Barren is defined as a land too poor to produce much or any vegetation; a place that is bleak or lifeless. I feel like God has dropped me off in a barren desert and left me here. A couple of weeks ago we sang this song in church and the chorus states, "Not for a moment, did you forsake me. After all, you are only good." And my heart and mouth would not sing it, I could only sob because I can't believe those words. To be completely honest, deep down I believe that I was forsaken by God. That He took my trust and crushed it in an instant. I can not say, with full belief that God is good. I know what the Bible says, I know what I've been taught over the years, but I can't help what my heart keeps telling me.
And because of this belief, something has crept in to my heart, a silent toxin that slowly oozes its ugliness onto everything... bitterness. I once read somewhere that bitterness follows unwanted experiences- failures, disappointment, set backs- that are perceived to be beyond our control. It occurs when we believe that other people could have prevented the undesirable outcome. It is one step more complex than anger... it is anger plus helplessness. In the beginning I prayed against this bitterness and because I didn't experience it much in the first year, I felt protected from it, but the moment you think you are above something, that's when Satan sees your weakness and attacks. Bitterness has oozed its way in to my life by means of the other definition of barrenness. We are going on a year of trying to have another baby, with no success, and I can feel the bitterness creeping up- a student who didn't want to get pregnant has a baby, Facebook pictures of ultrasounds or kids birthdays, and I can hear my inner monologue saying, "Well isn't that just great for you."
I wish I could tell you that I am beyond this, that this character flaw is in my past. I wish I could just be a forgiving child and run to my Father in Heaven whenever I felt this way, but because I feel like God has forsaken me, like God doesn't love me, like all my trust in Him is gone, a painfully apparent division has formed in our relationship and it makes this ultimately worse. I was talking to my mom on the phone the other night about some of my feelings and she said something that I've heard a hundred times in my life, but spoke to me in a different way this time. She said, "I know that those things seem true to you about God right now, but remember, 'We walk by faith, not by sight.'" And it struck me that by sight it may seem like God isn't good, that he doesn't love me, that he has forsaken me, but I need to go back to the Bible and write down what it says to the contrary and meditate on those verses until I can believe them again.
"Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6
"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with an unfailing kindness." Jeremiah 31:3
"But Zion said, 'The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.'
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palm of my hand." Isaiah 49:14-16
"I will make rivers flow on barren heights and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs." Isaiah 41:18
And as I am reading these verses it hits me. What has gotten into me that I have forgotten this steadfast love? Isn't this where all our sin originates? From the belief that God isn't good, that he has withheld something from us? In the garden- in perfect unity with God- Adam conveys ingratitude with his actions. One Thousand Gifts by Anne Voscamp states this so pointedly:
"I wake up and put feet to the plank floors and I believe the serpent's hissing lie, the repeating refrain of his campaign through the ages. God isn't Good. It's the cornerstone of his movement. That God withholds good from His children, that God does not genuinely, fully, love us... I say no to what He's given. I thirst for some roborant, some elixir, to relieve the anguish of what I've believed: God isn't good. God doesn't love me."
I am now painfully aware of how much I need to repent... repent of my jealousy, my coveting, repent of secretly desiring bad things to happen to other people so someone out there is more miserable than me, so I won't be alone. I want God to take away this bitterness and fill it with a sweet fragrance. I want Him to take this unhappiness and replace it with a joy that can not be shaken. I am sorry... sorry I am hard to be around, sorry if you have had good things happen in your life lately and you are scared to tell me or I have not reacted like you would've liked. To repent literally means to turn away. This bitterness is bigger than me so I will have to choose to turn from this daily. Sometimes I will fail, but if I make this public- it will hold me accountable. If I am turning away from bitterness then I am turning toward something. What am I turning towards? Gratitude. As I enter the months leading into Thanksgiving I have been reading One Thousand Gifts by Anne Voskamp which encourages us to enter into Eucharisteo (or the act of thanksgiving). She uses the verse in 1 Corrinthians 11:23-24:
"On the night when He was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it."
See even when he knew the terror that was about to ensue, my Jesus thanked his Father...
"The act of sacrificing thank offerings to God- even for the bread and cup of cost, for cancer and crucifixion- this prepares the way for God to show us His fullest salvation from bitter, angry, resentful lives and from all that sin estranges us from Him."
Why haven't I seen this before? It is scattered throughout the Bible. The Lord's call to the Israelites was a call to worship and serve him in the wilderness (Exodus 7:16). Jesus' greatest challenge was to remain faithful when he was led into the desert to be tempted and the last thing he said in the desert was "You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him," (Matthew 4:10). Thankfulness is not just when things are going well, but the secret to a full life is when, in faith, we give thanks, despite what life throws at us.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 states:
"Fig trees may not grow figs, and there may be no grapes on the vines. There may be no olives growing and no food growing in the fields. There may be no sheep in the pens and no cattle in the barns. But I will still be glad in the Lord; I will rejoice in God my Savior."
Two Months from tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. In light of the scripture God has led me to, lately, I have decided, starting tomorrow, to find 2 things each day that I am thankful for and write them down, maybe even take pictures of them. It could be something big like my amazing family or the little things that bitterness tries to steal the joy from like sun shining through my curtains in the morning. I will not make it public on Facebook or Instagram but it will be like secret love notes of thanks to my Savior each day. My prayer is that by Thanksgiving, thankfulness will not be a choice, but my natural reaction to each day, that in repentance I will turn from bitterness toward thankfulness.