I’m struggling, and I have been for the past few weeks. Many of you know what that feels like; how you don’t meet your own expectations and trials keep piling up above your head and you begin to swim but have no idea how to. You stay afloat but are still flailing.
It’s a peculiar situation to be in.
You don’t know how to swim because things like this haven’t happened before. I think people who believe in Jesus can expect too much of themselves, sometimes. We expect to be okay no matter what trial hits because we expect that our knowledge of how Jesus provides and our hope in Him transcends all suffering. Now, I’m not so sure that it does. I’m not sure that having knowledge that things will be okay and how this situation you are in is going to be used for extreme good translates to you feeling okay internally.
Do not be ashamed if you are not feeling okay, even when you know that the situation you are in will be for good. God told me to give myself time to be okay, and maybe it would be good for you to allow yourself time to be okay too.
As I have been praying through this tough time, God has brought specific scriptures to mind that challenge the expectation I have of myself to be okay regardless of circumstances; (a false and unbiblical expectation).
Philippians 4.11-13 says this:
“11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (NLT)
Previously, I have interpreted this to mean that whatever circumstances come my way, I can automatically be content with them because I can do anything with Christ who gives me strength. There is limited truth in how I interpreted it, as I have not taken into account the context nor the word ‘learned’.
Paul is talking about the provisions that God has given him, particularly in relation to living necessities, and how he has learned to be content because he can do every work through God who gives Paul the physical, emotional, and spiritual strength and ability to do what God is asking him to do. This is not in relation to Paul grieving over loss, nor is it in relation to pain or suffering or illness or other hardships in life. This passage is in relation to the church in Philippi’s concern for Paul.
Secondly, Paul uses the word learned to explain his ability to be content regardless of circumstances, his contentment didn’t come automatically. I think it is unrealistic and potentially damaging to expect all our actions and emotions to be perfect once we believe in God. There is a difference between righteous standing which God gives us through Jesus when we believe in Him, and righteousness which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. We have been made perfect by God when the Spirit indwells in us, but this doesn’t mean that perfect actions and thoughts come automatically exactly at the moment the Spirit comes to inhabit us.
I want you to think about when Jesus went to the garden to pray before he was about to willingly give himself up to his captors when he knew he would be crucified and those whom he loved would be hurt. Jesus was hurting; just because he knew the joy set before him, that doesn’t mean that he didn’t cry out in emotional pain asking God to remove the anguish set before him. Even though Jesus had knowledge of the glory to come, this doesn’t mean that he wasn’t hurting and upset, because he was. If it is okay for Jesus to be emotionally hurting and upset, it is also okay for you to be.
I am telling you this so that you can be patient with yourself. Give yourself time. If you aren’t doing okay at the moment, don’t tell yourself that you aren’t doing good enough, or that you’re not being a good follower of Jesus. Give yourself some grace, and be kind to yourself.
Grace & peace.