Written by Rachel Denison
A dear friend recently directed me toward a Lenten Guide written by the amazing Shauna Niequist entitled Lament Experiment.
I really enjoy the Lenten season as a time to reflect, repent and prepare our hearts to rejoice at the forgiveness that comes at the resurrection of our Risen King. I thought I’d give this guide a read, but I wasn’t prepared for its deep, probing questions. As I read my heart immediately felt offended at its pointedness. Here is an example of one of those questions: “How do you avoid facing the pain and difficulties in your life through behaviors that are not a true source of comfort? What are these persistent habits or temptations that lead you to self-sabotage?
Now, I know I said I love Lent as a season of repentance, but I don’t think my heart was ready to repent. I wasn’t ready to take a good hard look at my own heart, disappointments, pain or the ways I tend to self-medicate my own wounds. I certainly wasn’t ready for someone to point it out and make me face it, even write it down and record it in my journal. I had a choice upon reading those questions. I could either dive in and get real, or I could close it and shove it off for another week (which is my normal tendency).
I decided to dive in after some leading of the Holy Spirit. And I did not like what I found. Sin. It takes different forms for each of us, but it is sin nonetheless. I discovered a ton of different ways I’ve tried to replace God, my true source of comfort for false, temporary, shallow fixes. To be a bit more specific, I’ve been dealing with a lot of fear of the future out of a majorly painful experience. I haven’t been trusting God to have my best interest in mind, so I’ve sought my own ways to find comfort in the midst of disappointment. I sought it through busyness to avoid processing pain. I’ve sought solace in TV and vegging out as an excuse for true rest in Jesus. I’ve sought it in mind-numbing social media scrolling to pass the time. I sought comfort in just about anything but my heavenly Father.
As I came to these conclusions I was offended at my own heart. I began to see very clearly that I had forgotten how God’s unfailing kindness and nearness brought me through one of the greatest heartaches I’ll ever face. I had forgotten how sweet and constant he was by my side through it all. And my heart was broken at once because I knew God wasn’t looking at me through eyes of anger, or disappointment, or even discipline, but love. I had forsaken his true character and believed petty lies I’d been fed about his mercy, faithfulness and heart of friendship toward me. The enemy is real folks, and he is hell-bent at wrecking our perception of a true, kind, gentle God. Believing these lies had me stuck in a place of sin and numbness. I was blocking God out and not progressing out of my pain, sorrow and fear. I am really thankful I dove in today. I am really grateful for his mercy to shake me and awake me out of the fog the enemy was glad to keep me in forever. We can’t allow our excuses to turn into strongholds.
I would encourage all of us to take a good hard look at our hearts in this season of Lent. It will make Easter in a few weeks all the sweeter when we know first hand the power of Jesus’ resurrection in our lives. We all have disappointments in this life, but Jesus will never be the source of them.
“Search me, God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” –Psalm 139:23-24