When We Feel Empty

It wasn’t even a full three days since I posted “Singleness is NOT a Punishment!” when my dear, sweet friend sent me this through Facebook message:

princess_warrior

If you have ever seen this or something like this, I want to just help erase any of the damage that it may have done to your heart.

warrior

First of all, who else saw Xena the Warrior Princess when you first starting reading that? Ha! But I digress. Let’s respond to the letter from the anonymous internet person to the Princess Warrior. (Which is supposed to be a letter from God the Father to me, His beloved daughter.)

First of all, I look nothing like sexy Xena the Warrior Princess nor do I feel like her, even though I do know I am a daughter of the King and in His army.  Second of all, I would have to honestly say that, for the most part, I desire the approval of God alone. When I was young I sought the approval of my parents and my teachers and now that I’m an adult I seek the approval of my boss. There is a certain crush of mine who I highly admire and respect and from time to time I will find myself desiring his approval but it’s only because I hold him in such high regard. I don’t think validation should come from anywhere but from above as we are complete in Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:9-10) but I don’t think the desire to feel accepted and supported is wrong. In fact, that’s not only normal but God designed it that way. Allow me to explain:

The letter goes on to say, “I designed you to desire Me and Me alone.”

I challenge you to find a passage in the Bible that says that. You will be hard-pressed to find such a verse because I guarentee it is not there.

Have you ever been in a crowded room, yet felt completely isolated? It’s not a good feeling at all, is it? Loneliness has never been part of God’s plan for his children. After all, in the beginning when God created the Heavens, the earth, the water, trees, flowers, birds, fish, and animals, He looked over each day of creation and declared it to be good. However, upon creating man, God stopped and for the very first time declared something as “not good.” He said, “It is NOT GOOD that man should be alone.”

Adam had God by his side and yet God still said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” Not until after God created Eve did God say, “…and it was VERY good.” All this is to say that we need each other and to deny that is to deny God’s design. Yes, we were designed to desire God, but He also designed us to yearn for a helpmate in life. We are sexual beings and our bodies are naturally created with a longing to be intimate and to be fruitful and multiply. Is it a sin that we desire these things? NO!

Some Christians might tell you that desiring sex is a sin but that is not biblical. The distinction comes from the OBJECT of our desire. If our desires are fixating on something evil (i.e. adultery, fornication, etc) then the desire itself is evil (Matthew 5:28, Matthew 15:19, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20). If our desire fixates on something good (i.e. marriage, companionship) then the desire itself is good (Proverbs 5:18-19, Song of Solomon 2:5-7, Proverbs 18:22, Ephesians 5:28). Sexual desire is wholesome, honorable, and right when it is enjoyed within the boundaries of holy matrimony.

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.” -Philippians 4:8

We have become a generation with a distorted view of marriage.  When we try to convince singles that we shouldn’t desire sexual intimacy or that longing for marriage is somehow unholy then we are giving Satan the credit for God’s beautiful design.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again: Psalm 37:4 is NOT an equation.

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. -Psalm 37:4

If Psalm 37:4 were an equation, then I’m pretty sure I would have a husband and children by now. Don’t believe for one second that if you’re still waiting on the Lord for this blessing that you must not be doing something you’re supposed to be doing.  Though it certainly feels like a curse, singleness is very much a blessing.  I know that it hurts, especially when you’re lying awake at night in your empty bed with nothing but pillows to squeeze for comfort.

Now let’s take a look at another passage in the letter:

“When you choose to live for Me, you will never again be thirsty for attention…”

Is that really true? What kind of a message does that send to people who struggle with depression? With aching emptiness and longing? With grief and loss associated with divorce? Just because we’ve given our lives to Jesus and chosen to live for Him doesn’t mean that we don’t still struggle with the pain of an empty womb or the longing to share our lives with a companion by our side. Telling a woman that she’ll never thirst for attention if she chooses to live for God… Do you see how that could be detrimental to her spirit? “Oh, I am still thirsty for love and affection…” She thinks. “I must not be fully living for God.” 

In the wise words of one of my favorite authors Alyssa Joy Bethke: “God is good and everything that happens is for our good. Not necessarily for our happiness but for our holiness. God’s goal is to make us more like His son, and often that involves trials and pain. But those difficulties are opportunities to rely on our Savior, to run into His arms, to nestle ourselves in His embrace and to walk with Him.”

Emptiness is that feeling left over after you give something your absolute all and it still doesn’t turn out the way you worked so hard for it to. You’re exhausted of energy, depleated of hope, and disappointed that it didn’t work out. Perhaps you have some unfulfilled dreams or a place in your heart that aches because your beloved didn’t return your love. Perhaps, like me, you fought hard to save your marriage and did everything possible to redeem it but it still fell apart in your hands.

