Bittersweet Brokenness: Lessons From the Hard Times.

2 Cor. 4:8-9  “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.”

Well, well, it’s been a while. I’m afraid I had more or less abandoned this blog for a while because the last few months really burnt me out in many ways. September through November 2011 have proven to be some of the roughest months I’ve faced in ages. I’m not going to whine about all the rubbish that’s been thrown at me, if you want to know you can ask me about it later, but for now I’ll share a few of the tough moments and some of the things I gained out of it all.

I suppose I’ll start with September 4th. That Sunday was an adventure. I had just come from an amazing morning with my church sharing in a wonderful baptism ceremony. Sure, it had been a rough week, but I was feeling that things were finally looking up. The sun was bright, the colours were vibrant, all seemed well with the world. I was cruising in style in my battle-scarred 1995 Subaru Legacy, affectionately termed the ‘Jonster Monster’ with my aviators on and my Tchaikovsky blaring. I slowed down for a cyclist on the road and came to a stop as I waited for a truck to pass so I could turn onto my street from Highway 105. Then suddenly the music stopped. All in a moment my senses were overloaded with sounds, feelings, smells, and sights, that felt totally foreign.

Shattering plastic flew all around, an ear-splitting roar consumed the air, and the adrenaline pulsed through me as my car lurched forward in a horrible jolt. I gripped the streering-wheel, let out a sigh and said: “Shoot.” I had just been hit by a horse-trailer containing 3 tons of hay. Thankfully the truck pulling it had swerved (I might have been dead, or wishing I was dead, otherwise). It had barely skimmed me, but even just a tap at 40 miles an hour can be pretty devastating, as evidenced by the impact on the poor old Jonster Monster.

My day had been interrupted. I felt like the real world had vanished for a moment to give place to a glimpse of a nightmare. But really I had only been given a glimpse into a side of reality that I had hitherto rarely seen, but that many people live with on a daily basis. I was hit by more than a trailer that day. I was hit by the realization that this world is not nearly so bright and cheery as I often believe it to be, that I could leave here without notice any day, and therefore that every moment is something precious that should not be wasted.

Thankfully the physical effects of that accident were definitely minimal, I escaped with nothing more than a bad case of whip-lash. Though, in hindsight I’ve noticed many effects it had on my thinking. On the positive side of things, I found a renewed sense of thankfulness and humility, upon realizing that God has blessed me with a great life, but that it can end at any moment. On the negative side, however, I found that a good deal of my optimism and naivety had been badly damaged. The world seemed a good deal darker to me than it had the day before. It wasn’t that terrible of a car accident, but it definitely impacted me more than I would have thought.

Well, fast-forward past some other frustrations and a few highlights to Sunday, September 18th, the day before my 20th birthday. Of course I was pretty excited about turning 20 and leaving my teen years behind in another step towards being a man. I did indeed take a step towards manhood that day, but it looked nothing like  I wanted it to. On the whole, my birthday was a nice day. I had a great time with my family and some of my close guy friends, received a multitude of facebook messages, and so on. But all of that was overshadowed by the 18th, and I just couldn’t enjoy any of it. On that Sunday evening one of my best and dearest friends declared to me that he was renouncing Christianity, and everyone that held to it, including me. For my own sake, I’ll spare the details of what he said to me.

This came like a wrecking ball to me. Two weeks before we had been talking about how he wanted to do missions work in a foreign country. I was so devastated by his actions that it made me question my own faith and stability. I had to spend the next several hours crying out to God in prayer, going over the evidence as to why I believe that Christ is who He claimed to be, and weeping with this fellow’s hurt family. This man was a brother to me, and he betrayed me on a deeper level than anyone had ever done before.

That event truly made me closer to being a man then almost anything else. Why? Because, just like Jesus, as it mentions in Hebrews, I learned obedience through suffering. I cannot explain all of what took place, but I will sum it up with a portion of the exchange that took  place between the two of us. He said something along the lines of this: “No one can sanely love me unless they hold to my standards and accept my ideology. Nor can I love them. I refuse to love anyone unconditionally.” Those words, coming after many insults, stabbed me to the core. But, somehow, in that moment, Jesus worked in me. All I could return to him was: “Well, if I cannot sanely love you, then I will love you insanely.”

