The Day I Was Mad at God

Now before you read the title of this post and get concerned, let me inform you that I love God with all my heart, but this is an extremely raw post.

As many of you may know, my mom passed away on July 29, 2015. It was a day I never imagined I would be walking through as I barely stumble into adulthood. I needed her to help me pick out my wedding dress, and I needed her to help me as I raise my children someday. Not only those things, but I needed her prayer, love, and advice as I do everyday. It’s not fair. So not fair.

A few things led up to the day that dramatically changed my entire life. I was just coming home from an insanely amazing trip, excited to share what I experienced at Bethel’s WorshipU; I was bursting with everything I learned about music, Jesus, and myself. I was excited because we would soon go on a family vacation to have a break from life, and we would have a sense of “normal” to our interrupted life. But a whopping four days later, we got heart-wrenching news that my mom’s cancer spread viciously to her liver (which was then pronounced stage 4), with multiple lesions attacking it. When my parents came home with this news, it felt like someone took my stomach and tried to wring it out. I’ve never hated cancer more in my life. More importantly, I’d never been so angry in my entire life. And that’s what caught my attention.

You know, I’ve never understood (even through the initial diagnosis) why people become angry with God. I always wondered why they were angry toward a God who loves them, cares for them, and is good. That day I knew exactly what people meant. Let me be even more honest: I felt like God was sitting down just watching me cry as His arms were folded. I got in my car and I screamed as loud as I could handle. It feltdark, it felt lonely, and I felt stranded. I thought God left me. But He never left me. He’s also not going to leave you.

In this moment, I was not thankful. These were raw emotions to be felt and given back to God as our family moved forward into the terrible days ahead. I had to make the choice to not become bitter at my circumstances. A very hard choice.

From there it was a hard, consistent battle between trusting in God, and not acting like my mom’s life was not being threatened by a disgusting disease. What a difficult balance. Our family’s verse ever since the diagnosis is Psalm 112:7 which reads, “They have no fear of bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.” This verse became more stripped down than ever, because in the midst of bad news, God would guide our family through it. We could confidently trust God to care for us. The Holy Spirit is our comforter, nurturer, and he’s with us everywhere we go at any moment that we call on the name of Jesus.

I know that my reasoning for being mad at God may not be the same as yours. I won’t pretend to try and know your reasons, because there are reasons very specific and personal to your life. But let me tell you something very important: God is not the source of your sticky situation. It’s not His will for your life to fall apart. It’s not His will for disaster, disease, loneliness, abuse, loss of a job, or whatever else you may be dealing with. All of earth’s beauty and order was destroyed the moment Adam and Eve ate the wrong fruit. But I’ve seen that God loves to turn things around for good, and He’s amazing at it (Romans 8:28) even if our “good” is not the same as His. He swings doors open that I couldn’t pry open for myself, and He closes doors to protect our paths.

It’s okay to be mad at God. He can take it because He’s pretty tough. It’s when we soak in our sorrow, wallow in self-pity, and remain in bitterness that we actually shut God out, making the problem far worse than it all ready is. Life is rough, and I know it’s excruciating when we don’t allow God to go before us. In as little as a week and a half, I’ve learned a few things that I hope will help you as you find yourself in a mess in this crazy life:

Remind yourself who God is. You may not believe the characteristics at the moment, but just do it. Write down all those verses that reveal God’s character. Remind yourself that He does see, He does care about details, and He does love fiercely. This is the perfect time for all your Sunday school memorizations to come out.

Acknowledge that your heart doesn’t line up with your head. Your head has all the Bible verses memorized, and it has the audacity to tell your heart that trials will increase your faith, but your heart doesn’t quite know if that’s honestly true. Your heart could care less about James 1 right now, and your heart doesn’t want to trust God. It’s this beautiful tension here on earth that we can bring these two areas of our being to the feet of Jesus, leave it there, and ask him to mend it. I’m learning that this is probably the most authentic form of worship.

Get into God’s presence. When you have no words, when you have no idea what to pray, worship. God’s presence changes your entire being the second He floods your space. All we have to do is call on His name and He comes running. Thanks Jesus for what you did on the cross for us. I don’t think we’ll ever say it enough.

