Getting older: a somewhat unwelcome reality

What a weekend.

It started with a trip to the airport and some seriously glorious weather. There was time alone, time with friends, time outside, time spent reading, sitting, and some good quality staring at the wall time. There were some strolls filled with dreams of Paris, time to sleep, and time to simply be.

It was wonderful.

looking east from clovelly beach.

It was as I ingested the blue horizon that I was once again confronted by the mess of the world: a beautiful friend who consistently suffers debilitating depression, which makes it extremely difficult for her to care for her young son. I find it extraordinarily hard to see such beauty and such suffering in the same moment. It makes my heart ache. I want to fix it. To be able to help. I cannot.

One thing I really hate about getting older is that this stuff happens more and more. Although I know a lot of people had to face the death of a friend at school, I did not. Not many of my friends – my peers – have suffered terribly thus far. But it’s happening. And it’s going to happen more.

I know that there is hope. I know the promise:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Rev 21:3-4).

But even though I know this, I am afraid. Afraid that I won’t keep believing the promise when my friends get sick. Afraid that I won’t keep thinking God is good when I see marriages break down. Afraid that I won’t keep trusting God. I’ve not had the easiest life so far, but how will I keep trusting God when things get harder? What is going to sustain me?

Well, it’s certainly not going to be me.

So often I am intensely confused about what God is doing in the world. I question his plans. I think it would definitely be better if another friend of mine didn’t suffer bipolar disorder with suicidal thoughts. If she didn’t need to be hospitalised so she won’t hurt herself. I mean, really, how could wanting those things to not exist be wrong?

There are no easy answers I’m afraid. But perhaps these two thoughts may help.

First, the God who made everything, who made us all, is trustworthy. It is our choice as to whether we will trust Him.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight (Prov 3:5-6).

Second, nothing can separate those who believe in Him from his love. I have known this for a long time, but it was last year after an ethics class on suicide that I really knew this.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:38-39).

Nothing can separate Christians from the love of God. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nothing. NOTHING. Not how I feel. Not what I think. Not even anything I do. Nothing. I could think about that for the rest of my life and it wouldn’t be long enough.

I have trusted in Jesus. I continue to do so. But I do it imperfectly. My belief is plagued with doubt and fear. I am not strong. But maybe it’s OK, because God has me. He holds me. I wonder if this is what faith is: an imperfect trust in the perfect God. I don’t need to do it perfectly because He is the perfect one. Maybe it’s not about me. The promise of dwelling with God is mine. But only because He has given it to me. One day he will make me perfect and then I won’t be afraid anymore. In the meantime, God holds on to me as I am thrown about through the storms of life. The stormy weather won’t go away any time soon, but God isn’t going anywhere either.

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