When life is tough, where are you God? When life is hard, this question feels like a lump in our throat. I think it's a worthy question, and I can't wait to open it up and examine it with you.
Thanks for joining me for the second half of this two part series: Cup Half Empty- Finding a Way Back to Fullness. Click Here if you missed the first one.
We left for the hospital to have our second little girl in a Southern California psunami. The rare explosion of rain left us unprepared. We put out buckets and serving bowls to catch drips from the roof of our new home, and said a prayer that it wouldn't wreck our new laminate floors.. Hand in hand, we escaped to the car, arms loaded with hospital bags, hearts bursting with hope and trepidation.
As our new baby girl and I snoozed in recovery, God drew back the curtain of grey clouds and painted a rainbow. My sister sent me the picture that is still a keepsake.
I think God knew I need to be reminded of the beauty that He can create from a storm. The first four years of Elyse’s life were some of the hardest I have walked through.
On the surface my life was overflowing with good things. We had bought a home near family, my husband had a job that was in the center of his passion, and we were blessed with our second healthy baby.
But a day in our reality, and anyone would see that we were struggling. The transition from 1 to 2 was more challenging than I expected. My hormones were out of wack making my emotions like a ride on carnival bumper cars. My husband’s job meant he was stressed and working a lot of hours.
We were living on shaky foundation.
I kept thinking we just have to push through this season... but the weight of the world just got heavier and heavier. Our baby, now toddler, Elyse, got sick and was diagnosed with a rare disease, a water leak in our house put us in a hotel for three months, Nathan injured his shoulder and needed surgery. The car needed a new engine.
When we had just caught our breath and felt ready to sink our feet in the sand and enjoy the view awhile, we felt God stirring our hearts that it was time to move on to a new church ministry, which meant leaving my family, and the people we had grown to love. To add to the stress of the decision, we also discovered God was giving us the gift of a surprise son. Never a dull moment!
Life's most beautiful and defining moments can leave us feeling ragged and raw. We don't have a comfortable routine and predictability to hide ourselves in and so we must face our emotions, our weaknesses and fears in the open. In this bare place that we can no longer puff up, armor up, or hide beneath a shell; we are in the arena.
I needed more than just guts and grit and dirt beneath my fingernails to get through this unending season of unknown.
It is easy to talk about trusting God, but when we face life's challenges, we are dared to actually live out that reality. Walking with God sounds tidy in books and sermons, but struggle pushes us up out of the pews and into a real life practicum.
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain.
I found myself dangling off a proverbial cliff. Fatigued fingers wrapped tight around God, my lifeline, but slipping, sinking deeper into the pit; pulled down by the gravity of life and responsibilities.
What happens when life leaves us so tired that we no longer have the will or stamina to reach out for God?
When I let go, tumbling into the unknown, I made a discovery about God that has rearranged my understanding of Him.
Even when we aren't reaching for Him, He is holding on to us.
In the unknown darkness, God is there. When the cup is half empty, He is there. He is there when the cup is bone dry. At the bottom, in the pit, He is there.
I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.
Psalm 139:5-12 (NLT)
How often do I construct God in my image? Do I look for Him in the things made by human hands? When life is untidy, when it spills over the edges of our understanding, making messes we cannot contain or control, we are invited to stop trying to conceptualize, contain, and construct God—we are invited to just experience Him.
When I was sleep trained my son (yes our beautiful surprise), I tried a method called “holding to sleep.” After changing and nursing him, I would hold him as he cried himself to sleep. I could rock and reassure him, “I’m here. You can do this.” He cried and kicked for about fifteen minutes until he softened into rest. Each day it took a little less time until he was able to fall asleep in his crib with me sitting beside him. The goal was to allow him to learn independence, while reminding him he wasn't abandoned.
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed.
We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.
We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God.
We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.
2 Corinthians 4:7-10 (NLT)
If you are in a place where the cup is half empty I want to invite you to take time to let Him hold you as you rest in His presence. This can be through small heart prayers throughout the day as you reorient your mind back to Him, or 5-10 minutes of quietly sitting in His presence.
Weary friend, Instead of seeing time with God as a guilt trip or twelve step plan, you can just sit quietly with Him. When you are ready to talk, the words will come. Like an old friend God knows how you like your coffee, the warm memories that you wrap up in like an old blanket for comfort. He knows the tears you've been holding in and the hurt you've been holding onto.
Sit with Him and let Him fill your cup.
Fast forward over five years since that rainy day,and we are in a new home, with two girls, and now a toddler boy. Life has continued to bring victories and heartaches, the ebb and flow of a life well lived. But in those dry moments, the cup half empty moments, I have learned that it's not my circumstances that will ensure a full heart, nor is it dependent upon how tightly I cling to God. When life gets heavy and the way forward feels hidden, I remember that I can sit down in my soul and be with God.
No searching, no seeking, just receiving.
"Heart of the hurried one
Listen to me
Open your inner eyes
What do you see?
Sit your soul down today
Hear what I have to say..."
Poem by Jill Briscoe
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Above poem by Jill Briscoe can be found at