Thursday, February 19, 2015

When Disappointment Crushes Your Will to Live

One minute little six-year-old Julio was counting yellow cars as he looked out the window of his mother’s hatchback. The next, he was caught in a nightmare that threatened to take his life. A 7.0 earthquake had hit the Bay Area where he lived, collapsing bridges, buckling roads, and flipping cars high into the air. 

People Magazine reported that rescuers found him a short time later pinned under a highway abutment, the mangled concrete bearing its full weight upon the small boy. His extraction was lengthy and complicated, and as a result little Julio lost a leg. But he lived. And his story proves that survival is possible under the most unlikely, crushing circumstances.

Life can deliver spontaneous, unexpected changes that strike disappointment in our hearts like a concrete abutment pinning us to the ground. 

The loss of a loved one, the failure of a life dream, the wounds caused by people we loved and trusted, all can cause disappointment so devastating we lose the will to live. 

We breathe raggedly, waiting for death. We look around fearfully, wondering how we got here. And we can’t seem to lift the burden ourselves; it looks and feels impossibly heavy.

But there is a specific disappointment on my heart today. One that hides, one that is private and ashamed. It is the crushing disappointment in self, when perfectionism fails us and life grinds us low. 

And there is one group of people that have a particular penchant for self-disappointment. I walk among them every day. We are the ones who have determined to overcome the sins of past generations, the overcomers who have vowed that the damaging patterns will. stop. with. me. 

Overcomers have set their goals high. Having a lack of honorable goals modeled during our youth we searched the earth, seeking the highest and best. Where others collected sports trophies or unicorn figurines, we collected good standards. Shiny, lovely, perfect ones, which we would do our best to emulate when the time came. 

Well, the time surely came, as we left home, married, had children, entered the workforce, chose ministry, faced crises. And we strove to be the best. The best student, the best parent, the best spouse, the best… fill in your blank. The -est whatever.

It all looked lovely for awhile. Praise and admiration made us work harder, and we began to believe we had achieved what we dreamed. We were better. We had defeated the past.

Then, one awful day, perhaps in one awful moment or a series of moments all bundled and accumulated over many days, we failed. And in that moment of failure, we looked like the past.

It was then that the concrete came tumbling through the air, forcing its entire weight upon us, pinning us to where we sat. Fear crept into the crevices of our prison and whispered the fatal words, “You are just like…,” “Nothing has changed…,” “You can’t escape it.” Even the fighters succumb to this occasionally. 

The loudest, shouting overcomer will have dark days where the lies seem like truth, and the will to live can slip away. 

I am the problem, the Lie murmurs. Just let me die.

But allow me to return to little Julio. On the day of that famous ’89 Quake in the San Francisco Bay Area, forces much greater than a little boy were churning, broiling, and gathering strength. He could never have controlled them, stopped them, or held off that flying piece of highway that ultimately cost him a limb. 

In his critical state of entrapment, he had no power to save himself. He was truly overcome.

How ridiculous it would have been for him to suddenly begin shouting, “It’s all my fault! I am the problem!”

His rescue required the help of others. In fact, it was outside help that saved his life.

An imperfect illustration, granted. But bear with me for the nuggets of truth we can apply to our own disappointment and the pain that threatens to crush our will to go on.

There is indeed a greater force at work in our lives, churning, broiling. But the difference between it and an earthquake is that it seeks to destroy us. 

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

As we overcomers seek to live for Christ, breaking the patterns and curses of the past, we are a target for God’s enemy; he in fact becomes our enemy as well. Also known as the father of lies, he can make a lie look and feel just like truth.

Like Julio, we require a rescuer beyond ourselves. 

Our efforts, our good standards and goals, our highest achievements, cannot move the stone that holds us down to our failures. For we are mere humans, fragile flesh and bone, tender hearts. (Even the loudest, shouting, tough, never-give-up overcomers. And the always-looking-like-they-have-it-all-together ones too.)

We all need a rescuer. 

Our Rescuer is Jesus. He was the One promised to bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for the captives, release from darkness the prisoners, comfort all who mourn, replace ashes with beauty, despair with praise. He did it all to make you and me overcomers, that the world may see a display of his splendor.

They (the overcomers- my own insertion) will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. -Isaiah 61:3a-4

You may lose a limb in the process (let’s be real about pain). But you will live, disappointed one.

Your Rescuer is here. Wait for Him as he works. Trust His gentle hands. Let the ones He sends help you, too. You can't do this alone. Be still and wait. Help is here.

What is your story of living through disappointment? Share it with those trapped today.

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