Monday, November 2, 2015

Suffering: A Clear Mission

I was clear, present, and very determined. As Samuel Johnson drily commented, the prospect of death marvelously concentrates the mind.” (Grace and Grit, Ken Wilber, pg. 41-42).

            Suffering immediately focuses you on the mission.
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves with the same attitude,
because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for human desires, but rather for the will of God.” 1 Peter 4:1-2

            It is the nature of deep suffering to cut the crap. No longer are you intertwined in petty things. You are inexpressibly sincere- to the soul. The deepest part of your inmost being is still as you face an equal depth in pain.
            I have experienced these jolts to focus many times. A few that I remember clearly are when my dearest childhood friend told me she was raped, when my mom calmly shared that she believes she is now starting to die, when I researched my own illness and realized that I will lead a terribly hard life and suffer till I die, which will probably be very young, when my sister asked me to my face if I was going to die, and countless more. Suffering cuts to your heart. It severs the ties of your heart to superfluous things. It is a knife, cutting you apart until what is left is only what is crucial for survival, and leaves you to march forward with that. It reorients your direction from a bee-like path, up and down, side to side, to a direct unquestionable aim; a mission. Life is no longer a playground, but rather a solemn fight, one to now be survived, not teased with.
            Personally, My mission: to do the will of the Father (God).         
There is nothing left on this earth or in this life that I desire; nothing that I desire more than to be in the presence of my Lord. Therefore, since I am still alive, even today, I am living for a mission, not simply for pleasure.
My thought every morning as I wake up: Okay, Lord. You woke me up to live this day. Why? Walk me in the significance of this day, and please, oh please, give me strength.

Every evening: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Acts 7). I am done fighting for this day. If your will, take me home. If not, then please sustain me through tomorrow and strengthen me to walk in what you have for me.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Letter to No one and Everyone

Dearest World,

            I ask you not to expect perfection from me; not to expect perfect godliness, wisdom, beauty, nor any good thing from me. Because I can’t offer you that. Because I’m working hard at not expecting things that can’t be true, and I’m wrestling hard with not expecting perfection from myself.

            And this is challenging to me, a fight without rest, because this yearning for perfection is rooted in the very foundation of my inmost being.

            So please, do not expect such things from me, because that does not help me fulfill them any better, nor live in the way I was meant to. When either you or I expect perfection in my life, I can’t walk in freedom but remain enslaved to impossible standards. For in Christ we have the freedom to fail and the promise of forgiveness. 
Furthermore, do not be shocked when I hurt you or when I am wrong, because that makes me feel that I have the ability to always be right. I myself will also work in not being surprised by inevitable failures.
            World – my family, my friends, and strangers - I am nothing more than the least of all things. Do not see me as more, for I will greatly disappoint you.
But rather, look to the One who is beautiful, perfect, and gracious. Delight in gazing upon Him. For He will treat you as you want to be treated (in love). I cannot do so.
            Look to Him to please and satisfy your desires. I cannot do so.
            Look to Him to encourage your heart and deepen your understanding. I cannot do so.
            Do not expect such things from me.
But sometimes, when I am abiding in Christ, He reaches through me and loves you, pleases a desire, encourages you, or deepens your understanding. If this happens, don’t dare glance at me then either, for you should know better. It does not come from me, but rather from the One who is capable of such beautiful things. Be wary not to attribute these actions to me, for you might be tricked into thinking they actually are from me. You may begin to lay expectations on me that are much too high.
I am working on this readjustment myself. In reality, this is perhaps more a letter to myself; a change I need to foremost submit my own heart to. But I wanted to write to you as well, so we are both under the same understanding.

Your Friend,

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Surrender of the Will

First, An Honest Update

Right now I feel defeated.

School: I feel behind in my classes already, and not sure how to study for them. I am frustrated with homework because, though I am setting aside time enough to do it, my inability to focus causes most of my efforts to be wasted. I feel God is not honored and should not bless my school efforts because I should be trying harder.
(Still finding enjoyment though, esp. in a UofM victory!)

People: I don’t really want to be around my friends much at all, though I know this is something I love. I think it's due to feeling exhausted and being in pain.
However, this also means that I definitely don’t want to be pouring into other people whom I don’t know- people around me who I feel it is my duty to minister to. Because of that, I feel like a failure as a leader in Cru, or before God in general.

