I Am Thankful For Heartbreak and Failure

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I have seen so many “I am thankful for _______” posts in the past month that it got me thinking: What would I put on such a list?  Of course the normal things came up: my family, friends, health, home, safety, freedom, love, Jesus, faith, the World Race, America, clean shaven men, hand-holding, soft rainstorms, mountaintops, laughter, joy, hugs, kisses, smiles, frozen Greek yogurt, technology, fuzzy blankets, cold weather, bonfires, music, snuggles, accents, books, education, ASU, random acts of kindness, God-following men, letters via snail mail, and the list goes on and on.

Then, I got to really thinking and decided I was missing two important things: heartbreak and failure.  Yes, at first I argued with myself.  “Heartbreak?  Failure?  Those aren’t so pleasant.  Why should I be thankful for them?  I usually try to avoid them.  It makes no sense at all to be thankful for having had a broken heart or having failed.”  Oh, but it does!

You see, we are all naturally inclined to be thankful for the pleasant things, the things we want more of and hope to never be deprived of.  I am among the world’s worst at simply trying to avoid unpleasant or uncomfortable things/situations/people.  Someone breaks my heart?  That’s fine, I’ll just move on and try to pretend it never happened.  You know, avoid those memories like the plague.  That’s totally acceptable, right?   Unfortunately, no.

I believe a part of growing up is accepting that life is not always a series of pleasant, enjoyable moments that come together perfectly as long as you “do things right.”  Things are going to happen.  Despite perfectly executing that “next step” agenda that we are taught to strive for (college, career, marriage, kids, etc.), there will be unpleasant moments.  There will be broken hearts.  There will be failed attempts, plans, ideas, and relationships.  That’s part of the process, and really, it’s one of the best parts if you think about it.

I happen to love the metaphor that places God as an artist and we, as people, are His masterpieces.  Instead of thinking of us as paintings or sculptures, I like to think of each of us as mosaics.  Each tiny piece has been broken off from somewhere, rearranged, fitted into the whole, and is an integral part of the big picture.  Each time your heart has been broken, whether by a friend, a partner, a family member, boss, or even a stranger, those pieces are scooped up, rearranged, put back onto the canvas, and fitted into making the big picture beautiful.  Same thing goes with every failure.  Every failed test, failed relationship, failed plan, failed job, failed idea – it’s all used into making your big picture beautiful.

A song out right now by Casting Crowns that I have grown quite fond of states:

One day I’ll stand before You

And look back on the life I’ve lived

I can’t wait to enjoy the view

And see how all the pieces fit.

On that day, I do believe I will be seeing the most beautiful picture of my life – my life’s very own mosaic masterpiece crafted by God Himself.  Each heart break, each failure – it’s all working together along with all of the joy, the love, the excitement, the adventure, the pleasantness of this life.

So, nestled on my list of things to be thankful for you can find “heartbreak” and “failure” somewhere amongst the others, probably hanging out somewhere between “traveling” and “men wearing ties.”

Altar of Praise or Battleground?

Stand Still.  Praise.  Watch.

Stand Still. Praise. Watch.

I don’t know about y’all, but for my daily readings I tend to gravitate more to the New Testament, or if in the Old Testament regularly stick to Isaiah (my absolute favorite book of the Bible), Psalms, and Proverbs.

However, lately I’ve been drawn to the other books in the Old Testament.  Today I was namely drawn to 2 Chronicles.

A favorite story of mine from 2 Chronicles stars King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah in the face of three armies outnumbering them.  The people of Judah did all they knew to do (under the direction and guidance of Jehoshaphat) in the face of overwhelming circumstances — they prayed to God and asked for His help.  They petitioned their Rescuer to come and save them.  They knew that their power was too weak, but that God’s was strong enough.  They believed in the might and power of God to save them.

In 2 Chronicles 20:13-24 God tells the people from Judah that they do not need to fight the three armies coming after them.  In fact, God tells them to “position yourselves, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord” in verse 17.  Above that in verse 15, God tells the people of Judah who are depending on Him that “the battle is not yours, but God’s.”

