“There is great joy in serving Jesus.” I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard this statement. I’ve even said it many times myself. And deep down, I know it to be true, which is why I’ve had such a hard time reconciling the feelings of stress and overwhelm swirling within me over the past months. After all, I’m serving Jesus to the best of my ability. I am doing all that I know to do to live for and honor Him. So, why am I not basking in joy? Why am I struggling to find my song?
As I poured out my heart to God about this, I felt so ashamed. I thought of how many Christians are serving in horrible places and dreadful conditions, yet they praise the Lord with every breath. Here I am with more blessings than I can count, yet I can’t seem to ease the ache within my soul. I feel so alone, so out of place. Some days, it seems as if the task of deputation is far more than my body and mind can take. I long for the peace of God to overflow in my heart and life. I crave the joy I know can only be found in Christ. To quote a line from a song, “I want to believe there’s beauty here.” Yet, I weep in the in-between moments when I finally have a chance to stop and catch my breath. When I can lay down all the masks and costumes of “the good Christian girl who has it all together” and just be me. The real me. The confused me. The disheartened me. The shamed me.
I know it’s a privilege to serve the Lord, and I count it as an honor that God would use me. So, why, at this point in my life, doesn’t it feel like a privilege? Why does it feel like a trial? Why is it causing anxiety and stress instead of peace and joy? And what kind of lousy Christian must I be to feel this way?
I’m happy to say God met my questions with some powerful verses that opened my eyes to some precious truths. While there is joy in serving the Lord, that does not mean we will always be happy with where He leads us. In fact, sometimes, we’ll be heartbroken and afraid. . .just like Jesus was. Yes, Jesus. He came to this earth to do His Father’s will. He knew He would have to die for our sins. He knew the price He would have to pay, and He was more than willing to do it. But that doesn’t mean He wanted to go through it. He prayed the cup would pass from Him.
And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. - Matthew 26:39
And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. - Luke 22:41-44
Praying. Pleading. Sweating blood. If this isn’t a picture of someone who is dreading an upcoming season of life, I don’t know what is. On the one hand, Jesus wanted to do the Father’s will. On the other, He didn’t want to face such cruel agony. To quote another song, “His humanity cried, ‘Lord, any other way.’ His divinity rose up and said, ‘This price I have to pay.’” And if those two passages don’t paint a vivid enough picture, check out what Hebrews says.
Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; - Hebrews 5:7-9
Did you catch that? Strong crying. Tears. Fear. Oh, that sounds so familiar. Jesus, in the center of God’s will, cried out to His Father. He felt overwhelmed by the task to which He had been called. I see no joy or peace in these verses, only fear and anguish. I see Jesus being obedient but not jumping up and down for joy at the prospect. I see an example that makes me feel less ashamed, less like the worst Christian in the history of Christianity. I see Jesus as a man. A man with emotions. A man living in the nasty now and now and deciding to keep serving whether or not He feels like it. I see a man desperate for different circumstances, for a change of heart and attitude. I see someone seeking for joy amid a less than joyful situation. I see myself. . . and I smile.
Jesus has been right here. He’s walked in my shoes. He’s felt my pain. He understands the tears I shed in secret and my seemingly fruitless search for joy and peace in my ever-changing life. He can relate to my roiling emotions and aching heart. And through His Word, He’s reminded me that it’s okay. He’s shown me that while there is joy in serving the Lord, there’s also suffering. At first, that doesn’t seem like much of a comfort, but if we know the truth of that going in, we’ll feel less disappointed and desperate. We’ll feel less alone in our struggles. When we realize that even Jesus Himself dealt with fear and the sense of overwhelm, it helps us know that we’re not as “off track” as we thought we were as long as we continue to follow Jesus’ example and be obedient. And if you’ll look back at that passage in Hebrews, it tells us that Jesus learned obedience through suffering.
My life right now may not be all that I hoped and imagined it would be, but through it all, God is teaching me to be obedient. He is showing me how to put His will above my own, to set His purposes before my peace. And in the midst of it all, He’s reminding me I’m never, ever alone, and I don’t have to hide my pain. I can be honest with Him because He knows what I’m feeling anyway. There is a brighter day coming, but in the meantime, I find comfort in knowing I can be myself, and that myself is not such a bad thing after all.