What do you do with the “bad stuff”

I’ll admit I’ve had a lot more of the “bad stuff” in my life than I ever expected. Growing up, I was a carefree child, with loving parents, a paradise for home, good friends, godly teachers, and unique multi-cultural opportunities. I’m also blessed with an optimistic personality and always had a positive outlook on life. It was a bit of a storybook beginning. And I’m thankful for that. I was nurtured in a green house of His goodness in preparation of the days when storms would shatter the windows of that green house exposing me to the elements of grief, loss, sin and Satan in the world. And I would actually live what I knew to be true about his love and goodness no matter what storms we face.

I posted a question on Facebook a week or so ago that went something like this, “What do you do when you are faced with bad news? What is a proper response?” I received a plethora of ideas including taking a step back to process, praying, weeping with one another, allowing the pain in, reminding oneself of eternity, among others.

When I first learned of Joel’s criminal activity, his secret life of sin and betrayal, I remember thinking something like, “I have to learn what I’m supposed to. I have to do this right. Then God will be pleased. Then I will experience his comfort.” I was held captive by the idea that a right response to horrific circumstances would provide the least painful and most blessed escape from those circumstances. Isn’t it good to desire the right path? I earnestly prayed that God would show me that right path.

Thus I began to slowly learn that the right path, the path of His choosing, isn’t always the one that leads to immediate relief. It isn’t always the simplest path with the least pain. In fact I would venture to say it’s rarely that path. Jesus Christ himself begged God for a “right path” that would avoid Golgotha. And none was available. The right path went straight through an agonizing, humiliating and traumatic death.

What I ultimately learned, and continue to grow in, is that seeking God is quite different from seeking his direction. Only in truly believing Him for good, only in relying on His abundant love, and only in resting in his faithfulness, can I accept a path as right that leads deeper and farther into brokenness.

So what do I do when I am faced with bad news? Sometimes I retreat to process. Sometimes I break down and weep. I give myself room to feel pain. I’m honest about my disappointment and my loss. Sometimes I find strength in the promises of God for His greater Kingdom. I look to others for support and comfort. All of these are good, normal and God-designed responses to pain in this life. But more than any of these responses, I find hope, comfort and the desire to say “not my will but thine” by allowing myself to just be held–by my Father, my Savior, my good, good God. I cannot merely concentrate on the right path. I cannot reduce my pain to an equation with one right answer. I cannot expect relief only in the “learning of a lesson.” I cannot seek His plan and His right path at the expense of seeking Him. Instead I can come to him, “weary and heavy laden” and find rest in Him and Him alone.

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