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