on social media, on outrage and hatred and lies and righteous anger. Consuming all of these words as I scroll and click has cost me words of my own. I am full on a steady diet of rage, and it has stirred up both the holy and the unholy in me–neither of which I’ve been able to express in a way that inspires hope rather than despair. If hope is an anchor for the soul, then the rope tethering me to hope is worn and frayed.

I could choose to turn off the news and shut down social media, but I know in doing so, I risk becoming apathetic towards evil as it crawls out and raises its middle finger to the light. And so I read, I watch, I absorb because it is the bruised places which create the most tender hearts.

In my effort to understand and grow tender in my hardened places, I can’t purge everything I’ve consumed. By rejecting what I’ve read and seen, I would become the priest and the Levite who walked by the bloody and beaten man on the road to Jericho, averting their gaze.

But, while I carry these hard things inside of me, this steady diet of despair keeps me from envisioning a future where we love our neighbors as ourselves. My vision for a world where we fight racism and we right injustice and we repent of our sins is clouded.

I need renewed sight, and so I return to the scriptures where I meet Jesus all over again. I meet the man who flipped tables at the evil found in his Father’s house. The man who drew letters in the sand and who refused to cast the first stone. The man who turned the other cheek. The man who called religious leaders a brood of vipers and who called entire cities to repent with sackcloth and ashes. The man who healed.

In the scriptures, I meet the Jesus who died on a cross and calls me to pick up my own. As I sit with his words, I begin to assume his vision for equality, justice, and peace. I am able to release my flawed vision, driven by my emotions and outrage, and assume a vision driven by a God who is Justice, and whose very name means Peace.

If you find yourself full on a steady diet of despair and rage, don’t turn away from the hard things. Don’t cross the street and look the other way. Instead, meet the face of injustice and hate with the words of Christ. Not the words of someone talking about Christ, but the words of Jesus himself. Allow him to renew your sight, uncover truth, and stir up a vision where we recognize the face of God in every person we meet.

On Giving Up Vague Prayers for a Well-Defined Faith

While the house sleeps, I curl up in the stuffed green chair to pray on quiet summer mornings. I find myself searching for words beyond the perfunctory request for God to “bless” my day, my children, my endeavors. “Bless” is shorthand for all of the needs around which I can’t form words. I don’t even know what it means, or what I want him to do for me. My prayers carry a vague notion of wanting–desires unformed and ill-defined.

This summer our family sits in an ellipses, those three small dots that indicates a pause before the end of a sentence. Autumn will enter with a flurry of change for each one of us: two new schools, new family dynamics, a new vocation. We need more than the blessing of God. We need wisdom, comfort, peace, and guidance. We need eyes and ears attuned to the Holy Spirit. We need each other. New friends. Courage. Confidence in Christ. We need a renewed reverence and the ancient words of scripture buried bone-deep from which our muscle memory rises.

We need more than blessings. We need answers.

Shelly Miller’s book Rhythms of Resthas been a faithful companion this summer, and her words have encouraged me to find words of my own as I pray. She writes:

I’m learning to say what I want with greater clarity and definition, even when it feels uncomfortable and presumptuous, because I don’t want a mediocre life as a result of vague prayers and ill-defined faith. When you are tired, depleted, worn out, and weary, imagine Jesus asking, “What do you want me to do for you?”

What do you want me to do for you? Jesus often receives one’s question by responding with another. I feel this question, rather than hear it, as I re-learn how to pray. What is it I want? By sitting with this question all summer, and allowing it to take root in the deepest parts of me, I discover with greater clarity what we want and need as a family. I discover that the things I thought I wanted are not always the things God wants for me. I discover that prayer is less a vague collection of “bless me’s” and more of a conversation.

The “God bless…” prayers feel like throwing a handful of dust in the wind. The wind sweeps them away, and I am left holding nothing but unknowns. As I become more specific in prayer, and I define my needs before God, I find the words to tether me to Him. I know what it is I want–wisdom, a friend for my child, an open door, a willing spirit–and I ask for it. When Jesus asks “What do you want me to do for you?” I sit with open palms and robust prayers as I wait for him to answer.

