Dear Year-Ago Me, It’s Worse, Yet So Much Better

30226_Decisions_AheadDear Year-Ago Me,

I know you are dealing with a lot and things feel so chaotic right now. Dealing with these circumstances was not part of your plan, but it’s the hand you’ve been given to play. True, you’ve struggled with this hopelessness many times before, but I know this round is different altogether. It’s hard, so hard—I know. Yet through the valley, on you a great light will shine (Isaiah 9:2). That’s what I’d like to tell you.

I wish I could say in 12 months, things will be vastly different for you: joyful, effortless and carefree. I wish I could say that the troubles you are facing will subside. Truth be told, I can’t tell you these things because it simply isn’t true. Dear me…it’s worse, yet so much better.

I know you’re grieving over having to pull out of leadership and ministry. I know you’re feeling disconnected and alone. I know you’re feeling like the rug has been pulled out from underneath you. But take courage, sorrowful heart, because what God has taken away will be replaced with things you don’t see coming. As you are being stripped down to bare essentials, the Lord is working on an opportunity for you to be intentionally discipled (something you need more than anything else right now), and to speak at a women’s retreat. You don’t know these things are coming yet. God often conceals the future to keep us focused on the work of here-and-now. But believe me when I say, these things are on the horizon for you, seemingly from out of nowhere. God knows…he knows what his plans are for you, which is why he’s clearing your schedule. He’s making room for divine appointments you know nothing of (Proverbs 19:21).

Speaking of which, you know that writing you’ve been wanting to do but couldn’t? Just you wait…oh, just you wait. Somehow, someway, and in God’s perfect timing, he is preparing to give you a book that you haven’t even thought to write. And you’ll do it, all the way. You’ll finish it—just barely. You’ll want to quit of course, many, many times. But through this process you will learn the important discipline of showing up to let God work. Show up, Christine, and let God work through you. Listen for His leading instead of trying to be a trailblazer. Your trails keep catching you aflame, but His trails guide you to his perfect will. Surrender your trails, Christine. His are better, I promise (Proverbs 16:9).

I hate to say it, but you know those marriage struggles? I wish I could tell you that by now, 12 months later, you’ve learned to give that relationship more grace. I wish I could say that you pray for him more, serve him more, and pursue him more. I wish I could encourage you and say that things have settled down because the babies are now toddlers. Truth be told, I can’t tell you these things because you’re still struggling to cling to your independence. You’re still fighting the union, trying to maintain shreds of identity in who you used to be (Romans 6:4). Oh, dear me…it’s worse now, yet so much better.

Jesus is working in your family in ridiculously demolishing ways right now, driving out idols left and right, as he did the money changers from the Temple (John 2:13-17). You think it’s hard now, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. The last three years of your walk has been faith with training wheels. You have been spoon-fed and coddled—but you’re no longer an infant (Hebrews 5:13). Christ isn’t content with superficial touch-ups here and there, and His aim isn’t your family’s fightless contentment or flawless facade. You know very well, even in your despondency, that His aim is straight at your heart (1 Samuel 16:7). It’s a messy business, this heart change He goes about performing, but I can promise you the pain is well-worth the submission. Don’t push Him away. Let him have at it. It sounds scary now, by but you’ll be strengthened to handle this sort of obedience by the power of the Spirit. You’ll practice it during your discipleship study, and you’ll grow. You’ll stumble, you’ll regress, but you will end up a battle-born warrior fashioned by the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). The enemy’s temptations and darts, though sharp and staggering, will eventually enrage the fierceness with which you fight back. Face it head-on, bold as a lion (Proverbs 28:1). The journey indeed is getting harder from here on out, but the glory gets brighter with each blazing arrow. The challenges increase the mercy, and the suffering enhances the awe.

There is some good news to report, if it is any consolation. Though the wreckage from the heart demolition spreads far and wide, the glue of Christ’s reconciliation will not leave you or your family in pieces. Each time a new section of heart is exploded, He will carefully recreate it all the better. Every fight that you have under your roof will demonstrate the immense and supernatural power of God to restore, to heal, and to forgive. It doesn’t feel like much now, but let’s you and I both pray that in another year or two, the Me from the future will write us to report the tremendous, abundant life that has come from such a season of reconstruction (John 15:1-8). You can’t see it. I have seen some of it. It’s coming, this I know.

Dear me, things are going to get worse before they get better (Romans 5:1-5). Isn’t that the paradox God welcomes us into? His upside-down, inside-out kingdom is so unlike anything you’ve known. It’s a journey you aren’t prepared for, but in Christ you are equipped for. The best advice I can give you: stop thinking of ways to control and fix things, and instead give control over to Him who cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). Give him your brokenness (for real, this time…I mean, all of it) and let him restore it. Be okay with not being okay. Accept that things will be messy for a while—maybe even for the rest of your life, if that’s God’s plan. Accept that each new day has new mercies for the new troubles you’ll most certainly face (Lamentations 3:22-23, Matthew 6:34). Don’t get upset when you don’t have a perfect day. Don’t get impatient with the toddlers climbing your legs for attention. Your joy will be restored, just not in the ways you are thinking it will be. The things that used to bring you joy are being replaced with far better, more genuine things. Be patient and trust that God will replace lost desires with newer, fruitful, more passionate ones (Psalm 37:4).

Your hopelessness, your pain; it’s going to come and go, and at times it is going to be worse than you’re feeling now (Romans 8:22-23). But oh dear me, it’s so much better now. Not because the pain has loosed or the struggles have long gone, but because the very God who walks you through the valleys is the same who lifts you to the mountains (Psalm 145:14)—every dip to a lower place makes a lift to a far greater height. You soon won’t fear the pit, dear me, for His glory is in the rescue (2 Timothy 4:17-18).