“I don’t want to go back to Ottawa.”
This is what I told Steve the Wednesday we started our long journey back to Farnham from Capernwray Hall. These intense feelings of depression seemed to hit me as we sat at Carnforth train station under a dark and gloomy English sky. I didn’t want to move to England, but I didn’t want to go back home. I didn’t want to be on vacation forever, I just didn’t want to be anything in those moments.
It seems to be that I write mostly about the dreary and sad things, the bad things, and the areas I’ve fallen short in, in my life. I guess writing for me is therapeutic, a powerful way in which I can work through and reflect on this “stuff” and see God faithfully walking by my side through it all. I love to look on the difficult life stuff and see how God redeems it and refines me through my circumstances – I see His power that enables me to be an overcomer. When write, I do feel God speaks to me about His faithfulness and I feel Him gently ministering to me as I write and remember my struggles and His grace. And this circumstance is no different.
I love life. I love that God has drawn me ever closer to Himself in this last year. I’ve never felt so close to Him, so desiring to pursue Him, to be curious and active in my openness about my faith to neighbors and strangers. My trust in God has grown immensely. I trust in who He declares me to be. I run to Him when I feel my world crumbling, and I rest in His comforting presence. Yet in the midst of all this, I’ve also had struggles with being in want, particularly in the area of friendships. Ever since getting married, friendships have changed, dissolved, come and gone. While I have rejoiced at God’s amazing blessings, provisions and presence, oftentimes the situations and circumstances in which I have found myself, will draw my thoughts and eyes away from looking to my trustworthy Shepherd, and living focused on what I think I’m lacking – namely in the area of kindred spirits, soul friends.
As I peruse social media, time after time I get misled into believing I am lacking relationally. I then wonder if it’s a reflection on me – am I giving enough? Have I been selfish in my relationships lately? Have I been stingy in pouring myself out to everyone around me? Am I too demanding in what I want out of my friendships? Am I too self-focused? Do my friends actually care about me? And down down down the spiral of self-pity and sadness. Hence the feelings of reluctance to return home. What am I coming home to? Some of my good friends don’t even live in Ottawa. And while I know I have very good friends in Ottawa, sometimes I still feel that wanting, that longing for more and more deep relationships – again, those soul friends.
I feel like I sound needy? But I’ve heard time and time again from people around me, similar feelings I’ve felt – forgotten, lonely, uncared for, etc. I do have a husband. I have very caring family. And I do have a soul friend who’s just moved here over a year ago now, as well as a friend who has come to be a kindred spirit in these struggles. And yet the want still lingers from time to time.
As I sat on that cold bench at Carnforth station, feeling rather depressed and on the verge of tears, God brought to my mind Psalm 23. And I looked to Him and asked: “Why am I still hungering? If You are my Shepherd, and I shall not want, what is it that I am still longing for?” He satisfied that answer by finishing the Psalm for me which spoke to me in this way: “Allow yourself to be led, to be led to find rest in your Shepherd’s presence and being. And you can do that in appreciating the blessings and grace, and giving thanks.” It became apparent that giving thanks isn’t something I believe works. In the sense that I didn’t believe it would change anything in me. So I didn’t want to do it. But I tried it. I thought back to my Thanksgiving thoughts on Joy and gratitude, and decided to see if appreciating the friendships I did have would bring me Joy.
And in fact it did. Granted I had also reached out to some people for prayer as I struggled in those moments, and I believe God graciously answered their intercessions on my behalf. He gave me space to really appreciate some of the good friends in my life, and as I did, I felt His peace and a rush of joy fill my tired, wearied soul. The tears and sad thoughts that sat on the edge of my eyes retreated back, and I felt God’s kindness bring rest to my troubled heart.
“Godliness with contentment is great gain.” One of my husband’s favorite verses. Those words ring true – gratitude is a valuable and powerful practice. It syncs us up with God’s heart, as it reminds us of His provision, His faithfulness, the magnitude of His grace and the abundance He has actually poured out on us. And in truth, I know that my longings in life are really longings for Christ (I came really accept this about two months ago). But even in this realization that Christ is the ultimate answer to our pains and longings, it does not negate the fact that these moments of pain will come again. I will still struggle with contentment, perhaps less and less, but I’ll still struggle. I’m perfectly okay with that, because struggle and hardships are openings to draw deeper into relationship with Christ. No one realizes that Christ is the answer to their longings by simply being told that – but God allows us to experience the satisfying reality of Christ as we struggle, and learn to run to Him. However, these painful moments of “lacking” will now remind me to spend time drawing closer to God, and appreciating the people who are in my life, to make time to encourage them, and check in on them.
I’m guilty of being so preoccupied with myself and my own goals that I forget to tend to the community of friends who have just as much need. Not to say that you shouldn’t care for your needs, or that your social-relational needs aren’t valid or real. But what has immensely helped my aching heart in these moments is allowing myself to be comforted in God’s presence. I’ve learned to accept that He does care, and that He does want to comfort, and to just rest in that – to be with Him and pour out my pains and struggles before Him, and then to allow myself to be comforted. Taking God at His word, and learning to accept His promises in tough emotional moments have done a lot of good for this restless soul.