I wrote several years ago about relearning to breathe.
I was fighting to breathe as I laid day and night in my bed, my body weakening, my health worsening.
I fought to breathe because of the pain.
But not the physical pain.
The pain of the tension.
I wrote these words:
I’ve realized that Christian suffering places you within the Biblical tension of Luke 22:42. Jesus, on the Mount of Olives, prays, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
Christian suffering places you in the tension of that prayer–the tension between “Remove this cup from me,” and “not my will, but yours be done.” This is the tension I am desperately trying to live in. Trying desperately to breathe in. It’s suffocating sometimes. The “But if not” of Daniel 3. God is more than able to save–to heal. We worship a God we cannot exaggerate. He is able to do immeasurably more than all that we ask or think. I believe with all my heart that God is able to heal my broken body. But if not. God’s character would not change. He wouldn’t become less good, less able, or less powerful. In all things, He has never and will never become less “for me.”
The great tensions of the Christian life. Laced throughout the pages of Scripture. The tensions wrought within the “already-not-yet.”
A professor once told me to not despise these tensions. Rather wrestle with, sit in, trust amidst.
But sometimes it’s hard to breathe.
Sometimes the suffering is overwhelming. The illness doesn’t go away. The heartache doesn’t ease. The dreams never come. The prayers seem unanswered. The sin struggles never cease.
And you have to continue to live in the tension. And relearn to breathe.
I sat with a friend, drinking coffee outside as the sun shone blindingly into my eyes.
We discussed the tension.
Our hearts both longing for marriage. Our fears of it never happening.
I confess I don’t sit in this tension well. I swing on the pendulum of extremes.
One extreme is my desire for it to be “my turn.” There is the joy and simultaneous ache that comes with every engagement, wedding, and baby announcement. There is the desire for it to be my turn.
Then I feel guilty for desiring marriage. I shame myself for not finding my contentment in Christ. I get angry that I can’t “be fine.” I feel guilty for fearing lifelong singleness. I beat myself up for the sick feeling I get at the thought of never marrying.
And then I swing.
The other extreme. Apathy. Cynicism. Clearly the only remedy for my desires is to cease desires. Is to not care. Not want. I can’t hurt if it never happens if I never wanted it to begin with. I can’t mourn what I never lost. It hurts too much to hope. Therefore, cease hope.
Swing. Swing. Swing.
I fail to live in the tension.
Desiring marriage. Which is not a bad thing. It’s not wrong to want to be married.
But the tension of the but if not.
I have these words tattooed on my rib cage:
But if not, He is still good.
I still believe that God is able to heal my physical body. But if not–He is still good.
I believe that God is able to fulfill my desire of marriage. But if not–He is still good.
Health, marriage–and a myriad of other gifts are not promised. The Christian life is not a “Place your faith in Jesus and get everything you ever wanted.” The Christian life is “Place your faith in Jesus and get God.” God–the greatest good.
The “good” in Romans 8:28 is found in Romans 8:29–all things work together for believers to be conformed into the image of His Son.
God is more concerned with my holiness than my “happiness.” And He will use whatever gift and whatever suffering and whatever job and whatever circumstance to conform me into the image of His Son. And how good–how deeply good that is.
The tension. I believe Jesus lived perfectly in the tension. And somehow, some way, I am praying to learn how to live there too. To live believing with all of my heart that God is good, that He is able to bring that which my heart desires, and yet, no matter what, that He is perfect in all of His ways.
To live in the tension of praying for my desires yet ultimately desiring and praying for the Lord’s will to be done–whatever that may be.
I’m still not sure how to live there but I’m learning. Still learning to live and to breathe in the tension.
The tension of He is more than able, but if not, He is still good. Lord, these are my desires. Yet not my will but Yours be done.
Fight against the pendulum swing of extremes.
Live in the tension. As hard as it is. Live there.
And learn to breathe.