My head is down. How can it not be? I am walking through brambles and every single step threatens my upright position. To fall would mean not only gashes but further entanglement. I keep my eyes on my feet.
There is no way out of this thorny brush except by going forward. Diligently I wrench each foot up, pulling free of the mess and setting it down ahead, only to be caught again as I wrestle the other foot up and out.
The thorns dig into my ankles. The scratches itch and burn. When I look closely I see trickles of blood running into my socks.
Sometimes I stop. I stand still and just breathe. A single wet line trickles from my hair into the corner of my eye. The sweat burns. I wonder if my eyes are tearing from the pain or if I am crying. I am so exhausted I don’t know any more.
I look ahead. Nothing but the same. More and more brambles. No path. Impossible. Hope trembles. My resolve wavers and I think it might be time to just sit down in the thorns and give up.
Sometimes into a life comes a big obstacle. And sometimes a full set.
Some obstacles are of our own making. Some are thrust upon us.
It doesn't really matter where they come from. What matters is what you do with them. What you do about them.
Last week I spent a few hours with a far-away friend I rarely see. You know how it is when you are in the presence of someone who just understands? Someone who loves the Lord like you do and is steadily abandoning her ideas of how life should be, to relax deeper and deeper into His will?
My friend gets it. She has counted the cost. She understands that when you give your life over to His plan, it is not going to look how you expected. It does not mean life will get easy. It may even mean that suffering and sacrifice fall immediately on your head.
But she has lived the joy, has eaten the fruit of a life lived poured out. She has counted the cost and found it worthwhile.
My friend has much joy in her life. And she also has an impossible situation. A deeply difficult and painful situation, over which she has little control.
On January 1 she picked up a bracelet and put it on her wrist. It says “God is Big Enough.” She is believing that and praying that over her impossible situation, every single day of 2015.
When she shared this with me last week, the happy chatter and distraction of children prevented me from responding fully. Not that I could have, as I felt like my soul was gasping for breath.
God is big enough.
God is big enough.
Even for my brambles.
My calculations say that we are sinking, sinking - drowning in a joblessness that is going to suck the very life from us.
But truth says God is big enough to provide.
My eyes see people constantly misunderstanding, seemingly determined to believe the worst of each other, the worst of me, no matter what I do or say.
But truth says God is big enough to restore.
My ears hear whispers of self-accusation: “If only you had…” If only you were more….” “You shouldn't…"
But truth says God is big enough for my failings.
My body is filled with pain, with solutions for each pain causing greater pain elsewhere.
But truth says God is big enough to heal.
Why is suffering so intricately woven into the journey of faith? Great men and women of the ages have asked this and debated the answer. I don’t know. I just know that the result can go two ways.
I can suffer and harden.
Or I can suffer and be laid bare.
Because of Jesus, and only because of Him, suffering and being laid bare is where I journey. The pain strips me of myself. Drops me to my knees. I fall before Him, on Him.
He is big enough to hold me up.
All the brambles of the earth shrivel before the thorny cross on my Savior’s brow.
Sometimes He seems to take up holy pruning shears and just snips those wretched vines from my ankles. Makes a path straight out of the forest into the sunshine. He is a God of miracles.
Other times He patiently holds my hand as I do the hard work of walking up and out. The slow hard work. He is a God Who is present and gives strength.
I have no idea how He will make a way out of this mess of messes. But I know He is big enough.
God is big enough.