I haven’t been alone for months — like really alone. Driving to Target or filling up gas or transporting groceries from the car to the fridge kind of alone doesn’t count. I haven’t been away from the noise, chaos, and needs of little children in so long. Now that I’m here, alone, I can’t stop crying. If my tears had words I would tell you that I feel loss and lost. I feel the pounding noise of my failures, I feel the ache from absent friendships, I feel anxious about money. My heart feels crowded but vacant. So often our souls don’t intersect with other souls, and we slowly feel translucent and thin. Our true thoughts and feelings don’t find a landing place with other people or God, and we walk desperately alone.
Life has been incredibly hard. Every inch of me is jam packed with responsibilities, agendas, managing schedules and people. The weight is crushing me. This is my story, but it’s yours too. Everyone is busy. Everyone is overwhelmed, stressed, and spinning.
We all have our lists, don’t we? We are all on escalators, briefly passing each other with a wink and a wave as we scurry onto our next destination. We see each other at church or at the store, and we ramble off our lists, perhaps secretly wanting affirmation or empathy for our list (that is obviously longer and harder than the other person’s). We can’t even keep up with the lives we have created.
What do we do when life is hard? The natural response I hear is to say “no” more. We live in a culture where balance is praised and mile high boundaries are drawn. So often we expect an easy life. We live for vacation, relaxation, fewer expectations on us and fewer responsibilities. When life gets too full or unmanageable, we look for an exit. We want a way out. In many cases, we are overcommitted. We take on more than we ought to. Our priorities get out of place and we need to readjust and refocus. Rest and sabbath have lost their value and need to nudge their way back into the rhythm of our lives.
But what happens when we can’t cut things out of our lives? Things like motherhood or work or messy people or bills or illness or a church that doesn’t do what it should. What do we do when we can’t take a break from a sick child or a painful marriage? What happens when we can’t say “no” to a friend in need or taking care of aging parents? What do we do when love means saying “yes” and showing up even when we are dying inside? How do we interpret what “hard” means?
I’m learning what hard does not mean. It doesn’t always mean to quit. Anytime life gets really hard, I’m tempted to run. I look online for another job. I think about giving up on a relationship. I’m tempted to go away for the holidays or move to the middle of nowhere and start over (someplace pretty and sunny where no problems exist).
Hard also doesn’t mean I’m failing. It’s easy to equate hard to failure, but it may not be the case. Our commitments are truly daunting and crushing. Hard doesn’t mean I’m awful or incapable. It just means what I’m going through is, in fact, really difficult. That’s it.
Hard means you are a human. The hard in our lives is our cross to carry. We don’t need to “get rid” of the hard, avoid it, or fix it away. We need to carry it. We need to remember that in all things God carries us. He holds our heavy load, our icky wound, our broken spirit, and yes, our cross. So minute by minute, we accept that we were each given a unique cross to carry, and we carry it with courage because that’s what love does. We hold onto the greatest hope of all: we never walk alone. Hard ushers us to Christ and to our continual need for Him.
When our hard intersects with the hard that Christ carried on the cross, we find communion. We find refuge. We find wisdom to guide us in our understanding of how to rest, find release and reprieve from the hard in our stories. In the most unusual way possible, our hard actually becomes our offering. Everything we’ve picked up along the way, we get to lay down. Every hardship, every pain, loss, grief, burden — we relinquish back to God. And our hard becomes our holy.
May we hold onto the greatest hope of all: we never walk alone. - Anjuli Paschall: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
You nailed it! GREAT great great – your writing is beautiful and relateable and touched my heart. Thank you for crafting and sharing!
Oretha Pretlow says
My work is exhausting my energy. I was going through dozens of emails and texts that never seem to end with some resolution.
I am trying to sell a house and be done before the holidays begin, not!
I feel like such a failure. I had not been able to spend the quiet part of the morning, reading, praying, listening to God.
Then there was this reflection.. . . and the words “hard becomes our holy.”
I so needed that! Thank you for saying that.
Emily B. says
Yes, Oretha, yes! I too have lost the morning devotion and quiet time that I so desperately need. Thank you, both of you, for this reminder that I’m not alone. I tend to think that the fact that I’m busy must be my fault, because I took on too much and now I’m paying for it. Thank you for reminding me that sometimes the hard is unavoidable, even if the hard isn’t someone else’s problem. I’ll be pr
Emily B. says
-praying for all of us.
Oretha, thanks for sharing! You certainly do have a lot going on. Bless you! I hope you get a quiet morning to be still and stay in the presence of God’s love for you.
Leslie Newman says
Thank you for this, Anjuli. Such beautiful words, so encouraging, and much needed reminders about how we never walk alone in our hardships. I needed this today!
I’m so glad grateful my words blessed and encouraged you. Thank you for sharing.
Michele Morin says
Whoa! The escalator image is overwhelmingly true, and I have painted myself into a busy corner this fall–all good things, but too many of them all at once. Thank you for encouraging words for riding out this season and doing better in the “no” department next time around. Thanks be to God, there is grace even for this!
Bless you as you navigate saying “no.” Thank you for sharing.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
“Our hard become our offering” and “Our hard becomes our holy.” Amen. My heart really resonated with your post. You hit me exactly where I am….I want to jump off the roller coaster but I’m too high up. I want chronic pain to end. I want life and responsibilities to slow down. I feel like everyone wants a piece of me and there’s nothing left to give….bone dry. I try to grab rest and offer gratitude in the small segments that come, but my heart craves an extended period of rest. I’m not sure where we get this idea that this life should be easy?? The Bible tells us distinctly, “In this world you WILL have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world.” I am beginning to take on a more eternal perspective. Not that I can’t have some small seasons of rest here on this earth, but it makes my heart homesick for heaven where there will be no more busyness, no heartache, no more strife, strain, trials, and struggle. It is then that we will truly be at rest and peace. Meanwhile, here on this earth I keep clinging to Christ and to God’s word to get me through. I look for snippets of grace and moments of rest and praise Him in those. It makes me appreciate the little things in the now and not long for the big vacation or the expanse of uneventful. Absolutely awesome post….you nailed it!
