Anger Denatured into Gratitude

A once ridiculing, anxious soul is metamorphosing into unconditional gentleness. Where once was fear now is filled with peace and where once was guilt is now filled with hope.

My mother.

Unfortunately, in comparison to me- the steps I’d thought I’d taken to overcome bitterness and anger are now so clear against her grace filled love. My mom is transforming and I stopped somewhere a long the way. Or maybe I took a pause to clean out some old dusty cupboards of pain.

Being a child with divorced parents isn’t a whole ton of fun. It creates some sort of childhood trauma that manages to covertly infect most neural pathways to your mind and heart. Oh, memories! I sigh- and the purposely forgotten memories! And holidays- what a wonderful time to remember how broken your family is! This is not a rant, I promise. 

Through one recent conversation or another I found myself angry. It was something to do with plans and what dinner was at who’s house and why it was so unfair the kids had to go the other parents instead of coming to some Aunt’s house. Some sort of blame was exchanged…blah, blah, blah. I ended up angry towards my mom and then sort of stopped communicating, and really, what led up to that isn’t the important part, but I was angry and I left angry back to Iowa.

Along the 5 hour drive I meditated long and hard on my anger. At first I didn’t understand why, I just was, you know? So I just let myself be angry and sooner or later a cry for justice was to be found.

“It’s not fair!” I found myself exclaiming. There was a huge injustice done to me with my parents separating: I didn’t ask for it, I couldn’t do anything to stop it, and yet somehow I was in the middle of broken promises and lonely relationships. “What about justice?”

I let myself call out the injustice that had happened. It’s like there’s this imaginary pressure to not be impacted by divorce, like, it happens all the time or it’s not so bad or something. So all along the way of the last 10 years I’m bottling up this anger and sense of injustice inside, wanting to expressing it, but not knowing really what it is that I wanted to express. Yet I was letting it seep out every time my mom asked me when my dad is having thanksgiving or when I’m going over to his house.

Kind of ridiculous if you ask me now. Especially since she’s like this sweet lady who asks so prudently. Then I’m this ravenous wolf who just got punched on a wound.

So here I am in the car, “What about justice?” I say (seemingly to God) Of course, being God, he could almost laugh. Who could have a better understanding of unfair suffering than God? Jesus on the cross, anyone?

He doesn’t though- laugh, I mean. He comforts me by reminding me He knows about the injustice. It’s not fair. It’s not right. It’s not acceptable. He hates divorce! (Malachi 2:16)

Who could have a better understanding of unfair suffering than God?

And then of course, people kept sharing verses and articles on Facebook about unjust suffering and forgiveness…etc….. you know how that happens…

Verses like 1 Peter 2:19-25

For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God.

and 1 Peter 3:9

 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

Genesis 50:19-20

But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

And then I almost felt the Spirit asking me “What kind of justice would you like?”

Well… I don’t know I guess, I thought, it’s not like I want them punished (they believe in Jesus and his forgiveness and are in enough of their own pain) and in all actuality having them back together probably wouldn’t make anything much better either…. I guess I just wanted someone to hear me say it wasn’t fair. 

So I emailed my mom and apologized and helped her understand why I was so angry all the time. She apologized for her part, I apologized for mine and we both agreed to work towards forgiveness. I thanked her profusely for her grace as she is always so kind to me when I am unkind. She doesn’t mind the hits because she loves me so much and that’s pretty amazing.

That was all a month ago. On the drive back home for Thanksgiving today I asked myself what kind of attitude I was going to have this time. I prayed for a gentle one and I realized anything other than that would be a cry for justice. Then I asked myself, “How long will you cry out? How many do you need to hear you say it? Will it ever be enough?”

You’ve said it. It’s been heard. By God, by your mom, and by a lot of others. It’s been taken care of and it’s time to move on now. It’s time to be grateful for what you do have (believing parents, a home, food, people who love you, clothes, a job, income, school, air to breathe) and to be content with the portion God has given you. It’s time to stop looking at your circumstances with a microscope….

It’s time to be thankful. And so I shall!

Happy Thanksgiving! May God help you understand what good He is doing through your unjust suffering and unfortunate circumstances.