Don’t power through and be “Mr./Ms. Super-Christian.” It is such a dangerous mask. The world is aching for authenticity, especially from Christians, and we cannot offer it if we are lying to ourselves about our emotions. Feel them and bring them to God. But please, I’m begging you not to mask your tender and real God-given emotions with a half-believed “God is good.” Get to the bottom of this so you can whole-heartedly believe it!

I don’t know what your situation is. But I hope these small amounts of realizations help you overcome your battles. The best part is God all ready won our battles, but we actually have to claim that over our life. Let’s claim it today.

“This is what the Lord says: Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:5-8

Continue Reading

Here’s the Story

So I wanted to share how Her Greater Joy got started. My testimony (fancy word for what God has done in my life) will always be the birthplace of that. Wherever you find yourself, God wants to use it all.

I guess my passion for writing begins from when I was little, but I didn’t notice it until college. I have always journaled in my time with God. It’s just how I communicate with Him, how I allow Scripture to really sink into my heart, and sometimes how I process what God’s doing.

In 2014 I moved with my family from Florida to California. I was fresh out of high school with no major direction for my life. I’ve always loved leading worship, so I thought I would end up at some type of music school. But I stayed with my family and enrolled in community college. A simultaneously boring and exciting fresh start. In hindsight, I know God had mapped this out for me.

By the end of my semester, not even six months after moving across the country, my mom was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. It completely and utterly sucked. In a matter of one sentence of delivered results that had “cancer” in it, my life shifted from happy-go-lucky to grim and teary-eyed days.

Thank God for best friends who skip classes on crappy days to get coffee with you and just hug you while you cry and agree that it’s not fair (a great tip if you have a grieving friend or loved one).

The new normal was hard, and I asked off work at my new job to sit with my mom during chemotherapy. We watched Gilmore Girls and made the best of it. When my sister got out of school for the day, we’d get a snack and walk around Target if my mom had enough energy. We didn’t make plans but we made every day fun if it was possible.

I started writing. I started reading Bible verses that were my only source of hope. And I wrote from that place. I wrote about how things were just different. I wrote about God’s goodness through it all, about the bad days, and about His peace.

Well, this routine of “normal” lasted from December to July. In the middle of July we found out the cancer progressed to stage four and she didn’t have long. My dad, sister, and I sat on the guest bedroom floor and talked about what the future looked like without my mom. It was natural conversation based on what was in front of us, but I hated hearing it come out of my mouth.

This wasn’t what I prayed for. It wasn’t what I thought healing meant. I wanted her healing to be something I could see. Something here on earth. But to my dread, July 29th, 2015 became an anniversary. There was a lot of grace that day for my little heart. I had no capacity to perceive all of it, but God just met me there. And he was with me like he always promised.

But God will walk with you through your gut-wrenching pain, and he will pick up the pieces.

I have seen restoration, and I have seen God’s hand in the details. I know that if you find yourself in a dark and tear-filled routine, God sees you and he knows you. He didn’t cause this mess. He’s actually here to help you walk through it.

One of these details in my life being that God placed two amazing women in my life to play the mom role in my life after mine was no longer here. One happens to be the woman my dad remarried. These two helped me on my wedding day, and every moment between. God showed me his character through people. They loved and they lived out Romans 12:15 like I’ve never seen before.

Now, I’ve gone through many, many counseling sessions, my dad’s marriage, college (one baby step at a time), and my own marriage. I have kept up with writing and publishing it as much as I can. But with change after change, one thing remains: my vision for this space.

I want to communicate with other women that need hope. And if you find yourself reading this, you’re part of that vision. I want you to know that you can access peace and joy wherever you’re at. When you feel shaken, God is your rock. When you face job loss, divorce, grief, breakups, or stress, I want to dig deep to that place with God.

He loves you, sees you, and knows you. He created you with purpose and I hope God speaks to you through these little words I write. The world needs the hope you offer.

“The joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10 ESV).

“You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine” (Psalm 4:7 NLT)

Continue Reading

Good Grief: I’m Not Mad at God Anymore

It’s been one whole year without my mom. And I’ve decided that cancer sucks. It stole my mom’s health, and it eventually stole the presence of her life in everyone she knew.  However, it did not steal joy. Yes, it ripped the breath of happiness right out of each of our lungs when reports stated worse each time, but joy was always present. Peace was incomprehensible (Philippians 4:7). Only Jesus Christ himself could give that so graciously in the most devastating moments of life, whether “cancer” is a part of your vocabulary or not. Because the truth is, we’ve all faced loss of some sort: a job, friendship or relationship, loved one, home, or sense of normal. And Jesus paid to restore all of it.

