She is weeping.
I just want to be happy, she sobs, and I am silenced by this grief and pain.
What do you say to this one, who is so alone in this world? All the words seem empty. She stands in the midst of a rubble of broken dreams and shattered hopes, the ruins made of poor decisions and bad relationships and a hard past. She is forsaken and alone, and she knows it.
Her face is red and worn from the grief. Tears glisten on her cheeks and words catch in my throat.
I just want to be happy.
I don’t know how to tell her that happiness isn’t the answer, and that a fresh start and a fat bank account and health and people to love her won’t be the answer to her problems. I don’t know how to tell her that we can’t circumvent the grieving and the valley and the desert– that what we need is joy and that joy comes when we walk through, not when we try to walk around or go the other way.
I don’t know how to say these words to one so broken and so lost. I don’t know how much she understands when I look in her eyes and say God sees you and He has not forsaken you. She says she knows Jesus. She fights her demons and falls back into her old patterns and maybe I have been wrong to doubt her faith.
I fight demons and fall back into my old patterns too. Mine are just prettier and more acceptable to my Pharisaical line of thinking. They are still proof of my brokenness.
We are the same here on the level ground at the foot of the cross. We have only one hope. I fumble my words and do my best not to speak in cliches and empty promises. We might seem to be worlds apart but we can clasp hands here and say together what we need is Jesus.
We are all brought by diverse paths to this place– this place where we see our smallness and His greatness. This place where we bow the knee to the King of kings. This place where we must dig deep into the hope of the Savior because there seems to be no hope in our circumstances. This is where we find joy and peace and strength to keep going another day, even when everything around us is rubble.
The world shatters and falls apart, and all the hope we have placed in the things of this world– in our money, in our position, in our leaders, in our friends– all that hope disintegrates like the soap bubble it is. Our happiness comes and goes with the shifting sands of our lives.
But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
He is the same when a husband leaves, when the money runs out, when a child rebels. He is the same when the terrorists attack, when the cancer has its way, when the car crashes. He is an unchanging Rock of Refuge, a deep stream of Living Water, the One who holds us in the palm of His hands, where we cannot be shaken.
How can I tell her all of this, when she can’t see past today’s insurmountable fears?
How can I remind myself of this, when I’m angry or afraid or grieved?
The peace of God that passes understanding doesn’t come because our hard circumstances become easy, but because those very circumstances drive us closer to the heart of Jesus. There is deep peace there, and joy that cannot be explained, that spring from a place completely separate from the temporal and physical life we live here now.
Be anxious for nothing, Paul writes. He says to pray. To give thanks. To think about what is good and true and beautiful– to think about Jesus. And he says the peace will come.
Peace. Even better than the happiness she craves in her loneliness.
She is not alone. I am not alone. Neither are you.
For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”