“Let my pain reveal your glory as my only real rest.”
These lyrics hit me over the head 3 summers ago while I was working as a nanny in Mexico. Bent over the kitchen sink weeping, the Lord met me in these words at the time I needed it most. At the time, I had been sure that I had made a mistake. Quitting a job I hated for a 3 month unpaid stint in a different country seemed like a good idea for my circumstances, but 2 weeks in, I was no less depressed than I had been in Ohio. No amount of objectively ‘selfless’ work could take away the anxiety that I was wasting my life and the gnawing feeling that at any moment Jesus was going to jump out from behind a wall and tell me that I had been punk’d.
“Did you really think I would choose you?”
I was exhausted. Feeling alone with children who treated me more like the beginning of the Sound of Music than the end (sitting on a pine cone instead of “there’s a strange sort of clanging…”) and comparing myself and my work to everyone around me. I indulged panicked fantasies where the parents sat me down and told me they were sending me back to the States early. Every day I resolved to work harder and better. That was surely the source of my stress. I just wasn’t doing enough. If I could only be the best care taker for these girls they would love me and I would be happy. If I could only remember the Spanish course I tested out of at Wright State, I would have a better grasp on the language and wouldn't be so fearful of making a fool of myself and then I would be happy. If I could just make it to my day off, I would have time to myself and then I would be happy.
If I could just, if I could just , if I could just.
But the thing was, when I got those things, I wasn’t happy. Feeling more confident with native speakers only highlighted the better Spanish speaking Americans around me. The girls growing fonder of me only made it worse when I made a mistake. Time alone wasn’t restful.
That’s where the song found me.
It was one of those rare moments when the house was empty apart from a napping baby, and I, believing the lie that I would immediately be deemed a failure and sent home if I were ever discovered with idle hands, started doing the dishes.
“I have lost my appetite and a flood is welling up behind my eyes”
The song came on shuffle. I had heard it before at a church in Cincinnati, so I began to sing along.
It was that moment when you empirically know something, but it begins to drop to your heart and becomes existentially true in your heart.
Unlearning the mainstream western attitude of “everything is fine, I can do this myself” that permeated the culture and church I grew up in has been a long journey, and one that I am still very much on. But I can point to that moment when I bent over the sink in Monterrey and began to weep as the beginning of the Lord removing that root in my heart.
I was devastated by my own neglect of my creator. In all the time I had spent wishing for rest or joy or satisfaction, not once had I looked to the true source of all good things.
“As a deer pants for water, so my soul thirsts for You”
I had been spiritually malnourished and didn’t seek spiritual food. Dehydrated and dying in a desert, while the fountain of life and love and joy was in front of me. The very thing I was seeking was God himself, offered freely to me, without payment.
All the frustration and anger that had built up in my heart toward my circumstances were symptoms of pride and a desire for power that blinded me to my need of Jesus. Instead of letting my pain point me to the only one who sympathizes perfectly, I absorbed it, let it take root and grow into a tree of bitterness.
The way the Lord worked in my heart that day was pure grace. If it had been from my own flesh, I would have taken this conviction and concluded that I had to work harder at loving God. But he was tender with me.
“I can remember when you showed your Grace to me”
This is not to say that magically my summer became easy and joy wasn’t a battle. That’s not reality. That’s not the life that Jesus promises us. If anything, things got harder and more complicated. Not just that summer, but in the following years and to this day, my walk with Jesus reveals new sin in my life with each passing day. New things that I didn’t ever realize were sin become vengeful monsters in my heart that war against my desire for Christlikeness. But He doesn’t abandon me. He hasn’t revealed the roots of jealousy and lust and rage and left me to deal with them on my own. That is what I can hope in. He walks with me and reminds me, shows me in my weakness that he is better than the things that I want in the world.. He himself is the source of joy. He gives us himself, not just temporary and dying things.
“I am satisfied in You”
Like I said, that moment when God brought me low to reveal himself as my only true joy was just the beginning of this journey. It is still a struggle. It would be a sin to post this or stand in front of you on Sunday and pretend that my sanctification is complete. I was convicted of this the other day when someone who is new to Refuge stopped me outside of church and told me that this very song had resonated with them.
I know this song. I sing it to myself almost every day. But in my pride I had forgotten that day in 2013 when it meant everything to me. I had foolishly let myself believe that I had gotten past or moved on from the truth of the gospel in the song. As if I am still not constantly in need of my savior. As if he would ever bring me to a place where I didn’t need him. As if that were possible.
I am still drowning out at sea. The lies I believe about myself (that God views me more as an underperforming employee than a beloved child, that I was saved by grace, but am being sanctified by my own power) can only be combated with the truth that his love is not earned and his salvation is all satisfying. He is gracious to me, even in my disbelief. Hallelujah, what a good God we serve!
I need your help in this. We all need to hold each other accountable to fighting pride with humility and jealousy and anxiety with satisfaction. These songs that we sing on Sunday aren’t just the ones with the catchiest tune, or the most popular for the time. They are the songs that are theologically rich and biblically true and communicate the gospel in a way that I pray stirs your affection for Jesus. Worship isn’t just music. It is an attitude and lifestyle that is expressed and encouraged by the songs we sing on sunday. We can’t sing Satisfied in You together on Sunday and not be honest with each other about our struggles. That’s not worship. Depression and anxiety and anger are realities of our sinful fallen world. We need help, from each other and ultimately the Spirit, to strive for satisfaction. Not satisfaction in our circumstances-- our job, our relationships, our money-- but in Christ alone. He is the only one big enough, powerful enough, eternal enough to satisfy our big, powerful, eternal longing.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul,
And why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
My salvation and my God.”