when life hurts too much

I think the hardest part about being in Newark is dealing with the brokenness of this world. It’s easy to hide behind our comfortable lives and not be confronted with all the ways other people are struggling and hurting.

It’s hard to escape the struggle and hurt in Newark. It’s everywhere…and it has made me ask so many questions. Why do these children not have enough to eat? Why do some of them have to be raised by drug-addicted parents? Who is going to teach those girls how to be women and who will teach those boys how to be husbands and fathers one day? Why did my 7 year old friend have to watch her father get shot on the street? Why is a 19-year-old dying from a terminal illness? And why aren’t any of those stories mine? 

The brokenness of this world is right before my eyes and my heart doesn’t know how to handle it.

Yes, God is sovereign. But oh, so much of life is hard.

There have been times (like, say, yesterday), where I literally just broke down from all of the – “whys” and blatantly told God that this sucks. Wrestling with God’s goodness and sovereignty in the midst of a world of brokenness is harder than I thought.

One of the most crucial things I have learned as I’ve processed and wrestled with all of this is that it’s okay to be not okay. But God is still good. So in the moments when the weight of all of this is really too much to bear and life really really hurts, it isn’t helpful to shrug my shoulders, play the “God is good” card, and pretend like everything is great.

What my heart needs more than that to sit in all of this. My heart needs to deal with it because the brokenness I see around me is simply a reflection of the brokenness that is also inside my heart. So I sit in that…I wrestle with it. I tell God that I really really don’t like this and that and wish life wasn’t so hard sometimes. But I also have to (sometimes amidst tears and frustration), let my heart sit in the fact that God is always good.

I think I’m realizing that the way to respond to this brokenness isn’t to hide from it, or to numb yourself to the pain of it all because “God is so great” and “everything happens for a reason”, but to honestly come before the throne and say “This sucks, but you are good.” 

And I will be the first to say that it doesn’t instantly make everything better. Because you still feel it all. You still feel the pain and hurt and frustration and struggle. But deep down you know that Jesus carried all of that for you…for them…and He is graciously working to make everything new.

And that’s where I believe the real gift lies – in being able to embrace life when it hurts but also quietly rest in the fact that God is always good.

“you’re going in there?”

Before camp every day, we have to walk down to the Hyatt Court to get the kids. Hyatt Court is the housing project right down the street from the church, and most of the kids who come to our camp live there. The kids have a hard time remembering when they are supposed to be at church, so we walk down there to the play ground and bring them back with us.

Before I came to Newark, I would have never gone somewhere like this. I probably wouldn’t even drive my car there in Orlando, much less walk in there alone. The other day a lady saw me walking alone into Hyatt, and she yelled at me from across the street “hey! wait a minute, you’re going in there?” 

In all honesty, everything in me wanted to stop walking, turn around, and say “you’re right. This is crazy. I should go back.” But I have been learning lately about God’s provision and about taking courageous steps in faith. So my feet kept moving further into Hyatt as I saw some familiar faces playing on the play ground and calling out my name – “Hey miss Sarah! It’s time to go to church, isn’t it?”

I realized later that “you’re going in there?” is the question that the world should always ask followers of Christ.   This should be their observation of the church, their observation of me. And many times, it’s not. We live in our comfortable homes in our comfortable world with our comfortable friends.

And I wonder – if Christians aren’t willing to get uncomfortable for the sake of the poor, for the sake of the gospel, and ultimately for the sake of God’s glory, who will? 

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying it’s fun. And i definitely don’t think I have it all together. But shouldn’t we all get a little crazy for the sake of the gospel? The world should look at me always and think – you’re going in there? You’re going to share the gospel with the girl who sits next to you in class? You’re going to feed the homeless? You’re going to pray with the woman crying on the bus? You’re going to care for the windows and orphans? You’re going to be willing to be persecuted for your faith? You’re going in there?

Although my initial reaction to her bold question was to shirk back in fear, I’m so glad she asked.

Now I am praying that by God’s grace my life becomes a life that is characterized by doing bold things for the sake of the gospel. I know that the work Christ accomplished on the cross frees me from the  fear of man, the approval of others, and the opinions of this world. I also know that I have such a long way to go. I am confident that as my heart learns to believe the Gospel more and more, I will be compelled to live the kind of life that the world looks at and says  – you’re going in there?  

___

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Phillipians 1:6

Giving thanks..even when it’s hard

Honestly, these past few days, finding a gift in the moment has been difficult. So difficult, that some days I didn’t count. As I sat with a friend who found out life-altering news, I cried out in my heart “Now, father? What gift is there right here?”  And then I remembered Paul saying that we present our requests and anxieties to God with thanksgiving. 

I will be the first to admit that I would rather wallow in pity, bitterness, and frustration then give thanks for the hard moments in life. But if I’m not giving thanks, where will I find joy? In myself? When things go according to “my plan?” I’ve discovered that giving thanks when I don’t want to is simply a way of teaching my heart to satisfy itself in the gospel. That’s really all it is…it realigns my focus and my thoughts away from myself and onto the cross.