“Understanding unjust suffering is about not getting God to change your circumstances but beginning to understand how your circumstances are a part of His divine plan and you responding to that plan.”              Overcoming Unjust Suffering, Living on The Edge


O, But For Hope

To Lauren,

Some nights you end up in my dreams
and we embrace as if no time had passed
as if the words that’ve been said, hadn’t
and the hardship between us didn’t last
I awake from the sweet
trumped by the reality.

I wonder if I’ll see you in passing,
and if you’ll recognize my face
or if you’ll pretend you didn’t
and break my heart to pieces
and I wonder if I’d even speak to you
or if I could.

I said I’d be done begging.
I’m done searching you out.
But hearing the silence you’ve surrounded yourself in
makes me wonder if you’re drowning in loneliness
like me.

But maybe you’re fine. Maybe your new life without
is much better now that I’m not there to make a sound
maybe its really much better
trusted wounds, my friend
but I’d take a kiss
just to know you’re alright
or understand
why you left
or won’t come back
or why you hide
why this dread?

just one sound
and I think I could finally sleep.
Just one ounce.
Oh, how I miss you my friend.

Some nights you end up in my dreams
and we embrace as if no time had passed
as if the words that’ve been said, hadn’t
and the hardship between us didn’t last
I awoke from the sweet
trumped by the reality.

O, but for Hope that you’ll come home.

Who are you, moon?

“Who am I?” so says the moon
as he looks upon the tilted earth
restless and un-new.
The sun shining brightly on,
between the darkness colored hues.

Am I a reminder of the days
hastily whispering by?
Or the seasons as they stay around for a set amount of time?
Am I the bringer or the tide? Or is that just what I do –
still I ask the question, “who am I?”
so says the moon.

What if thats just they, telling me who to be?
What does a moon say about what we moons do or see?
What pleasures are of my heart versus whats bestowed upon me?
What hopes and dreams does a moon long to scheme?
Again I ask, “Am I who I am or just who I am supposed to be?”

Not that I’m dissatisfied being a reflection of the sun,
shining bright in darkness to the hearts of everyone.
Not that I wish to find some where else to roam
or that a purpose such as purposed solely cannot be my own….

that maybe in passing,
a caring sweet unyielding thought,
they might look up
and dare ask too,
“So moon, who are you?”

The pursuit of Joy. Day 6

The Psalms: the last installment

Distant songs of joy

  1. We can proclaim the satisfying pleasure we find in God through jubilant song and shouts of victory, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and horns, with dancing. Not only that, but the rivers will clap and the mountains will sing because God has done marvelous things like revealing and clothing us with his salvation. God’s right hand has done mighty things!  (Psalm 98, 107, 132, 118, 149)
  2. God’s law is our joy (119:111)

    “Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.”

  3. To be liberated from slavery is joy and the cause of it, which God has given us and why we sing songs of joy to him. (105, 126:2)

    When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.

  4. In times of sorrow, songs of joy are distant, but we yearn to sing them once again. (Psalm 137)

    “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ How can we sing songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? If I forget you Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.”

I wish I sang songs of joy more often for the salvation God has given me, for the freedom he has liberated me to in Christ. I wish I was so moved that I might praise God with dancing and instrument, with laughter and joy. There are times when I forget that I have tasted and seen the goodness of the Lord and that he is ever with me!

But I can imagine the sorrow the nation of Israel felt in exile, “How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land,” they said as they hung up their harps.

Unit next time…

The pursuit of Joy. Day 5

The Psalms

“Satisfy us with your unfailing love that we may sing for joy”

1. Mountains and trees sing and shout for joy (if you can believe it). They declare the pleasure and delight of God by displaying his splendor, his greatness, and his power. (89:12, 96:12)

2. When God helps us triumph over our enemies, we shout and sing for joy in the work he’s done on our behalf. Not only in war, but in his unfailing compassion and grace after we act unrighteously or rebelliously. It is by his deeds and nature we are made glad. (66:1, 67:4, 71:24, 81:1, 92:4)

3. Comfort and consolation during grief and anxiety from God brings us joy because of the truth of his sovereignty in trials. (94:19)

4. We can call each other to sing for joy over the wonderful things God has done. (95:1)

5. And yet again it is God who is our source of joy and we ask him to satisfy us in our time of need and plenty. That satisfaction in his unfailing love (who he is and what he’s given us) is what gives us that fulfilling and satisfactory joy for all of our days. (86:4, 90:14, 92:4)

Biblical Joy: to be satisfied and find pleasure in who God is and what He has given us- D.A. Carson.  This is why the pursuit of Joy is really the pursuit of God and glorifying Him for all that He is and does with all that we are and  do.  

