When I was a kid, I found out that one of my spiritual gifts was exhortation. I've honestly always questioned that result. I'm not complimentary enough to be an encourager. I don't walk around telling people how great they're doing or how wonderful they look. That just isn't my thing. I'm too unhappy all of the time, have too bad of an attitude to be labeled an exhorter. But over the years, I've come to realize that there are different types of exhortation. For some people, it's being bubbly and encouraging all of the time. For me, it's taking my life experiences and trying to help other people find peace in the midst of discouragement. My life is far from perfect. So often, I feel like it is crumbling into pieces, and I feel vulnerable and scared. But each time that happens, I know that God can sustain me, strengthen me, and get me through. That's something I could never do on my own. The more things that happen to me to bring me down, the more of myself I have to share with those who need it. If I can make it through, anyone can.
The last two weeks have brought so much despair and discouragement to my heart. A family member passed away too young. I had to face the ugliness of alcoholism and substance abuse head on. I tried not to collapse as I held a sobbing, breaking grown man together. I felt unwanted on the day of love. I faced an act of betrayal by the person closest to me. I endured criticism from family. I was treated like a child by someone in authority over me. One thing after another piled up, washing away any joy I was able to find. In the days leading up to today, I've just felt empty. Completely empty. I stopped feeling sad and lonely and discouraged, and started feeling nothing at all. My heart took a vacation, it couldn't handle any more.
When faced with heartbreak and pain, I sometimes completely shut down. I can't do it anymore. I want to curl up in a dark corner and simply be left alone. I want everyone and everything that could ever hurt me again to just go away. I want to forget it all.
But I can't do that. It doesn't solve anything. I have to get up and start fixing. My marriage will only get better if I put effort into it. My family will only respect me if I don't lash out. My job will only produce if I take responsibility.
These lessons help me to grow. The hardships of this life have made me as strong as I am today. Without them, I wouldn't have the words to help anyone. I would never be able to tell someone else to keep on keeping on if I wasn't able to do it myself.
Seasons of life bring great joy, and seasons of life bring great sorrow. We can only find joy if we conquer our sorrow.