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Have you ever meandered through a time of your life where your whole being has felt consumed by darkness? Have you ever felt so weighed down by anxiety, depression, fear, or shame that your thoughts are clouded and you find it impossible to crawl out of the deep hole that has seemed to swallow you?
I find myself lately in a season where anxiety keeps creeping up behind me – sucker punching me in my kidneys and knocking me to my knees. January is already my least favorite month of the year. Every winter around this time, my very soul begins to crave the warmth and beauty of spring. And this January seems to be worse. I am being completely and totally humbled in a personal season of being forced to wait – for answers, for results, for things to work out in a very specific way. Every morning, I literally have been taking one step at a time out of bed and counting those baby steps as good things – moving me onward through my day, through this winter that feels challenging and isolating and just plain hard.
When 2019 began, I started thinking about where my focus was going to be for the year. I prayed that the Lord would make it obvious where He desired for my eyes to gaze – and He certainly did. So clear upon my heart, I heard the word “REST.” And even halfway through the first month of the year, God has wildly, lovingly, and gently reminded me that He alone is where true rest is found.
"I prayed that the Lord would make it obvious where He desired for my eyes to gaze – and He certainly did. So clear upon my heart, I heard the word “REST.”
I’ve been rebelling in many ways – choosing to sit in the darkness of my fears rather than allowing the light to penetrate through my worries and stubbornness. I have felt like a small child in recent weeks. With a scowl on my face and my arms crossed, I’ve often run to rest in my emotions and bitterness rather than allowing my Father’s love to consume and heal me.
Something I’ve become infatuated with lately and fallen head-over-heals in love with is the beauty and entirety of God’s grace. Ephesians 1:4-10 reads, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (NIV).
Because of His grace, we were chosen and died for – even while we were sinners (Romans 5:8). Because of His grace, we have been predestined for adoption, and this was God’s pleasure and will through Jesus. He has bestowed His grace upon us freely because of Jesus’ decision to obey the Father unto death. We are LAVISHED in grace, in forgiveness – for the rest of time. Jesus said “It is finished!” (John 19:30), and our glorious fate has been sealed. Even when I’m struggling terribly with anxiety. Even when I can’t seem to find the words to pray for relief. Even when I feel alone and frustrated and I’m pushing away from Him – He is rescuing me. Pursuing me. Covering me with His grace.
A few months ago, while Tony and I were in a transitional living period, my incredible Aunt Ellen offered to have our two kitties stay with her during our time at my parents’ house (it was a full house at my parents’ already – their two kitties and our pup were all “harmoniously” coexisting there). To give you some background on our cats, you should know that they have such different personalities, and watching them be so different is pretty hilarious. Daisy is social, funny, and noisy. She loves to be around people, she plays fetch (way better than our dog, weirdly enough), and she’ll snuggle up to you on her own terms. Minnie, however, is extremely shy. Unlike Daisy’s time in foster care at a young age, Minnie was raised in the woods by her mama during the winter months alongside her littermate sister. She is classified as a “feral cat turned house cat.” We adopted her when she was four months old, and even then, her wild animal instincts were greatly ingrained as a part of her personality. It took her a long while to warm up to us, and guests that visit our home still rarely ever see her. All that being said though – she is my baby. When it’s just me and her, she crawls up into my lap and purrs like there is no tomorrow. She rests her little head underneath my chin and becomes my best friend – until she hears a loud noise and darts for underneath the bed. She is sweet, timid, and finicky, and I adore her. Tony often laughs because I’ll say that she’s misunderstood. Daisy will be your best friend right away if you let her approach you quietly, greeting you with a “meow” and a rub against your leg. Minnie needs time, patience, and a great deal more of quiet in order to begin to trust you. That’s just how she’s wired.
During the few months they were on their kitty vacation in Chagrin Falls with Aunt E, I went up and visited a couple of times. Daisy greeted me in the living room, approaching me in the silly way she always does. She grabbed one of her favorite fetch toys, and we played for a while, reuniting happily. Finding Minnie, as you might guess, was a much different story.
I went upstairs and began to look for her. Minnie likes to hide, so I began to look underneath the furniture in the bedrooms. I quickly found her beneath a dresser in one of the guest bedrooms. I shut the door to the room and slowly slid down so that I could see her at eye level. Her eyes were dilated. She let out a few low growling sounds. She licked her lips nervously, making it very clear to me that she was afraid. I was aware of how sensitive she is. Being in a new surrounding with new smells, sounds, and people, I was cognizant of how much of an emotional toll this transition was taking on her little kitty self.
I began to talk to her in a friendly, hushed voice. After a few minutes went by, I reached my hand underneath the dresser to attempt to pet her. And immediately, she closed her eyes and leaned her tiny head into my hand as I scratched behind her ears and under her chin. After many more moments and giggles later, she was laying on her side, purring, and kneading her small paws on the carpet comfortably as I massaged her face and back. I knew she recognized me, and it must have been a huge relief to have some human contact after being too shy to visit with my sweet aunt. I must have spent 40 minutes pursuing her little heart – I knew it was what she needed. And I couldn’t help but think to myself, “If she only knew what was waiting for her on the other side of this dresser. If she only knew just how much I loved her.”
"I’m so thankful that the Lord reaches into my dark, isolated spaces and comforts me, allowing me to rest and reminding me to trust.
I’m so thankful that the Lord reaches into my dark, isolated spaces and comforts me, allowing me to rest and reminding me to trust. I’m so thankful that in His grace, He does this time and time again, pursuing my sinful heart, allowing me to repent and learn and grow and know Him more deeply. I’m so thankful that He sees me and knows my heart, and that He ministers to me and always provides exactly what I need. I’m so thankful that He heaps joy into our lives – whether we’re in comfortable places or navigating through the blackness of the unknowns. Even as we rebel, He loves. Even as we toil, He fights. Even when we feel alone, He is there. Even as we hide under the dresser, He relentlessly pursues.
Whether you’re in a season this January that is filled with abundant joy or crippling despair, remember that you are loved by a God that rescues, restores, and redeems.
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