I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions. Yet, I find myself reflecting on some things as we enter 2010, thus leading me to a couple resolutions conclusions. 2009 was a really good year for the Buckland family in many ways. While it seemed that storms were raging all around us, we remained sheltered in what, at times, felt like a protective bubble. Our kids thrived, our marriage thrived, and our lives were, for the most part, pretty peaceful. During one of the worst economic crises our country has ever seen, Ren’s company also had its most profitable year.
Oh, and Zoloft is AWESOME. But I’m sure that has had absolutely NOTHING to do with it.
Please hear my heart, I am certainly not trying to brag about any of this. Just reflecting. If it makes you feel better, 2008, on the other hand, was the exact opposite. In fact, I will just go ahead and say that 2008 pretty much sucked. I won’t depress you with all the details. Those of you who are closest to us know all of them anyway. And for those of you that don’t, read this and you can get an idea of the fact that I pretty much lost my mind. I really feel like I suffered some sort of mental, emotional, and spiritual collapse that had me questioning absolutely EVERYTHING I’ve ever believed. So 2009, for me, was a year of reconstructing. Rebuilding. Piece by piece, picking up shards of shattered illusions and putting them back together to form a stronger, more durable, and healthier reality. This past year, I’ve relied heavily on a foundation of simplicity. If I liked it, it stayed. If I didn’t, it went out the window. If I wanted to do something, I did it. If I didn’t want to, well, I didn’t. I got back in touch with the things that made me tick. I started listening to myself more, all in an effort to take better care of myself, my husband, and my family. And what I realized in that process was how much I absolutely loved what I was doing.
So I’m here. I’m happy. All is well. Yet, I have some regrets.
I’ve been following Matt Chandler‘s journey as he, together with his precious family, courageously battles cancer. He was diagnosed with anaplastic oligodendroglioma (an aggressive, malignant brain tumor) this past November. What I find simply amazing about Matt is his attitude. He’s just a little bit older than me, has three kids, a lovely wife, and is the pastor of an incredibly successful and rapidly growing church in Flower Mound, Texas. By all outward appearances, the guy “has it all.” Oh yeah, except for that whole brain tumor thing. And yet, I’ve heard him refer to his illness as a season that God has “called him to.” He doesn’t ask God, “Why me?” That’s pretty amazing. I must admit that, all things considered, I probably have very limited experience with suffering. I mean, I’ve been a part of a sub-culture of Christianity that will rebuke a demon for getting the wrong order at Taco Bell. I don’t know if it’s a product of living in America, as a member of a wealthy society or what. Maybe we’re not really taught about suffering. In a land of “rights” and privileges, does anyone ever believe that it might be good, even beneficial to, heaven forbid, do without something? Or perhaps go through a trial? In fact, I think most people you talk to would agree that we shouldn’t have to suffer. And yet we do. Whether we should or should not is irrelevant. We do indeed suffer. Each one in our own way. No matter what laws are put in place. No matter what institutions are formed. There will always be suffering. It’s one of the few guarantees in this life. As Rob Bell famously says in his Nooma video, “It rains in our lives. A lot.” It’s not about whether or not the storms of life will strike. They will and they do. Just because.
The Bible is actually chock full of stories of suffering; deserving people as well as undeserving people suffering. Sometimes suffering comes as a result of one’s own selfish and harmful behaviors. And other times it simply comes to those who merely get caught in the crossfires of others’ selfish and harmful behaviors; they are merely casualties of injustice. Other times, it just simply happens. I’ve learned that there isn’t always a direct correlation between good or bad behavior and unfortunate circumstances. We live in a world where things are not perfect, and yet we yearn for perfection.
So much of what we do is done in an effort to try to buffer our suffering, cheat death, get rich quick, and numb our pain. But pain is part of the deal. It always has been.
Now, before you go and jump off a cliff, I’ve actually discovered hope in all of this. I realize that even through it all–through all the pain, the suffering, the hurt, the evils that this world sometimes throws our way–God is always good. And He is always doing good. No matter what darkness may come, there will never be enough to eclipse the light of His great goodness and love. He is always there, behind the scenes, at work, weaving together all our messes to make a finely crafted work of art. I feel as though that in this past year, I was allowed to see that first hand.
As I look back on 2009, I realize that it’s easy to be thankful, praise God, and find contentment when life is easy. I am embarrassed as I reflect on 2008, when I did a lot of cursing, crying, whining and complaining. I want to learn to suffer better. Don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those flaky Christians who begs God to send them through fiery trials to make them more like Jesus. Heyyyyyyyyl naw. I am not asking for more suffering. I am not a masochist. I am not even asking to suffer perfectly. Whatever that means. I am, however, simply asking for God to help me suffer better. In order to bring Him more glory, because I see as a sign of respect. It’s letting Him, and those around you, know that you know that God will bring you through this. Because that’s what He’s good at. He will not leave you in this mess. You may not come out looking all shiny and sparkly. But what you will become will be something even better. Something proven. Something stronger.
The next time a storm comes, it won’t do any good for me to ask “Why me?” I should be asking myself, “Why not me?”
And finally, we that believe in Christ have this blessed hope through our suffering:
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us–they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5:3-5, Living)
God, please allow me the privilege of holding my head high no matter what happens, knowing that all is well, knowing how dearly you love me, and how well you will keep me throughout this coming year and every year after.