Until next time :)

In the pursuit of Joy. Day 4

What is stealing my joy?

I finally found a definition of joy I agreed with from D.A Carson who described joy as being satisfied and finding pleasure in God and what he’s given us. However, he followed up his definition with something that was really impactful for me: we are grateful for the things that give us joy, but when we don’t have joy its because there’s something that God has given us in our lives or something about who is that we are not grateful for.

So why is that so different? Well instead of forcing myself to consider all the things in life I’m grateful for and trying to choose to be happy and joyful by focusing on those things (like Philippians 4:8 though valuable), I instead ask myself the question: What is it that God has given me in my life that I am ungrateful for?

Oh. I see. Now it’s really about the fact that I’m not trusting His plan with that situation in my life. Or whatever it is. It sucks and the great thing about God is that you can tell him that! You can tell him how much pain you feel. And you can tell him how you don’t understand. And you can ask him for the strength to get through it. And it’s quite possible that only He can provide that joy in that time, and so we ask him for joy in the unpleasant circumstances.

Is it possible that God works all things for the good of those who love him? Is it possible God cares truly about me experiencing His utter and complete goodness? I think so. I know so. This I know because berries taste sweet and because a child’s laughter fills my heart and because music connects dots in my soul and these things have nothing to do with whether I have money or was born into a “good” family. There’s non-circumstantial goodness out there waiting to give God the glory. This I know also because God’s good book says not only that God works all things out for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28) or that he desires to give his children good gifts (Matthew 7:11) but that He hears our prayers, forgives our overwhelming sins, fills us with good things from His house, answers us with awesome deeds, is our Savior and the hope of all of the ends of the earth, he formed the entire world including the mountains and the roaring seas, he waters the land and cares for it, he gives us delicious food and all of this causes us to be satisfied and find pleasure in our great wonderful God and even creation itself shouts for joy and sings (Psalm 65).

Until next time.

In the Pursuit of Joy. Day 3

The Psalms

“You have filled my heart with Joy”

1. The joy that God fills our heart with is greater than the joy that success brings to godless people living for the riches of this world. (Psalm 4:7)

2. When we follow God’s commands, it gives our hearts greater joy than when we sin, though it seems the opposite in the moment. If we hate wickedness and love righteousness, God will give us joy. (Psalm 19:8, 45:7)

3. There are times when we do not have joy and our soul is downcast. It takes questioning and searching and pleading to put our hope in God in those times, but he turns our wailing into dancing. (Psalm 42:4, 30:11)

4. When attacked by our enemies if we take refuge is God we will have joy, and of course in victory we will also have joy that leads to singing and praise to God who gives us these victories. He is our strength and shield. We trust him and he helps up and this makes our heart leap for joy. (Psalm 5:11, 21:1, 27:6, 28:7)

5. When those we love are vindicated, when they succeed against their enemies, we are filled with joy and give God the glory. (Psalm 35:27)

6. God fills our hearts with joy in his presence. He is our joy. (Psalm 4:7, 16:11, 21:6, 30:11, 43:4)

In the pursuit of Joy. Day 2

Continuing my study of joy (including the book of Job):

1. We can encourage others to stop grieving and have joy when circumstances have changed. If I was grieving because I wanted to be married and then got married, it wouldn’t be necessary to still grieve. Or grieving that you don’t have access to God’s word in your language would be silly to do if someone gave you God’s word in your language. Rather, we rejoice over things once grieved for. (Nehemiah 8:10,12,17)

2. We can have joy when we have victory over our enemies, though it was a weighty trial before; joy that is so full, we celebrate year after year to remember and it even compels us to give gifts to our friends and the poor (sounds like Christmas, but actually refers to Purim). (Ester 8:15-17, 9:17-19, 9:22)

3. Pain longs to be validated and find company that affirms, not accuses. Validation and affirmation give us a glimmer of joy in unrelenting pain to know someone stays with us in our misery and even our doubt towards God himself. (Job 3:7, 6:10, 9:25, 10:20)

4. Seeing God’s face and his work causes us (and the angels) to shout for joy! (Job 33:26, 38:7)

5. God gives us great joy. Yet again, it is He who provides. (Nehemiah 12:43, Job 8:21)

In the pursuit of Joy. Day 1

This starts a collection on my study of the word JOY in the Bible, starting from the beginning. A friend of mine gave me an NIV concordance which I hope to wear out dry. I hope to uncover what it means to have joy, what it looks like, when it happens, and how it arrives. So here we go:

“God filled them with joy.”