That event taught me something powerful. It showed me a glimpse of God’s heart. Before that moment I could never have understood what it would be like to truly love someone that hated you in return. That was one of the most breaking experiences I have ever gone through, yet it began the process of something profound in my character.

Fast-forward again past more frustrations, more car troubles, more lost friends, not getting a job that I’d been striving for, and many other trials, to November 5th. This is one I will say very little about, seeing that there’s still a lot of sparks flying around about it. But to put it bluntly, I was physically assaulted on that day. Needless to say, that wasn’t fun. But the effects it had on me were much deeper than on my body. Not only was my physical person threatened, but my character and my spiritual integrity were almost jeopardized.

That moment was the most difficult temptation I have ever faced. The desire to hate was grasping at my heart, striving to overthrow everything I stand for, thirsting to kill the man I aim to be. I wanted nothing more than to give in to bitterness and wrath because I had been wronged. I was shaken to my core at that moment. Yet, somehow, God gave me victory.  Maybe it was helped by the fact that a close friend happened to be praying for me, without knowing why, when all of this was happening. In either case, I cannot completely understand how, that much is beyond me, but somehow, He did it.

This all might sound rather silly to someone that doesn’t know my testimony or where I’ve come from, so I will just say that God has brought me out of being a slave to bitterness and hatred for several years. So for me to fall back into that pattern would have been more devastating than I can put into words. That trial held more spiritual significance for me than almost anything else I’ve dealt with.

Yet, in spite of the hardship, God used it to teach me something beautiful. I learned that when you carry out His commands, the blessings far outweigh the brokenness. Out of the temptation to hate, He brought forgiveness. I had never before been given the opportunity to truly pray for an enemy until that day. And I will tell you, it was strenuously difficult, and took me days to finally do it, but I have never felt such a freeing kind of forgiveness. I learned that when Jesus commanded us to pray for our enemies, it was really largely for our own benefit as well. When we refuse to forgive, we deepen the wound. But when we surrender to forgiveness and seal it with prayer, the freedom and the victory are astounding.

I also got to carry out the command given in Matthew 18. Although I will perhaps never know the full results, and although it led to a good deal of insults, threats, and mockery, it was another profoundly freeing experience for me. It also showed me that hard words mean nothing when you have the assurance that comes from carrying out Jesus’ commands. When you obey His commands, the confidence He gives you is far stronger than any of the consequences.

Well, I could go on, though I feel that this post is highly unstructured and rambling, so I do believe I’ll end it with one final thought. Through all of this God brought me back to His Word, which I regret to say, I had fallen out of the habit of dwelling in. Lately I’ve been memorizing James, and there is one passage in particular that has kept me holding on through the rough times:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2-4

These last few months have certainly held trials of various kinds, but God has been showing me that it is certainly something to rejoice over. I have gained more steadfastness than I had ever thought possible for me. God has shown me that learning to praise Him in the hard times makes the pain worth it. Although the hard times are bittersweet, and brokenness is difficult, those are the best circumstances for knowing the Lord on a personal level. It has been in these times that He has proven His character to me unfailingly. It has been in these times that He has answered my prayers beyond doubt. It has been in these times that He has made me  one small step closer to being who Jesus has called me to be.

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About Jonathon Thigpen

I am a student, writer, photographer, traveler, teacher, and Lego enthusiast, who is endeavouring to be a man after God's own heart.
This entry was posted in Redemption, Thankfulness and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Bittersweet Brokenness: Lessons From the Hard Times.

  1. DJ Fischer says:

    Wow, Jonathon, I had no idea you were going through all of this. May I encourage you to continue in your steadfastness in Jesus? You are by your own admission beginning to see how it is God turns the bad around for our good by changing US from the inside. You are not alone. My best friend called the day before our wedding to inform us that she would not be flying in from California for the wedding, nor would be my bridesmaid, then went on to suggest to me who could fill in for her and that she was overnighting her dress. Needless-to-say, we did not take her suggestion, nor could we, for the dress did not arrive in time. She had not mailed it overnight like she said.

    Sad how one act by a friend you allowed into your heart can devistate you. Instead of our wedding being a glorious day, I felt shame and embarrassment in front of 350 people, the likes of which I have never since walked since. Her act of not showing up told the world and everyone in it that I was not worthy of her friendship. What made matters worse was she called the morning of our wedding, while my parents were at my apartment, to ask my forgiveness. All she wanted to hear were the words, so it would make her conscience feel better. She then spent the next 25 years “living the life”.