So here are a few snapshots of this week:

#100 The Garden 

Safe Haven has a community garden that the kids help maintain and then they get to eat the produce or bring it back to their families! it is such a blessing, and the kids all love watering it.

#104 Fresh Cucumbers from said garden

Yes…that is writing on my hand. Made a list of stuff I needed…still forgot two things on the list. Love it.

#109. Thunderstorms 

It rained (and hailed) so hard here, and it totally cooled everything down. Such an awesome reminder of God’s power.

#112. Community 

We needed some extra help this week, and a local church totally stepped up and filled the need. Their help has been wonderful!

#115. Trying new things. 

I had sushi for the first time the other day! It was…gross. But I still tried it, which is a really big step for me. Side note: I also had traditional Portuguese food last night. Totally delicious.

#120. Powerlessness

God is teaching me so much about how even when I think I am safe, competent, and capable (my mindset my entire life before I came to Newark) – I’m really not because He is the one working in me. And when I don’t think I am safe, competent, or capable, it’s perfect because I have to totally rely on Him. I’m learning to live in this land of total powerlessness…and it’s radically freeing.

#123. Music

Remember gift #98? Well, now it is available for your listening pleasure on Gumroad. Enjoy! Link: https://gumroad.com/l/mhas

#128. Cheesin’ it. 

I’ll leave you with this picture of my spunky friend Tatamia..I hope her smile warms your heart like it does mine!

Thanks for reading, friend!

___

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

the gift of a week.

#42. Air Conditioning.

God has provided not one – but THREE – air conditioners for our apartment. Insert shouts of hallelujah and dances of praise here.

#45. dealing with emotions. 

Adjusting to life here as been a bit of an emotional roller coaster, but I am thankful for time to sit down and process everything.

#48. New Friends 

I have really enjoyed getting to know the people here who are working with Safe Haven and from other local churches!

#50. Words of encouragement 

#51. The 4 little blonde children currently staying with us tonight…so much laughter and joy. 

#54. Being intimately known by the creator of the universe.

Psalm 139:3 “You are intimately acquainted with all my ways” has never been more real to me. I am continually surprised (although I shouldn’t be) by how well God knows my desires, fears, longings, and worries…even all the ones I do not bring to him. It’s almost like he is laying a path out in front of me saying “walk here…I know you. I made you. This is where I want you. Trust me.” It’s getting a little ridiculous.

#56. Worshipping at Redeemer PCA – and being extremely convicted by the Word of God. 

Speaking of being intimately known…the sermon today at church basically hit the nail on the head. Here are a few gems of conviction from Matthew 10:26-39, about not living in fear.

“Contentious environments produce more courageous disciples, where as comfortable environments produce more complacent disciples.”

“Yesterday’s faith isn’t enough to fight today’s fear – we have to believe the Gospel moment by moment”

“The fear of man leaves us running away from opportunity, but the fear of the Lord is a strong tower”

– – – –

Prayer Requests: This week we start our afternoon summer program. Pray for the k-5th graders that will be there – that the Lord would use this time to make them into faithful followers of Christ. Pray for me, as I teach bible during the week – that God would give me energy and wisdom…and that He would be glorified!

These gifts are full of Grace

I have time for a more detailed post today, so you guys are in for a real treat 😉

#19. Diversity 

I walked through down town Newark yesterday, and was in awe of how diverse the culture here is. There are people from varying races, ethnicities, and social class’. It’s interesting to observe but also gives me a little glimpse of heaven…and a desire to pray even  harder for this city to be redeemed!

#22. Good Coffee, Good Planning

Part of my responsibilities here this summer is to teach the bible time for kids camp they have in the afternoons. I’m teaching on the parables, and I was able to sit in this awesome coffee shop and work on my lesson plans yesterday. I haven’t really studied the parables in-depth on my own before, and it’s been really cool. I love how every story points to the good news of the gospel and gives us a picture of God’s character. So cool!

#28. Fans!

These fans are literally a blessing from the Lord. We don’t have AC, so it gets pretty hot. I’ve been just camping out here at the end of my days!

#35. Scripture that meets me right where I’m at. 

I discovered Isaiah 58:10 yesterday morning, and it was so sweet to my heart.

“If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desires of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness, and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your desires in scorched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”

#40. seeking hard to find the gift in the moment, even when it’s hard. 

Last night there was quite the commotion outside my apartment. People were fighting and yelling and making all kinds of noises until the early hours of the morning. I lay in bed wide awake, wondering how do I take joy and find a gift here? Now?  I began praying for the men who were yelling at each other outside…that their threats made out of anger intended for malice would only be empty threats. That the Lord would soften their hearts to His grace and love for them. That they wouldn’t do anything rash in their anger. That God would protect and watch over their wives and children, and stir within these men desires to be faithful husbands, fathers, and most importantly – followers of Christ. In that moment, something Ann Voskamp said in her book really sank in… “You cannot count gifts when you are living in fear and you cannot live in fear while you are counting gifts.”  (paraphrased) It is a battle to choose to redeem and find joy in every moment, even the most inglorious and obnoxious ones. But I’m so glad that the Lord is faithful, and I’m learning to trust him day by day!