In The Midst Of My Mess
We all want something. At any given point we are on a trajectory of some sort. Right now you might be getting ready for college, or to get your driver’s license, or to get a job. If you are anything like me, you like to have a plan. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t plan out my every move (maybe you do) but I tend to have a few steps I know I need to take to get where I want to go. I always have a plan.
I was on the same trajectory for years. Toward the end of high school, I was 100% focused on the next step – deciding on a college that would be my home for the next four years. I knew that it would be daunting to go to a new place with new people, but I was ready. And so I decided on Seattle Pacific University, figured out my finances, and I was off. Just like I had always hoped and dreamed, I made some awesome friends and I finally started to feel like I had found the community that I had been seeking my whole life.
That is, until it all started to fall apart. Toward the end of my sophomore year at SPU, I realized that unless something drastically changed, I wasn’t going to be able to afford to stay. Not only that, but some of my best friends were in the same boat. Slowly over the course of 4 months it became clear that the community that I had so desperately wanted was not going to last much longer. And so by June, I had to move back in with my parents, transfer schools, and leave SPU and my best friends behind.
This was just the first of many life-altering situations for me. Over the course of a year I had to take a semester off of school to figure out finances (which was a huge academic setback for me), I had start working a full time job, I had to learn how to live with my parents again, I had to adjust to not being surrounded by my close friends, and on top of it all, one of my friends suddenly and tragically died.
By November, I’d had enough. The drastic ups and downs of my year had pushed me further from God than I’d ever been. On the outside I may have looked fine, but on the inside I was falling apart. When my friend died, I lost it. I felt just like David in Psalm 13 as he pled: “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” Unfortunately, I turned my anger and frustration toward God. As this happened, I realized that I didn’t even recognize myself anymore. What had happened to me?
I had allowed myself to subscribe to the attitude that I had been wronged in all of the things that had happened in my life. Somehow along the way, I had decided that I had DESERVED everything that I had, and that God had slowly taken it all away from me. I found myself on my knees, begging God to change the condition of my heart and bring me back to him.
I realized that in reality, the only thing that I have ever deserved is hell. I am a sinner in desperate need of the saving grace of God. So, in the midst of my mess, I asked him to save me from what I was becoming. It would be nice if I could say that a switch flipped and everything started to get easier, but the reality is that I still faced a lot of life-altering changes right after the ones I have described. The thing that changed was my attitude in the face of them. I started to trust that God really did have my best interests at heart and that no matter what came my way, I could rely on him to see me through to the other side. Additionally, I saw how he used my mess to teach me invaluable lessons and to draw me closer to him.
I wish that I could change how I responded to some of the hardships that I faced, but I can’t. I’m just thankful that God used my darkest moments to teach me the important lesson that he finds all of us in the midst of our messes. We cannot do anything to deserve the amazing grace that he so freely offers because we are all broken and sinful. I’ll tell you what though – I learned my lesson and I pray every day that God would help me embrace what James so clearly teaches: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
So back to that tendency to always have a plan. Let’s just say that I learned that it’s good to have a plan, but it’s also important to remember that God might have a different plan. And whatever that plan is, I want to be a part of it.
R E F L E C T I O N
Maybe you are in the middle of your mess right now. Maybe you’re not. Either way, it is important to remember that God is reaching out to you wherever you are at and he cares for you. It can be hard to see the good in the midst of the bad but I think it helps to change focus. Take a moment to reflect and write down 3 ways in which God has blessed your life.
Now write down everything that is troubling you in this moment. Don’t hold back. Get it all out. Take some time to pray about the things that you are worried about and ask God to take care of you, while meditating on this passage: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4)
Finally, take some time to think about any way that you may have reacted sinfully to any of the things that have troubled you. Write those sins down too. Get them out in the open. Confess them to God and ask Him to forgive you. Ask him to reorient your heart in earnest desire to seek after Him and His will, while meditating on this passage: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call to him while he is near. Let the wicked one abandon his way and the sinful one his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, so he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will freely forgive.” (Isaiah 55:6-7)