 

In case you are unfamiliar with part one of this post, I was pretty angry with God in this very week last year. And as much as I hate grief, I am a different person than I was on July 29, 2015. God uses grief and loss to mold, sharpen, and fine tune the best in us. God does an amazing job at taking the most broken parts of our souls and restoring them back to health. This year has been the toughest of my life, but He has walked with me and my family through each moment. I’ve seen Him stay the same as He always has been. And I’m not mad at Him anymore.

 

Lessons learned about life and God after a year of grief:

  • It’s okay to be mad at God
  • But then work through it
  • It’s okay to question the goodness of God
  • Sometimes there are just no words
  • Comfort is 99.9% better than any advice
  • God uses people, so look
  • Jesus is truly enough to satisfy every need
  • It’s okay to skip English on a Tuesday for Starbucks with your best friend to cry instead
  • God does understand
  • Grief sucks
  • No, everything does not happen for a reason
  • No, God didn’t do this because He thought I was “strong enough to handle it” (my weakness equals His strength- 2 Corinthians 12:9)
  • God is Healer…on earth and heaven
  • He comforts the brokenhearted
  • He turns a mess into joy
  • Tears aren’t for the weak
  • Humanity was made for community
  • Family is a beautiful thing
  • Healing does not equal forgetting
  • Relationship with God shatters religion
  • Sometimes it’s hard to mutter “God is good”; lean into the questions
  • He cares so much that He’d walk with me in the darkest pit of my life
  • Thank God for Jesus’ death that paid for my joy
  • Cancer sucks. Cancer sucks a lot
  • So does death
  • Sarcasm is just enough to get you through
  • The pain of earth reminds us of the beauty of heaven
  • God will care for you; you might have to look harder right now though
  • His peace is truly dumbfounding
  • Now is not the time to expect a lot from yourself
  • You will make it through, but you can’t go around
  • Don’t waste precious days by worrying
  • God is not punishing you
  • God didn’t leave me
  • God isn’t afraid of your honesty…or your questions
  • Worship isn’t circumstantial
  • Life doesn’t stop for you to grieve; you have to multitask
  • Grief reveals the tender, gracious, loving heart of God
  • Sometimes tears are the best (and only) prayers
  • Counseling. Please save your life and go (sometimes your dog counts)
  • You can trust God despite the questions
  • “Why” is the beginning of faith
  • God loves you even if you’re mad
  • He has amazing plans to prosper your life–still (Jeremiah 29:11)

 

 

Continue Reading

What My Mom Taught Me About Worship

There are so many things my mom did for me, but the greatest thing she did for me was set an example for how to live for God. She not only told me how to pray and worship, but she showed me. It amplified my desire to instill this love in the people in my life, and eventually my own kids. We often think of worship as a song on Sunday. We can minimize worship when we compartmentalize it to only ten minutes worth of our Sunday dose of God. Worship is not just a few songs, but it’s how we live in our decisions, words, habits, and hearts. My mom lived the lifestyle of worship. But it wasn’t a path paved with a white picket fence, flowers, and bright sunshine; it was real life (the good and the bad). I found worship in every role she played: mother, wife, friend, daughter, sister, and mentor. She was always an inspiration to everyone who watched, especially when it came to worship. But when she was diagnosed with cancer, her worship didn’t change. In fact, it increased and I saw her relationship with God dig deeper before my eyes. I saw her press into God in the middle of her questions, fears, wonders, confusion, and her worship taught me a few things:

  1. Worshiping Him comes first. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus is in Martha and Mary’s home. We know that Martha is busy making preparations (this today might look like frantic stress of staying on top of what’s to come tomorrow). She becomes frustrated, but Jesus calls to her attention that Mary has chosen what is better: listening to Jesus’ words at his feet. Putting Him first looks different for everyone depending on certain seasons of life. You might not have an hour of quiet time, but find small moments in your day to make Him the priority of your life. When He’s not first, we’ll become distracted from our worship.
  1. Worship is not circumstantial. It’s easy to go through easy or hard seasons and not rely on God. We might go through good seasons and “not need” God, and it’s tempting to fill our empty spaces with physical things. In one of her journal entries, she wrote, “When we face struggles and challenges we can fight it, get angry, turn from God, or withdraw. God’s plan is for us to accept our circumstances and humble ourselves under His hand so that we take the pain, struggle, fear, and move into the position with our circumstance under God’s sovereign, loving hand. In this positioning we will experience peace in the middle of life. At the right time (God’s time), He will lift us up.” She walked this unconditional love for God out not only in her journey through cancer, but also in her life before the diagnosis.

