How do you reconcile this:
…a bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick he will not quench
-Isaiah 42:3 and Matthew 12:20
But you have rejected us and disgraced us and have not gone out with our armies. You have made us turn back from the foe, and those that hate us have gotten spoil. You have made us like sheep for slaughter and have scattered us among the nations. You have sold your people for a trifle, demanding no high price for them. You have made us the taunt of our neighbors, the derision and scorn of those around us. You have made us a byword among the nations, a laughingstock among the peoples. All day long my disgrace is before me, and shame has covered my face at the sound of the taunter and reviler, at sight of the enemy and the avenger.
All this has come upon us, though we have not forgotten you, and we have not been false to your covenant. Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from your way; yet you have broken us in the place of jackals and covered us with the shadow of death.
As an all-in, Bible-believing Christian, I recognize the reality of God’s sovereignty in the world and my life. And I don’t struggle with holding that sovereignty in tension with my own choices or the very real presence of evil. The idea of rejecting God’s goodness, or his existence, has never entered my mind even in the darkest moments. Quite simply put, I can’t imagine how people walk through this kind of trial without a relationship to the God who promises to redeem every lost second.
However, that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with the emotional weight of disappointment.
Merriam-Webster defines smolder in three unique ways. The first is to burn sluggishly, without flame, and often with much smoke. The second is to exist in a state of suppressed activity. The third is to display repressed anger.
Right now, I am smoldering in every definition of the word.
To burn sluggishly, without flame, and often with much smoke. A smoldering candle is not effective nor efficient. It produces no real light and causes irritating smoke. Sounds about right. I am unable to effectively and efficiently enter into just about anything. I have trouble staying on task with commitments for my children, keeping our family schedule running smoothly, or maintaining involvement in my own ministries. I have stepped down from multiple positions over the past several months. I am needy, often emotionally fragile, and almost incapable of giving to others who are hurting or lost. My life feels wholly ineffective.
To exist in a state of suppressed activity. Remember back to your Greek mythology class and Sisyphus? He was the king of Ephyra who was doomed by the gods to roll a boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back to the bottom where he had to repeat the whole process. For eternity. That about sums up the way I feel these days. Go to this appointment, visit this therapist, attend this meeting without any real results and always knowing that next week I get to do it all again. The lack of forward movement is exhausting and crushes the flicker of hope that may arise from any single, apparently good report.
To display repressed anger. I am angry with God. (It’s ok. He’s big enough to handle it.) Actually, I’m not simply angry because anger is often a masking emotion. I am hurt and confused and have been for months. I work hard to master my emotions through prayer, self-control, and speaking the truth – out loud when necessary. But sometimes the amount of pain I find myself grappling with is too much and yet God appears uninterested in removing it from me.
The word of the Lord promises me that He will not snuff out the guttering flame. He will not allow me to be extinguished completely. He recognizes that I am hurting, and in that hurt, He sees that my feeble attempts at life are as good as it gets. And were that the only part of the equation, my heart wouldn’t be wrestling with Him as much as it is.
But I am not just hurting from the impact of my son’s sin.
Our finances are struggling to keep up with the demands of our in-trauma family. Savannah totaled our small, commuter vehicle and then the replacement vehicle we purchased with the insurance pay-out died after 5 months. To top that off, Allstate kicked Savannah off our policy due to her age and the accident. We are now paying through the nose for high-risk insurance. Our neighbors continue to ignore us, and when new people move into the cul-de-sac, it is only a matter of time before their warm smiles turn suspicious and their children begin avoiding our driveway. An important contract that would bring valuable business to Joseph was awarded to a competing company. We are watching other people almost haphazardly engage in the ministry we once held so dear and experience seemingly far better results than us. And our children continue to encounter setbacks in their healing, which brings fresh pain into our lives.
Right now, it feels as though God’s good pleasure is to allow us to experience set back, disappointment, or defeat in nearly every aspect of our lives. So, I remind myself again and again that I don’t know the thoughts and ways of God (Isaiah 55:8-9). And I fight bitterness with everything in me. In fact, right now, I believe my fight for a soft heart is more important than anything else I am facing at this time. For what good will it do me if my family is brought through this catastrophe with a miraculous testimony of redemption if I forfeit that blessing because of a bitter heart?
May it never be.