Your comments always end up encouraging me! Thank you for your honestly. You love Jesus. It is so clear to me how deeply you love Him. You breathe and seek to honor Him. Praying you can keep clinging to grace. Rest in grace. Always.
Karen Hall says
When I started reading this, I got half way through and had to look to see who wrote it. I was pleasantly surprised to see this is one of your writings. That first paragraph could have been about how I’ve felt for the past 6 months. Still waiting for that alone time. And yet, I have felt closer to God as He has been my source of constant peace.
Miss you all!
I miss you too!!!
Lewana Bell says
Thank you for this wonderful message! When the Hard in Our Lives Ushers Us to Christ! It’s so true! Your message was so encouraging, as I can completely connect of being a blessed mother of precious identical twin boys! Life is busy, but yet wonderfully fun an amazing! I am blessed and thankful that my plate is full! But, we all need time ALONE to reflect on Our Amazing Lord and Savior, so that our cup continues to overflow with His Love, Goodness, Mercy and Grace for ourselves and our loved ones! I need that time alone to reflect, rekindle, and connect with my amazing Lord God Almighty! I’m thankful to know that I’m not the only wife, mother, daughter, sister, niece, aunt , friend or Christian who walks in the busy shoes of Life, desperately seeking and needing some Alone time with my wonderful Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ the Lover of my Heart and Soul! It’s time for a “Me Trip” with my “wonderful Lord God Almighty”!
Love and Blessings,
You have twin boys! Bless you! Twin moms deserve extra crowns in heaven! I hope you find space to breathe and stay with God’s love for you. All the love.
I read this first thing this morning:
Peace. I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
And then I read your post. Thank-you so much for expressing so beautifully that no matter what hardship we face, or struggle we endure, God is with us.
Have a blessed day all,
Thank you for those verses. God’s word restores me.
Love your daily articles-would really like to see some on us old people. We are 95 and 84 and fighting shingles and heart problems. Don’t have the rushing schedule we used to have Kids have gone . No more rushing to work . Just loneliness
Becky Keife says
I’m so sorry for your loneliness. I’m sorry for your physical suffering as well. Those are such hard things to walk through.
I’m so grateful that you choose to spend time at the (in)courage table. I pray that even if our daily posts don’t mirror your daily life, the Lord will still use them to encourage your heart in His truth and grace.
This doesn’t necessarily speak to your particular struggles, but as I read your comment I thought of an article by Patricia Raybon, one of our more “seasoned” sisters and (in)courage contributors. I hope it is a blessing to you as it was to me. https://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2018/may/your-best-years-are-not-behind-you.html
(in)courage Community Manager
Thank you for sharing your struggle. May God meet you in your places of loneliness. May you find His presence meeting your there.
Liz Petruzzi says
You wrote my heart and wrote it so well….even the crying and failure part. I know and understand hard and know it’s part of God’s plan but you’re right, I feel like I “should” manage it better. It looks like others do it better and find ways to simplify. My plate is full but there really isn’t anything extraneous to unload. Thank you for a beautiful post that resonated in my spirit – it’s truly a God gift.
Ahhh I’m so glad you had a moment to exhale and receive grace.
Beth Williams says
Such great wisdom. Life is busy, hard & tiring. We all need to try & schedule some Spiritual Whitespace into our lives each week. It can be a few minutes here or there, but time to be alone with God. We were made for Sabbath. God wants us to take a daily Sabbath rest each week. I know that isn’t always easy. We need to learn the art of saying “no” once in a while. I can’t do this or that right now. Everyone needs to find a “quiet” resting place & just be with God for a short while each day. Take time to be with God & hear His still small voice. This world is so noisy, busy & loud. It can make a person’s heart pound like crazy. Even Jesus went away to find solitude & just be with the Father. If He had to do that how much more in this crazy busy world do we need it? Take time for yourself & you will have the energy & patience for others.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Marinalva Sickler says
I like what you said, “we are never alone. Hard ushers us to Christ.” I’m 63 and raising two grandsons. I learned through joy and tears to keep walking. Now I enjoy life with my fiance, a pastor, who brings me lots of joy for his playful way to carry life. Sometimes the path gets rough. Nothing is too easy. Take time to make yourself happy. Love you. Thanks so much for sharing your heart.
Ahhh- your story is filled with so much redemption. Thanks for sharing.
This post blessed me today! Thank you for sharing these words. It is so true, we never walk alone.
Erin- never ever alone. Bless you!
Becky Keife says
Anjuli, I’m so grateful to call you sister and friend. You write from your heart and so often it mirrors my own. So much love for you. xx
Love you back.
Wanda Davis says
Wow. This really hit home for me. Almost every word of this. I feel like I’ve always run away from the ‘hard’ in my life. Sometimes leaving people that I love in the rumble because I ran. This breaks my heart, and I am hurting. I do feel alone and empty most of the time. Being that I am the one who chooses to run away, relocate, reinvent, redefine. Please pray with me, for me.
Oh wow!! This is home for me right now. Living in the hard, the unsettled,…… My heart and soul……
Thank you speaking this truth with such vividness!
Peace and Blessings to you!