 

I think of Paul and Silas when they worshiped in prison. I find it hard to wrap my brain around two men worshiping in prison (I think I’d be throwing myself a pity party and then jumping in a puddle of tears). But their chains were broken through their worship, and ours has the power to do the same. I’d chose to be made free over a pity party any day; and yes, that is easier said than done.

 

Even though she walked this life of worship my whole life (and before I was born), this past year was a bold chance for me to tangibly see this. My mom deepened her worship like never before during her walk through cancer. But in any type of hard season (whatever this looks like for you), it’s not enough to go through it with the same spiritual mindset you had in some of your best seasons. We have to fight harder and dig into God deeper. This not only gives Him glory during your hard seasons, but it also allows you to find a new strength in God like never before.

 

  1. Worship is authentic and transparent. Embrace the hard parts of life all because you can depend on God to pull you through each moment. The hard ones aren’t fun. Tell God. I believe this is the essence of worship: that it’s completely transparent, a mix of the human heart, and a godly soul. We can bring our raw emotions and bring our questions to God; we don’t have to pretend we aren’t humans with emotions and perfect days. There are days life is completely unfair, and being a Christian doesn’t mean we have to pretend that our unfair days are held together by perfection. Let me tell you, it takes a load off your shoulders when you take your God-given emotions to God. He meets you there. By living like this, we are giving God a chance to see right through us, but we are the ones responsible for presenting this authenticity, because He can already see those dark places of our hearts but He wants to mend them. We can come stained with sin and he purifies us. John 4:8 promises that we can take a step toward God and He meets us there and we can move forward, and not linger in our struggles!

Here are a few of my mom’s journal responses of authenticity:

“This morning is hard emotionally. Emotions of all of this just came at me. It all just stinks!! I don’t have hair. I am so ready to have hair. It gets consuming dealing with the side effects. I let myself cry more about it than I have before. I realized I have to give myself more of these times to grieve what I am going through.” (May 14, 2015)

“So many feelings and some just too hard to put into words. Thank you God I can pour out my heart to you. You take my thoughts and feelings and make them obedient to Your Word. You strengthen me in your grace to move on. Moving Forward!” (May 27, 2015)

  1. Worship is being thankful. This is the most valuable thing I could ever take away from my mom’s worship. This is what worship is: it’s thanking God for who He is. You’ll notice that if you list off things you’re thankful for, it shifts our focus off of ourselves and onto God’s wonderful provision for even the simplest things. Thankfulness literally invites the presence of God. My mom listed being thankful for the strength to go to Target in one of her journal entries. There is always something to be thankful for (also the most annoying statement to hear when your life is a mess), but I challenge you to not be surface-level with God. Find something that is truly meaningful. It is our greatest joy to give God glory because He is good.

We can also show thankfulness by being content. Philippians 2:14 tells us to Do everything without complaining or arguing. Discontentment with what God has in place in our lives right now will stop us from worshipping Him.

Thankfulness can also fuel our trust in God. When we step back and thank Him for the big and small things He’s doing in our lives, it allows us to see that He does care, and He does see us even when we feel unseen. We can rely on Him to care for us in our low places (Psalm 112:7).

  1. Worship is our choice. We know this, but it’s just difficult. And a lot of times it goes against our human emotions and desires. But if we take our selfish thoughts about everything that’s going wrong and make them obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), we are gradually transforming the way our mind thinks (Romans 12:2). We are making worship what we run to instead of our natural human desires. As we choose to keep our natural thoughts and desires under the submission of the Holy Spirit, we are worshiping God. We have a choice to draw from our human strength (normally negative thoughts or stress), or we can draw from God’s almighty strength. It seems like a no-brainer when we compare those two options, but doing it is the real challenge. When we incorporate these ideas together in our walk with God, we’ll see our worship transform. And God delights in giving grace to us in our process.
Continue Reading