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Do Shelly’s words resonate with you too? Do you pray in generalities or with a well-defined faith? How have your prayers changed as you’ve grown in faith?

When You Feel Ill-Equipped to Lead Others into a Deeper Faith

The year I turned 24, I spent an unreasonable amount of time debating what color my hair should be. I indulged a mild obsession with the TV show Friends and regularly debated the merits of a Ross-and-Rachel combination. I quit my nursing job with good friends, sweet patients, and flexible hours to accept a temporary desk job, hoping to make more money in a less physically demanding environment. In September of that same year, after a summer of swollen feet and watching sitcom re-runs from a side-lying position, I gave birth to my first baby…

To read more on how we grow into our roles as parents and spiritual guides to our children, join me at In Touch Magazine.

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Why We Need Each Other on the Broken Road

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”~ Albert Camus

Winter possesses its own spare beauty. Steep slopes of fresh white. Frosted windows. Steel skies. Sharp branches. It’s lovely in its own way, but few would choose to live in a Narnia of forever-cold days. Winter draws a curtain against the cicada’s song and summer’s lush gardens until our memory of summer fades.

We forget there is bounty and more beauty to come as we experience the longest nights and the darkest days of the year. We wonder if winter will ever evolve into spring. If the earth will once again offer us bouquets of peonies and roses and sweet russian sage.

Walking a broken road in the grip of grief feels like a journey through winter, a long walk on those steep slopes under steel skies. There is beauty, but it is the kind of beauty that requires a wounded heart in order to see it clearly.

I discovered beauty while walking my own hard road, and I found it sitting around my kitchen table with the people who care for me. I saw it in the familiar faces of dear friends who surrounded me as I wrestled with grief.

I discovered that the consolation of community gives me hope on the hard road.

Friends have borne witness to my pain, and rather than shy away from it, they embraced it as their own. They offered words of affirmation and sincere prayers on my behalf, but more than that, they offered the solace of their own sadness. They carried me down the broken road when I could not stand upright on my own two feet.

Those who bore witness alongside me, offered me grace for my grief and the promise of summer for my sadness. They believe the earth will once again bear fruit, and the garden will grow full and rich in color. They believe I will once again know delight.

In the midst of winter, I found an invincible summer in the place I least expected it–in the people who gather around my table, my friends.

A Companion for the Broken Road

I lay awake in bed, and a small grief opened like a night blooming flower. I found the well of skin between my husband’s collarbone and his shoulder, and I lay my head there, his solid warmth a comfort. The flower of grief continued to bloom.

I dreamt terrible dreams. I woke in the middle of the night–my mind on an endless repeat–remembering the details of my disappointment. I thought about what I should have said and what I could have done, but realized nothing but the hands of time tick-tocking backwards could change the source of my sleepless nights.

I held imaginary conversations in my head, but soon realized enough words had already spilled into the wound. Words wouldn’t change anything. Sometimes the best we can do is hold out a hand to the one who hurts and who hurt us, and offer to walk the hard road together in silence.

I lay awake in bed, a small grief blooming, and I reminded myself that Peace is a person.

Peace is nail-pocked hands and a pierced side. Peace is a man of sorrows acquainted with the bloom of grief.

Peace is a lamb. Peace is a lion. Peace is the morning star, the cornerstone, the light of the world. Peace is Emmanuel, God with us. Peace is the resurrection and the life. Peace is the author and finisher of our faith.

Peace is Jesus, and he is mine and I am his.

The Prince of Peace waters my small grief with his own tears. He walks beside me in the tick-tocking hours of the day and in the blooming hours of the night, traveling the hard road together in companionable silence.

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Perhaps you find yourself walking a hard, broken road today. Know that you’re not alone in your grief, Peace walks beside you and wants to take your hand on the journey. I’d be honored to pray for you, so feel free to share your request in the comments or via email. Peace be with you today.