Health: Overall, I am exhausted and tired from my poor health. I have no energy left to spend. I am all poured out, yet things continue to ask more of me.

In my doctor appointment Friday, it was stated (again) how I have a decision to make (in the general present). My doctor wants me off Methotrexate (a chemotherapy drug) because it causes permanent and serious liver damage, as well as can lead to cancer. She says I am too young to be throwing away the opportunity to have limited medical issues.
But I have tried to live without Methotrexate, and it is a life I have no interest in being a part of. It would be a life lived on my parent’s couch. I cannot move without the drug, I cannot think, often times I cannot even speak. I would be much more dead than were I fighting cancer, for instance.

However, it does make me face the question again of what I am truly striving for. I can barely handle my own life right now, with my limited responsibilities. How could I ever enter a serious relationship and take on another person’s life in the future? How could I ever have kids, these blessings that require so much pouring out and commitment and love and time. These (time, effort, energy, love) are offerings I cannot even give to my God right now, who it should have them first and foremost.

Similarly, if I cannot even attend classes during the week and do required readings, how could I expect to get a solid job and perform up to par? Enough to compete with the rest of the world?

If I go into ministry, how could I faithfully and continually pour into other people when I cannot do so even in little bits now? And this is thinking along the lines that my health will remain as it is now. But there are substantial signs pointing to the option that it will not remain as it is now, that it will in fact get much more complicated, much more painful, and become much more restricting.
(Yes, I understand that healing is possible with God. But that is not what I want, and I question if that is what God wants, because I see being sick glorify Him much more than if I were healthy. So no, I am not depressed or hopeless, I am trusting in His plan, and thinking about how He could have it unravel.)

But yes, all in all, I am exhausted. I am exhausted from fighting. I am tired from pouring myself out over studies, over work, over friends, over ministry, over feeling pain and pretending I don’t so I can still do things, over the diverse and intense pulls and strains of life.

And I am discouraged, for I deem my performance and current ability to answer these calls from all areas of life unfit. It is not enough. I understand that I don’t have to do the best in school, or be the greatest Bible study leader, friend, daughter, or sister. I have the freedom to be average, or to fail (and of course being average or to fail are defined by the scale in my head.) But I want to rise above. I desperately want to be goodbetter, great in these areas.

Why do I desire?

Why do I want these things? Because I want to glorify Christ. Because I want to honor Him in the way I’m living. Because I want to be obedient to what He is teaching me and walk in ways of holiness.

‘Kay great. But actually, why do you want these things, Anna?

Is it because I want to be great, I want to be able to do things because I want to do them? Is it a self-centered longing? Is it because I want to be in control of my spiritual life and cause myself to be more holy, so that I appear more holy to others? Is it because I want to be more pleasing to Christ? (Which is impossible.) Do I want to be doing great because I feel that anything less than is unacceptable for how much instruction I have received? With this much teaching, anyone should be able to behave and perform wonderfully! Right? I have a desire to be effective for Christ, but is it partly because I believe I can do it, that I have to do it, that anything less is disappointment? Am I leaning on myself in my relationship with Christ, not leaning on Christ?

With a will this strong (and this complicated), it is hard to accept anything less than my perceived idea of where I should be. Because of this unrest in my will, I am finding unrest in my life.

A First Step Towards Hope: Surrender

But this life is one about surrender - not control, and most definitely not performance.

As Oswald Chambers shares in his devotional My Utmost for His Highest, I must first surrender my will to Christ and find His rest. “Come unto me … and I will give you rest.” 

--> I need to give up my will to do “good things” and to be “successful” in my walk with Christ, as well as the will to honor Him in how I handle the responsibilities He’s given to me. *Not to change or forsake this longing, but not to clench it in my fist, clinging to it with my perceived control.

In Deeper, Though…

--> Furthermore, I’m afraid my strong desire of these things is actually hindering my ability to freely love Christ and let Him work through me, therefore hindering my ability to do what it is that I am desiring! (My desire to live for Christ is actually hindering my ability to live for Christ! (?!?!) For it is an un-surrendered desire, one rooted in the façade of my own control.)