1. Being in the presence of God, dwelling with him, and seeing his glory and appearance gives us joy, and complete joy worthy of celebration. (Leviticus 9:4) (1 Chron 16:27, 29:22) (Ezra 6:22)

2. When God establishes the work of our hands and blesses us (such as with bountiful food, success, good Godly leaders) we can celebrate with joy, even for days! It is worth celebrating! (Deuteronomy 16:14-15) (1 Chron 13:40)

3. We are a joy to one another when we give willingly and do things or treat each other honorably and in good faith. (Judges 9:19) (1 Chron 29:17)

4. We have joy when we obey his commands and remember continually all the things he has done, such as the things in point #2. (Ezra 3:13, 6:16)

5. God fills us with joy. (Ezra 6:22)

“and the pursuit of happiness.”

Apparently pursuing happiness is a common phenomenon among people. You hear phrases often that say “do what makes you happy,” and the like. We pursue certain jobs, eat certain food, drink certain drinks, date certain people, and live certain lives that make us happy and the world tells us that is our purpose… to be happy.

This isn’t another one of those posts about the secret to a joyful life or defining happiness and joy differently and the dependence on emotion that the definition takes… no really, its just an honest consideration. In the Christian world, there’s a huge stigma against living for happiness, people often comment on how “the heart is deceitful above all else,” and we should seek joy and not happiness. God guarantees joy if we obey his commands (John 15:10-12), but not happy emotionalism. I went to a Christian concert the other day where someone defined joy and the abundant life as sadness too. Whether that’s accurate or not, the cry I hear of Christian souls is “This world is actually quite depressing and because I’m impacted by that I feel guilty that I’m not beaming with joy all the time.” But if you define joy, it really is just pleasure and happiness. Sounds like an emotional feeling to me. I don’t think we need to feel necessarily guilty that we experience joylessness, but I’ve realized I don’t particularly feel differently from that very often.

The truth of the matter is, whatever it means, I don’t “feel happy” or really that joyful. When I pet kittens I do, but I haven’t done that in a while. Maybe you can relate, but the world gets me down. There’s a lot of crap that happens here, relationships are always a struggle, there’s always a continual battle for loving my family and fighting bitterness, I’m fighting for courage to share the gospel with people, and fighting not to give into sin’s temptation. This is a weary land. The call I hear from Jesus is, “Come all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

So how come I’m not living for happiness? As I think about that, I reflect on my experience being alive so far and consider all the facets of my decision making. I can honestly say that “my happiness” isn’t something I’ve really ever considered so I really don’t understand the mindset of people who live to do whatever makes them happy. Is it the way I grew up? I wonder. Living on farm you learned to do things whether you liked them or not, for survival, but life never felt good. I kind of accepted that and I think it’s colored my view on life. Life is hard, so don’t expect joy. And the call I hear from the bible is to “seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:14) not happiness.

So I’m not pursuing happiness like the world suggests. Great! I’ve saved myself a lot of trouble, but yet, why this discontentment? Why this joylessness? Why do I so often feel like life on earth here is a means to an end?

I don’t have a lot of answers to those questions. Actually, I don’t really have any. I suppose the soul is a vast and deep water which only God can navigate, but I’d love to hear anyone else’s thoughts about having joy in a, what seems like most of the time, a joyless place. I have hope in the next life, I’m so excited for eternity with God, but sometimes it’s really just hard to get out of bed in the morning and face the day. Maybe you will read this and have some wisdom to share, or maybe God’s got some good things to teach me in the next year. Stay tuned for more conclusions.

Psalm 27:13-14 “I am confident of this, that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of living. Wait on the Lord, be strong, and wait on the Lord.” Is this a promise I can take to mean this life, or does it really just refer to heaven… I just don’t know, but people keep sharing it with me so it must mean something. It must mean something.