God’s Word offers some promises to combat the emptiness and find fulfillment in Christ.

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” – Psalm 81:10

“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.” – 2 Corinthians 12:10

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” – Romans 15:13

“I ask God from the wealth of His glory to give you power through His Spirit to be strong in your inner selves,  and I pray that Christ will make His home in your hearts through faith as you open the door and invite Him in.  I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. Yes, may you come to know the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love—although it can never be fully known—and be so completely filled with the very nature of God.” -Ephesians 3:16-19

Just because we’ve completely given our lives to God doesn’t mean the longings He’s plsb10065339i-001aced there will completely go away. I believe they are from Him and they aren’t sinful. I mean, not all of us are called to be nuns!!! On the plane home from my sister’s wedding last weeekend I saw a nun. I immediately was drawn to her because of her calm, elegant beauty and of course the curiousity of what made her decide to live under the vows of poverty and chastity but especially the latter. Perhaps she doesn’t have those desires? I can’t imagine not having those desires. If she DOES have those desires then I applaud her for her strength and uncompromising commitment to purity.  She is SO KICK-BUTT! Wish I would have had the courage to ask her my questions. Again, I digress.

It’s healthy to recognize that sometimes the longings we feel aren’t for anything Earth can provide. Psalmist cries out to God, “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek You; I thirst for You, my whole being longs for You, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1). Just like the Samaritan woman at the well who thirsted for Living Water, God put a longing in our heart that was intended to lead us back to Him. There is an emptiness that ONLY HE can fill. There is a deep thirst that ONLY HE can quench. If His love doesn’t fill you up, then nothing else will.

“Now let me ask you again, My beloved daughter: Whom do you seek?”

If you’re like me, you’re COMPLETELY honest with yourself and if your desires are the same as mine then you’re seeking a husband. The Bible says, But seek ye FIRST the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” -Matthew 6:33. It never says it’s wrong to seek a husband, but make sure God is first in your heart.

As for me, I’m allowing God to use this loneliness and emptiness to teach me what it means to depend upon His strength and love every day. I know that having a husband won’t satisfy the craving that only God can fill. When you allow yourself to be controlled by Christ’s love you have the indwelling of God’s presence and are closer to unity and maturity. I don’t think we can ever experience the whole measure of the perfection that is found in Christ (Ephesians 4:13) this side of Heaven, but I do believe we can experience joy and fullness here on Earth. I pray this for us both, dear reader, that we would be filled with His love and be content in our single season.

A Letter

To the man who promised me forever:

I forgive you.

I remember the black and white checkered pattern of the hospital floor, pacing back and forth that day you were in detox, pondering hopefully, as I am oft-inclined to do, that our situation can only look up from rock bottom. I had never loved you more than in that moment when I thought I would lose you forever. I loved you more than life itself and I would have done almost anything to stay by your side and help you through your darkest hour… but you left me… your faithful wife who only wanted to support you.

I thought my heart would always belong to you and I would never get it back. I thought I might never heal from that intense pain. I thought the aching emptiness might never go away.

But I forgive you.

There has been more than one man who won’t date me because I am your “left overs.” You chewed me up and spit me out and now no one seems to want me. I feel like Hester Prynne with a giant scarlet letter on my chest warning everyone to stay far away because I’m unable to keep a marriage together.

I finally met a God-fearing man who doesn’t mind that I’m divorced. “It’s your past but it doesn’t define who you are,” he assured me. But he thinks that his family won’t understand. He thinks they won’t accept me, at least not right away. He asked me not to tell them just yet.

Tears fought to spill from the corners of my eyes. I thought I had worked through my guilt. I accepted my truth and learned to love myself even when I wanted to despise myself. The harsh reality is that I may have moved on from mourning but people may continue to judge me (as I had once judged others in my situation) and that judgment may stir up the regret and sorrow I thought I had buried and finished grieving. Every time a man I hope to date rejects me for being divorced I feel the grief once again.

But I get it. I really do. If I’m honest with myself, I’d rather not date someone who has been divorced, either.

Whether I like it or not, you’re part of me and you always will be. You’re part of my love story because you’re the first man I ever passionately loved; the first man I would have laid down my life for because I loved you that much. You taught me how to love unconditionally… Not because you showed me what that was but because I learned to love you despite you not loving me. My world revolved around you. I was infatuated with the spell you cast on me. Even when you were absolutely horrible to me I couldn’t see anyone but you.

I won’t deny that you were once the most important thing to me on Earth.

