Last week my wife and I had some pictures taken of us and our dogs, Rupert & Finley. Within hours of posting the pictures to social media we had hundreds of ‘likes’ and comments. The pictures mostly contained us holding one another, smiling & laughing together, and our goofy, tiny dogs, excitedly looking at the camera. The pictures give a small glimpse into our lives, and the comments left behind confirm what we are presenting: our life/relationship is perfect! Or, that’s what some suggest we are trying to present to people.
For some people the life we (this is a collective “we,” not just Katie and I) present on social media isn’t our real life. We present only the nice aspects that we want others to see, hiding the negative & ugly bits that we would prefer no one knew about. Lots has been written on this as of late. Social media is kind of like the young person’s bedroom whose parents forced them to hastily clean it before family arrives: everything is simply thrown under the bed and into the closet, so what’s presented is nice & clean, but in reality there is a mess lurking under the surface.
So Katie and I present the ideal version of our life to the world through Facebook. We post pictures of us smiling & holding each other, we post stories of the goofy things the other does and how we are hopelessly in love with them because of it, we share our successes and victories, all while perfectly humblebragging. Nobody gets to see the ‘ugly side’ of our life.
Well, except, that’s just not entirely true. I think most people can easily enough guess that our life isn’t perfect. However, you don’t need to guess. We are open & upfront with our struggles in life – we are especially so with our faith community. We are honest about our losses & grief, our despair, and even anguish, so that others can surround us in those times and support us, care for us, and pray for us.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]It’s who we are, because it’s what we’ve asked God to make us into.[/pullquote]
Over the past 10 months we have had more downs than ups. We have gone through three miscarriages. Katie’s best friend passed away just as they were beginning to really build their friendship again. We said goodbye to a beautiful 14 year old girl who had cancer (she kicked cancer’s butt, by the way). We’ve had our garage broken into, our car smashed in a hit & run on our street, and somebody just attempted to set or garage on fire three days ago – all in a community we try to love & serve. There’s been plenty of other ‘downs’ as well. It’s been, at times, an exhausting 10 months.
Yet we present ourselves as smiling, laughing, loving each other, holding on to each other, full of peace, happiness, and joy … because we are. This is who we are in the midst of good and bad. It’s who we are, because it’s what we’ve asked God to make us into. I’ve come to understand long ago that God is at work in all things. I don’t fully understand the topics of pain & suffering – I don’t have all the answers when it comes to questions like, “If there’s truly a loving & caring God, then why is there suffering?” But I do know that if we turn to God in these times, yes even turn to Him with thanksgiving in times of loss & grief, He will work in us, and He will even work through us.
I know because that is what has happened. Don’t get me wrong – lament certainly has its place (there’s a reason there is an entire book of the Bible named after it). Many times the past 10 months we have cried out and asked “why?” and felt angry, perhaps even bitter. But we’ve also made a conscious decision to do our best to give thanks to God for His unending love, to give our grief to Him in prayer, and allow Him to work in us through our pain. Numerous times over the past 10 months we have been filled with an inexplicable peace even while at the same time experiencing anguish.
Hebrews 5:7-9 says:
While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.
Yes, Jesus, the Son of God, cried out to God to be rescued – just like we have at times! Through His experiences of suffering it says that Jesus learned obedience. God worked in Him, and obviously through Him. While we might not (ok, definitely won’t!) become saviours of the world, our response & honesty might just let others get a glimpse of the Saviour of the world and His goodness.
No, things aren’t perfect in our life, but that’s not the picture we’re trying to present. We’re presenting who we are: followers of Jesus, who are filled with His hope, peace, and joy through the good & bad of life. There is nothing being swept under the rug (or stuffed under the bed). Our life is messy, unpredictable, and at more times than we may like, it is painful. Yet through it all we can honestly say that God is good, and His love endures forever. That’s true for our life, and that’s true for yours.