Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A Real Love Story: When Life is Hard

The #RealLoveStory series is not done! I'm shifting away from discussing relationships specifically and talking about personal details that will affect relationships.

If I know nothing else about life, I know this: it is hard. It doesn't matter what stage you find yourself in, there will always be hardships, there will always be pain. And when there is an unknown to why bad things are happening, it can make you want to give up.

I've never been a quitter, it's just not in my nature. The first time I thought about suicide was in high school. I didn't think there was any end to the pain that I felt. At that age I was dealing with more things than the majority of people realized. Inside, I was depressed and confused, I felt invisible, unlovable, like I was drowning and couldn't come up for air. Outside, the smile and sass hid the knowledge that I was ugly, geeky, and dealing with abuse from classmates. I contemplated ways to end it. Who could live like this?

The first time I felt real, complete rejection from someone I thought I loved was in college. It was one of those rejections that came without an explanation. The attention and relationship just stopped in silence. It felt like searing pain to see this person, and to walk away without knowing what was wrong. Was it me? It must've been me. I wasn't pretty enough or good enough, and he didn't want me.

The first time I felt truly, completely alone, was after I moved to Colorado. I got dumped two months into moving there and I had no one. No family to fall back on, no one to help take care of me. The pain of losing a relationship I thought would lead to marriage was compounded by the vastness of my separation from all that was familiar. Like the mountains I passed every day, I felt like I was alone in a wilderness of confusion and pain. I looked for ways to numb it because who cared what happened to me now?

Life has been a series of painful pricks, like a needle repeatedly pressed into my skin. Whether it was betrayal by members of the church body, bad choices that led to worse decisions, rejection by those closest, or the feeling of being unacceptable, there has always been pain. And the reality of life tells me, there always will be pain. But somehow, I'm still here. It's a choice to live life in the midst of hurt, it's a choice to go on when you want to quit, it's a choice to overcome.

I don't like to let a bad experience go without getting something good out of it. One little shred of goodness, that's all it takes. I have to learn from it, I have to grow. I have to find the redemption. Maybe it takes years, but I am determined to always make the bad produce something good. These are some of the things I've learned from pain.

Don't give up.

Life can seem really bad at any given time. Friends and family will fail you, your spouse will fail you, and sometimes, you will fail. Life may feel like a dark pit you can't climb out of and it may seem like it's been years since you've seen the light of day. There will be seasons of desolation, of depression, of loneliness, of pain. Unfortunately, that is the nature of life and humanity.

But no matter how hard it gets, I'm telling you now, in writing: you are never  allowed to give up. It's easy to just see what's here, what's now. We can only see this moment and what is past, but we can't see what's ahead. There may be even harder times ahead, it's true, but there will also be things that you won't want to miss, that you shouldn't  miss. It's true that this world needs you, the people in your life need you. You have something to give, to contribute, and a story to tell.

I know it's not easy, but resolve in the good moments to fight through the bad. Hold onto that resolve. Know that you are strong, you will overcome. Life will change, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse, but you can do it. Find a small group of close friends to come alongside you in all that life brings. Friends who will remind you of your worth and value, their love, and that life will get better again.

God uses broken people. 

I think a lot of times we put pressure on ourselves to get things right, to look like we have it all together. There's this unspoken belief that we're "better" if we have a handle on our lives, if we project an image of perfection, and if we don't have any big-time screw ups. But if you dive below the surface, you'll see that's not really true. The truth is that broken people can be used for big things.

There are a lot of really screwed up people in the Bible. They're some of the most prominent characters--King David slept with another man's wife, then had him killed; Abraham passed off his wife as his sister; Rahab was a prostitute in a pagan city; King Solomon was a sex addict in love with many women. I think these individuals show us that God has used and continues to use imperfect people. David was called a man after God's own heart. God made a covenant with Abraham, and Abraham's belief in God was credited as righteousness. Rahab became one of five women included in Jesus' genealogy. Solomon asked God for wisdom and was given insight greater than all of Egypt. These people weren't perfect, but that didn't negate them from great things in service to God.

Don't let your past mistakes keep you benched. The best thing you can do is learn from them and let that knowledge equip you to help others and to live a holy life. God can use you, no matter where you've been, no matter what you've done, and no matter what's been done to you. You're never too "far gone" or too broken to do great things.

Understanding can come with time.

Sometimes we will never know why a bad thing happened. I don't have specific answers for why certain things happened to me in my past. In some cases I've just accepted that the sinful choices of others led to them inflicting pain on me or trying to use me. That's the nature of having freewill and the ability to choose wrong. It's painful, but I'm thankful not to be a robot.

In other cases, I've been able to see some good come from the bad or at least reach an understanding for why something happened. Sometimes it's the ability to connect with and encourage another person, or the opportunity to see that it was a good thing a relationship ended. It comes back to that decision to work hard to find the good in the bad. If I make a mistake, I want to learn from it. If something happens to me, I want to find even a tiny spec of good that could come from it. It's a choice to not let the bad things win.

Don't expect to find good or understanding right away. Don't ignore the pain or try to avoid being sad. But don't stay in sadness forever. Let people in who can help you and who need you. Look for something you can learn. Begin to search for the good that you can take back from the bad. Maybe some things will never make sense, but don't let that stop you from making the world a better place for someone else.

Thanks for checking out the #RealLoveStory series. If you have an idea for a topic, question or comment, please leave a comment below or email me.

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