Because of were I long to be with Christ (glorifying Him more and more), I have been analyzing and re-analyzing myself, focusing on how I’m doing with Christ, where I’m slipping up, where I need to be stronger, and where I’m deem myself doing ‘okay’. Yet, I have been convicted of this wrongful focus in my spiritual life. I believe it to be self-centered. My relationship with Christ is not a self-improvement program. The focus is Jesus, only Jesus, and always Jesus. My personal responsibility is to not fix myself up (for I ultimately cannot change myself), but to simply gaze continually on Christ.

Be rightly related to God, find your joy there, and out of you will flow rivers of living water. Be a centre for Jesus Christ to pour living water through. Stop being self- conscious, stop being a sanctified prig, and live the life hid with Christ. The life that is rightly related to God is as natural as breathing wherever it goes. The lives that have been of most blessing to you are those who were unconscious of it.” (Chambers).

My prayer is to become drastically less self-conscious. – Whether I see myself as wonderfully sanctified or an unworthy failure, this is wrong focus. I am not here even to judge myself (*See Right; 1 Cor. 4:3-4).

[And by self-conscious, Oswald and I mean being “caught up with the shows of things”. For me, this means continually analyzing my spiritual life, how I am doing, how I am coming across to others in every interaction- basically focusing on my performance.]

I long to be so focused in, engulfed in, and fixed on the person and God of Jesus Christ, that I am not looking around horizontally or trying to walk towards Christ while staring inward at myself. (I am a terrible walker anyway (it’s never in a straight line, even when I’m staring straight ahead.) So I can only imagine how off course I’d get and how many times I’d fall down if my head was staring at my own self while walking forward.- Yet this is sort of how I’ve been feeling my spiritual walk has been going.)

A Second Surrender

In addition to the surrender of my will, I must secondly give up the (again perceived) right to myself.

à I own nothing about myself. I am in control of nothing. It’s because of God that I’m here, breathing, walking, thinking, talking, going to class, taking tests, etc. If I know that I can’t heal my body by myself, I can’t make my brain focus on homework, I can’t cause myself to understand what’s being taught in class, then what makes me think I can control anything else in my life; i.e. how I effect those around me (for that depends on how they receive me), where I ultimately end up in life, how much I grow in the Lord, etc.? Yes, I can tangibly make myself do things, but even that ability does not come from me but from something bigger. Therefore, I am fighting a useless war within myself. I have not set this war in motion, nor can I finish it. I cannot win victories - or even cause losses for that matter!


How do I know this? Because Psalm 50:9-15, [God speaking]

            I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it…
I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”
Does God need me and my efforts in order to accomplish what He wants to in my life or in the world? NO! Not at ALL! He is not relying on the hope that I will do this or that. If He wants something done, He does not come to me and beg me to get out of bed and complete the task. As a dear friend tells me all the time, “God ain’t fallin off His throne!!!” He ain’t slippin’, worried about what I’m going to do down here and if I’m gonna mess it all up! Noooooo no nooo no no.  

Though I have the responsibility of responding to God, to His leading and correction in my life, ultimately I, and what I do, do not matter. LIFE IS NOT ABOUT ME. (An anthem I wish somehow would yell at me every morning when I wake up, throughout every day, and every night before I go to bed.)

Again, how can I trust this? Because Daniel 4:35 as well,

All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?

This is incredible, and kind of terrifying. If I have a right view of God, then this is scary, because I know how powerful He is. But in the same way, if I have a correct view of Him, I actually have unbelievable peace from this verse, for I know that He is a God who is defined by love, justice, kindness, mercy, compassion, understanding, patience- and these attributes are unconditional, eternal, and boundless. I know He has my ultimate best interest in mind, and I know from experience that often, though I think I do, where I am headed would end up in my own catastrophe. So, knowing all these things and knowing that NOTHING is going to stop Him from doin’ what HE wants- I can and should lay all my burdens and pressures and responsibilities at His feet! And this is beautiful!

(This is where I shake my head and sigh again, because if I actually lived a life like I believed the truths I claim I do, I would live in such joyous freedom!)

God has taken full responsibility for MY life, my well-being, my encouragement, my effectiveness, my protection, and my growth. He has left nothing in anyone else’s control. This is so sweet to my concerned and tired heart…
And He is not a passive, irresponsible, or slow God. No, “Our God comes and will not be silent” (Ps. 50:3). He is always working, and working powerfully. Why else would He be waiting to return? There is no wasted time with Jesus Christ.