After you left I tried desperately to win you back. I must have been plumb crazy. But that’s how I know I am a fool when I am in love and I will make someone an amazing wife one day because of you.

So thank you.

Remembering a Special Day

“Your wedding day is still one of my most cherished memories,” whispered my best friend Anna who was a radiant bridesmaid on that special day five years ago. “The fact that he left you doesn’t make that beautiful day any less sacred or meaningful.” (That sweet lady always cheers me up no matter how low I am feeling.)

Anna and I on the Happiest Day of My Life

Anna and I on the Happiest Day of My Life

On this particular evening, I had begun to regret the day I ever said “I do.” My wedding day was once the best day of my life and I was beginning to feel guilty that I still thought of it that way, circumstances being what they are. “If it’s inevitably going to end in a divorce, then wouldn’t that make my marriage a mistake?” I wondered out loud. “Is it wrong to keep those Facebook wedding albums public? Is that precious picture of me smiling ear to ear with my sisters after the ceremony somehow tainted now and better preserved in a private scrapbook rather than displayed in a pretty pink frame on my buffet table?”

I felt angry at myself for not having been able to see red flags that this marriage was not going to last. All the expenses to make June 7th, 2009 the most incredibly amazing and unforgettable day of our lives were pretty much kicking me in the stomach like a huge waste of money. My once gorgeous, white wedding gown is now yellowing with age and collecting dust in my childhood closet… it feels less and less to me like the flowy, satin raiment of a virgin queen bestowing her beloved king with the treasured gift of her everlasting commitment and more like the gown I wore on the last day of my purity I can never get back.

I wish I could write a happily ever after ending for this entry like my husband and I are now living out the purpose God has intended for us, but that would not be accurate. Too many times I fantasized ways out of my destructive marriage… the sudden, unexpected death of one of us, for instance, because I was slowly dying each day and death was better than abandoning the one I promised to love, honor, and respect “until death do us part.”

The very few people I told about the domestic violence asked me, “Why don’t you just leave him? One of these days he’s going to go too far; you need to protect yourself.” I can’t pretend I didn’t think about it. I had an emergency escape plan in place just in case I needed it, but I prayed it would never come to that. I was going to be faithful and loving ’til death do us part, even if I died trying, so help me God.

Just as Christ washed his disciples' feet (John 13:5) my husband and I promised to serve one another. I truly meant this with all my soul.

Just as Christ washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:5) my husband and I promised to serve one another. I truly meant this symbolism with all my soul.

I’m in a better place now. Tragic though my story is, it is also a story of hope. I no longer pine for a way out or desperately cry out to God for some kind of miracle. His ways are above my ways and while I don’t understand them, I know His will is good. Now I look forward to the future, forgetting the former things. I’m done dwelling on the past. I am making a way in the wilderness and straining toward what is ahead. (Isaiah 43:18-19, Philippians 3:13)

If you are struggling in a difficult matrimony, please don’t ever believe the lie that your wedding day was a mistake. If you truly meant those vows with all your heart that day, they are just as real and valid today as they were then. If he’s told you, “I regret the day I married you,” that doesn’t mean you have to regret marrying him. I chose to love my husband for better or worse within God’s Divine Providence. I committed my marriage to Jesus Christ and tried my absolute best to make my relationship honor God. He could have disallowed it if He intended, but I’m convinced everything happens for a reason.

If you are grieving over the death of your marriage, please remember that your pictures and memories of that special day are still just as precious and it’s okay to feel warm and happy when remembering that day you put so much time, energy, and money into making memorable.

I still look back on my wedding day fondly, even though now my memories are tinged with an edge of bitter-sweetness.

I Don’t Really Believe In Karma

Karma is a popular topic people have been talking about these days. I’ve been hearing things like, “Karma is a b!%$#” or “what goes around comes around.” Also, I’ve been asked on numerous occasions recently whether or not I believe in karma. First of all, what is karma?
Karma
Hah! But seriously, what is karma? There are various schools of thought regarding the concept of karma. For instance, the Hindus and Buddhists believe differently about how it works. I still have to look into it more, but I’m pretty sure the true definition of the word karma is just the universal principle of cause and effect. Karma is not fate nor punishment, retribution, or reward. Basically, karma gives a name to the idea that for every action there is a consequence. I suppose I believe in this notion as it is basic logic. “If x is a necessary cause of y, then the presence of y necessarily implies the presence of x. The presence of x, however, does not imply that y will occur.”