Oh how precious that when we are seemingly cornered and outnumbered – whether that be by people, burdens, circumstances, or whatever – God is mighty enough and loves us enough to take the battle for us!  So many times I want be the one in control and on the front lines trying to determine the outcome, but God is saying, “Child, just stand there, praise me, and I’ll do the fighting.”

Here’s to giving up control to God and being joyful in simply being still, praising Him, and living in the victory of my salvation in Him.
(I think I was made more for praising than fighting, anyway.)

Freedom: Certainly So.

Freedom is best lived when you're cared for.

Freedom is best lived when you’re cared for.

I am a freedom lover.  (Not to be confused with liberal — I am not all that liberal.)  I cherish the freedom that living in America has afforded me my whole life.  I can say my oppositions to whomever and whatever I so choose at any given time.  I can make my likes and loves known, even if not a single person really cares.  (Who really wants to know how much I enjoy salsa this week?  The answer is slim to none.)  I have the freedom to move about from state to state, city to city, home to home.  I have the freedom to select any career path and pursue it.  Then, if I change my mind I can start all over.  I have the freedom to shop wherever I want.  I have the freedom to love whomever I want.  I have the freedom to laugh, to smile, and to cry whenever and wherever.  I have the freedom to live in a way that allows me to choose what I want.  America is the land of the free.  That’s something hard to argue against.

However, as much as I love America and my freedom that comes with being blessed to be an American citizen, I love my freedom in the Lord even more.  The Lord my God said in Jeremiah 15:11, “The Lord said: I will certainly set you free and care for you.  I will certainly intercede for you in a time of trouble, in your time of distress, with the enemy.”

Let that sink in for a moment.  God says He will do three things for you here:
1. He will set you free.
2. He will care for you.
3. He will intercede for you.

Now, if you have been brought up in church or attend church now, you have probably heard the sermon about how God set us free from our bondage to sin through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ.  The consuming, merciful, forgiving love of Christ is what broke our chains.  He is what rescues us from slavery to sin, and all that encompasses.  So, there is God’s first promise:  He sets us free.

This second point is where I sometimes skew the promise.  It seems that I constantly am begging God to care for me.  I am constantly asking Him to please, please, please do this or do that or take care of me in this situation or that one.  It gets to where it almost seems as if I don’t believe His promise that He will care for me and am trying to convince Him to make that promise over and over again.  I don’t need to convince the Lord my God of anything, and certainly not of something He promised long ago.   He doesn’t just set us free and wish us well.  He sets us free and takes care of us.  It’s like taking care of a baby deer for so long that it doesn’t know anything different than captivity, then just letting it go in the middle of a forest.  It would be lost.  It wouldn’t understand how to find food or interact with other animals.  God doesn’t just drop us off in a forest of the unfamiliar and let us attempt to figure it out on our own.  He promises to care for us, as lost as we may seem to be in our new, unparalleled freedom that we find in Him.

God promises, also, to intercede for us.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big fan of confrontation in my own life.  I don’t particularly like being involved in drama, either.  However, if a loved one of mine needs me, I will intercede for them as best as I know how.  God does this to us as our loving, caring, merciful Father — and on a much, much bigger scale.  God intercedes on our behalf against the enemy, which is Satan and sin.  What I find particular comfort in is the part where God says He will intercede for us in our distress.  I have a bad habit of getting stressed about most things.  A big test?  Stressed.  Friends fighting?  Stressed.  Sick family members?  Stressed.  Lost loved ones?  Stressed.  Over obligated schedule?  Stressed.  The list goes on and on.  Additionally, I let people hurt me at their discretion.  I’m one of those people who internalize pain and keep loving and giving despite that hurt.  God sees that and He steps in on my behalf in that distress.  God promises to intercede for me when I am in distress, which I take to mean He will take that distress and turn it into peace — if I keep my faith and hope in Him, that is.

Freedom is a beautiful, precious thing.  To capitalize on freedom, seek God.  Take Him at His word from Jeremiah 15:11.  For remember, He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  Let Him care for you.  Let Him intercede in life for you.   Let Him fill you with peace.

According to Moshe Dayan, “Freedom is the oxygen of the soul.”  So, let your soul breathe in deep.  Breathe in God.  He is the One with the breath of life, after all.