Yeah, So?

SO what does this mean for me right now?

It means that my worry is not needed. It means the pressures and responsibilities I feel are on my own shoulders, are actually on God’s. And if I would stop trying to take them back and control these things, then I could let God be God, and let me be me. I was not made to run the universe, to save it, or even run and save my own life. I was made to love and be loved. Let me not try to live in a role that I was not created to fill. That will most definitely cause a conflict in my will and a struggle in my walk. If I let go of the little God I held in my own hand, then the God who holds me in His hand can be all that He is supposed to be in my life. Then, I will be delighted in Him. And when I delight myself in the Lord, he promises to give me the desires of my heart (Psalm 37:4). Then I can’t be confident that I will receive in true and pure motives, motives that are glorifying to Christ- and very effective.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


So, I've had this question in the back of my mind for awhile now and am still working on its answer (maybe I always will be). I've been asking, why does God love me? How is this possible?

I have walked through feeling guilty because I have something that I don't deserve. I see this as shameful, for that is how the world sees it. For example, if a kid does nothing to earn it, but inherits his family's billions and continues to squander it to the last penny- he is hated! That is not a noble or respectable or even an acceptable thing.

Yet, this is like me and God's love. He's given it to me freely, without judgment or hesitation, and I have done absolutely nothing to deserve it. And more often than not, I waste it and take it for granted.

I would at least feel a little better if God acknowledged how much I don't deserve it, and gave it to me while judging me and making sure I knew that I did't deserve it. But He doesn't. He gives freely, generously, without even looking at who I really am apart from Him. He looks at me, and only sees a holy, righteous saint, because He sees me as He sees His own Son, Christ Jesus (Colossians 3:12).

So, in my heart I have been secretly asking: how can I make myself worthy of this??
In the world I grew up in, it says one must be worthy of something great, especially love. We are to get what we deserve. We don't go around loving the people who slandered us, or gossiped about us, or treat us like we're dirt. No, the world says things that are worthy of love are things (people) that are beautiful, kind, rich, intelligent, talented, etc. But nowhere in our culture does it say love the child who inherited billions and squandered it, or the selfish person who can't think beyond their own world or wants, or the prideful person who can't pass up an opportunity to put others down and lift his or her own self up. Those are not the people we deem worthy of loving, worthy of spending time with, worthy of even liking.

Yet, the people I just described are all me. I am that person, who is proud, who is selfish, who squanders all good things. And yet, Christ loves me. Better yet- He LIKES me!! Zephaniah 3:17 tells me that God delights in ME, and is continuously singing over me! (Or as I like to think, He's singing with me :) 'cus ya know, you can never pass up a good song.)

So naturally, if I am to believe what this book called the Bible is telling me, it makes me question. Things don't add up. So which side is misunderstanding? Is God - the eternal, all-knowing, all-wise, Creator of all (and MY) life - misunderstanding who I am, or am I misunderstanding who God is, and His love for me?

This is a page from my journal as I attempt farther to understand these things...

Friday, July 24, 2015

Diagnosed with an Unexpected Love

I've known for awhile, but I confess, I am deeply attracted to suffering. But, my question is... why?

  • In 5th grade we had an assignment to write a book. My friends wrote about fun, exciting, princess/adventures things. My story was about a girl whose parents were fighting. She was so distraught one day she ran away to the ocean. She spent the night by the sea, then decided to return home and the conflict was resolved and they lived together again. The teacher had to talk to my parents and see if there was brokenness in the home that was coming through. There wasn’t. I just liked the story.
  • In 7th grade my class took a trip to D.C. One afternoon we spent at the Holocaust museum. My teacher had to actually take me away from watching the videos/photos of the concentration camps because I had been there too long ‘for my own good’.
  •  Last fall especially, I dreamed often about being raped or murdered, or both.
  •  I had a dream this year about my sister and I being hunted by a serial killer. We were both shot, but we did survive in the end.
  • I had a dream where I was stranded in the middle of the ocean by my tour guides while shark diving, and had to spend the night in the terror of isolation while predators I couldn’t see slammed against my legs.
  • I had a dream where I was martyred in Chicago; a terrorist strapped me to the bombs he had strung across the building.
  • Multiple other dreams of being shot, stabbed, tortured, my family being killed, etc.
  • All my optional-topic papers this year were written on suicide.
  • In middle school I contemplated running away just to have a hard, somewhat scary, experience
  • I like having a terminal illness
  • I love hospitals
  • We had a persecution simulation here on project, and I wanted more abuse (for me, not others) just so I could feel it more.
  • I loved experiencing the slums/poverty of Haiti for 4 weeks last summer

I am passionate about pain and death. I enjoy thinking about it. It is a great interest of mine. (I don't want to be institutionalized.)