There are those who espouse themselves to the belief that “God does not make one suffer for no reason” and “if you’re experiencing pain, it must be because you’ve done something wrong.” I, however, hold to the worldview that sometimes there truly is no reason to why an individual suffers. Theists who believe in karma must also somehow incorporate God’s goodness and justice into their philosophy but I’m not sure if the two standpoints mesh.

Yeshua never promised that we wouldn’t suffer. In fact, He stated quite the opposite (John 16:33). Doing the right thing is not easy and we Christians were promised to face trials of many kinds in this world (1 Peter 1:6-7, Matthew 10:22) but not without eternal reward one day.

Remember the story in John 9:2-3? The disciples asked Yeshua, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” They could not reconcile in their minds that his blindness had no cause. Today, doctors might give us a scientific answer: “Well, you see, the optic nerve was underdeveloped in utero” (or the retina or cornea or what have you). “And the cause of this was poor prenatal diet” (or premature birth etc). But Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Some people believe that if one does good things, good things will in turn happen for that individual. Yes, sometimes, but not necessarily always. I don’t think I buy into the whole karma deal and my counter-example is Job. He was a righteous man who found favor in the sight of God and yet he underwent tremendous suffering. It is probably safest to say that when you do bad things, sometimes bad things might happen to you and if you do good things, sometimes good things happen to you.

I do believe the Lord chastens those who accept His son as their Savior (Hebrews 12:6) such as the case of David who committed adultery with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:13-23). God caused David’s baby to become sick and die as restitution for his extramarital affair. I also believe God is gracious and gives us second and even third chances to repent and turn back to Him. Please note that I’m not saying all babies die as a result of sin. Most probably die just as a natural course of sin in the world. Sometimes bad things happen to good people and there doesn’t seem to be any explanation. God “maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).

All this talk of karma brings me to ponder my own situation. I worried for so long people would believe my situation was brought upon myself by my own choices. (Perhaps, in a way, this is true.) But I don’t feel I did anything horrible enough to deserve the outcome I find myself in. Those who believe in karma might point fingers at me and say, “See? Maybe you did something wrong to inflict this upon yourself.”

I am journeying through a very difficult time of grief and pain right now. Spiritual oppression hits me at every turn. I was physically ill for nearly two months and the doctors could do nothing for my symptoms. I have no doubt my emotional pain was manifesting itself in the form of a horrendous, seemingly unending sinus infection. Yet I trust the Lord with all my heart that this pain is for a reason though I cannot quite see what it is. Perhaps, as this poem points out, it is to shape me into who He wants me to be for His eternal Kingdom.

The Way of Suffering
from “Christ The Eternal Tao” by Hieromonk Damascene

I give you no formulas, says the Way,
I give you no equations.
But I will heal you in My own time,
In My own way,
Imperceptible to you.
Your mind races, seeking a solution;
But there is no solution that can be grasped by the mind.
Your mind tries every avenue,
Thinking that at least one will open up suddenly on the longed for goal:
Freedom from pain.
But every avenue is a dead-end;
You are up against a wall,
The goal is not reached.
That is because the pain is there for a reason.
It is like a maddening fever that burns up and drives out disease.
By it alone do I heal you:
Without it you will die in your sickness.
By it alone do I change you unto perfection:
Without it you will be as a foreigner in my Kingdom.

Seek no formula.
Seek no equation.
Only be patient:
Wait on Me
While I do My unseen work inside you.
When you are changed and fit for My Kingdom,
You will know that something happened,
And that is all you will know.
But there is no need for thought.
Enter, then, into My joy,
You who have waited, in devotion, in My pain.

I have been reading a book right now called “Where Is God When It Hurts?” by Philip Yancey. I am beginning to see pain as a sort of gift from God. I know that sounds slightly morbid but honestly, imagine a world where people felt no pain! Really think about it for a minute. Children wouldn’t jerk their hands away from hot stoves thus receiving third degree burns. People would burn their flesh submerging themselves into hot bath water. People who suffer from leprosy literally feel no pain, and reap horrifying consequences. For example, if you were a leper and sprained your ankle, you wouldn’t immediately stop but keep walking on it because you felt no pain that would alert you to rest it. You could possibly damage your ankle for life if you continued to use it instead of resting. Pain demands that we take a break so that we can heal. Emotional suffering is kind of like that, too, I suppose. I really feel like I just need a break so I can heal. This holiday season has been a great time of recharging my batteries, but also pretty stressful because of how many days our office didn’t work which means finances are extremely tight. It is times like these that I need to REST in the Lord and trust Him that He will provide for my every need and He truly has. I am so thankful that He is taking care of me and that I don’t need to worry. I have such a great support group that I know I will not become homeless like the people I handed out food, clothing, and sleeping bags to on Christmas day. “Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 106:1)