    Not until a year or so ago did she finally humble herself enough to admit the pride in her heart. Our relationship today is on the mend. It is not where it could have been, but all things are possible with God. It took me years to grow past that hurt. Rejection has a way of doing that, so it is HEARTENING to see you learning quickly not to harbor unforgiveness. I believe my friend today would be quick to say that her mistakes hurt her more than they did me. On a brighter note, I see God’s faithful heart throughout all of this, for the bad that was intended to hurt me made me more compassionate toward others, rather than judging them for their failures not to “measure up”.

    I wanted to share something very cool that God did for me and the girls in Virginia. We were taking a side road to Hwy 1 to go into old town Fredericksburg for my eldest’s ballet class and were stopped at a left turn off (for a riding stables), two cars back from the car wanting to turn left on this single lane rode. If you know anything about this part of the country, “side roads” are often used by trucks to avoid being stopped in traffic because of the enormous population of the area.

    Next thing we know, we hear the loud sound of screeching tires, at the sound level you hear just before an impact, and this six wheel, extended bed pickup screeches to a stop level with me but on the shoulder to my right. Almost immediately after that, a delivery truck did the same, also ending up to the right, but in the grass. Our youngest was two and was strapped in her carseat in the back. I don’t have to tell you what would have happened to us had we been double hit by such large vehicles while driving an Olds Intrigue.

    I will never forget that day that God protected us, nor will I stop being thankful, for I now can count many such days, and this is only for the ones I know about. It was not chance. Now I have been rearended twice before and broadsided once, but that one would have been deadly for at least one of us. Be encouraged, Jonathon, and keep your heart on Jesus.

    • Thanks for reading and for the encouragement, Mrs. Fischer! That’s an awesome story about God’s protection! I love hearing about things like that! It’s quite amazing to see His hand so obviously present in dangerous moments.
      Hope you’re doing well! And I hope the photos are satisfactory.

  2. Carson Webb says:

    I must confess, your post has been sitting untouched in my inbox for the last two weeks–now I see it was much too long to leave it.

    It’s amazing to hear what God’s been doing in your life over the last few months, because he has been walking me through my own hard times as well, namely in regard to my relationships. And I realize now that it is the continuation of his promise (which he gave to me two years ago give or take) to align my relationships. [Now I just hope he continues to hold to the physical-realm symbol as well, and finishes aligning my teeth too 😉 ]

    He’s been reminding me that he MUST be first in my life, even and especially before my girlfriend (a fact which he made painfully clear through our break-up earlier this year.) Four weeks ago he asked me a tough question after dealing with some idolization issues in me; would I break up with Emma if he asked me to?

    Weak-kneed and after much deliberation, I said yes.

    Needless to say, he didn’t ask me to break up with her. He simply reminded me in his unique, profound way, that I hadn’t waited for her for nothing. But he did ask me to seek intimacy with him above her, and so I committed to especially put my effort into doing that for a month, which I am still walking through.

    About that same time through a complicated series of events, God addressed my flesh indulgence. My parents gave me the book Every Young Man’s Battle by Arterburn and Stoeker (a resource I should have had years ago) and I dug right into it. As a result I made a few more commitments, installed a filter, and got a lot more serious about cutting out any and all impurity from my life that I could. I’ve been porn-free for nearly 4 weeks, and I’m not stopping there.

    But with change comes hardship. Between cravings and withdrawals, not to mention Satan’s ever-continuing struggles in my relationship with Emma (which have only increased with my commitment to place God first in my life) it has been a battle for my life (I even crossed paths with a suicidal spirit last night, something I left behind me long ago). And let me tell you, the hardships didn’t just start when I decided to make such radical changes, I had already been struggling heavily.

    But all things considered… God is good–more than good!
    Let’s talk soon 🙂

  3. las artes says:

    I am going to borrow something I just saw on a friend’s post because it is something I tell my children regularly. “Make good choices!” Every day, we are confronted by numerous opportunities to decide between what is bad and what is good. Sometimes, the bad option is the easier choice, but it is never the right one. You will be rewarded for doing right even if not in that very moment. So, as you go through your day today, make sure that you make good choices!

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