I’ve been trying to crack that question for awhile; an answer more than “God made me that way”.

*Possible answer to why I want to suffer more: I’ve had a little taste of sacrificing for my Lord, and it’s left me with an insatiable desire to do so more.

            *I do ask to suffer more, I have asked before. (I even dream about it, if you couldn’t tell haha.)

Okay, so what do I like about suffering?:
  • There’s no b.s.. We’re all the same when we’re in deep pain. We cut the crap of life.
  •   There’s, once again, deep meaning and worth in life. No flaky, boring, everyday, mundane, fluffy-ness. Suddenly everything matters. I love that.
  • People stop judging and start caring. People get over themselves and think about life being bigger than satisfying their own pleasures.
  • God meets me there. I have never felt so loved, understood by, or close to God as I have in the midst of terrible pain. I learned dependence on Him. I learn just a step more of what the cross meant. I get a glimpse of the beauty of the Man of Sorrows.

There is so much beauty in suffering.

  • I was worshipping in a church in Haiti one time. Those people worshipped SO powerfully, it moved me. My mom commented on how there’s not enough need/suffering in the U.S. for us to worship like that.
  • I want to experience that deep pain because that makes God more real. I want to experience an underground, illegal house church because those people had to sacrifice a lot to even be there (safety, comfort, friends, family, etc.). They do this because they understand who God is and that He’s worthy. God means so much more to them because He’s needed so much more. I want a passion for God so strong, born out of a need so deep.

There’s so much beauty in pain.
  • God’s love and goodness is magnified when brokenness and despair are increased. The deeper more intense pain shines an even brighter spotlight on His beauty and love.
  • Suffering is an honor because it’s an opportunity to show my love for Christ. Suffering glorifies Him. Why? Because it magnifies His grace and love. It demonstrates His power. If this is true, and I believe it is, then let me suffer MORE.
  • (James 1) Trials produce perseverance which produces maturity, completeness, and wisdom.
  • I love wisdom and understanding. I feel like there is so much wisdom in suffering because you shake off childish ways, ignorance, carelessness, surface-leveled-ness, and you begin to see depth and understand life more. You begin to question things like why you’re even alive, what you’re living for, etc. Things I think need to be questioned.
  • It gives a compassion; a stepping out of yourself and your own world. A love that comes with meaning and depth.
  • I am fascinated with suffering. Because it is something seemingly so terrible, yet by far has been the best part of my life. Not because it made me the most delighted, comfortable, or safe- but rather because it has taught me, imparted wisdom on me, grown a character and perseverance within me, grown a compassion for others, and made me question and find what I’m living for and why. I love suffering because it has pushed me off the cliff of my own safe little world, thrusting me into a deepness and darkness that hurts, but I love so much.
  • Why do we think the best things in this world are those which immediately make us feel good? Do we not have patience or understanding enough to wait for deep beauty? To see true value?
  • I think some people really are happy/content living at the surface. But they miss out on the unexplainable beauty of the reef and world below the waves. Venturing even farther, one must face fear and pain to go into the darkness and depths of the ocean. Yet, those who do experience and see the most amazing things, things that are so beautiful, and strike awe within us. Things that actually make us shut up and see the world around us. Things that are rare; are beautiful. Deeply meaningful, valuable, priceless things aren’t found with ease, nor are deep, meaningful lives lived in the safety of pure happiness with no risks or pain.
  • I’ve found priceless companionship in suffering. I have found the One who never leaves and always understands.

I love suffering because it has pushed me into these depths where I see things I never would have even imagined on the surface. I see more clearly the face of God, because I’m looking at my own less. Because, for once, I am NOT ENOUGH; to survive I’ll need something greater than myself. I can’t carry myself through deep pain.

I love suffering because somehow this almighty God has turned something terrible into something deeply valuable, that even blesses me.

I love suffering because of, and only because of,  who God is.