This has not been my most successful year. My family has experienced a great deal of stress, some preventable, some out of our hands. My prayer life has suffered. I can’t seem to push past shallow, two-minute pleas at my most distracted moments of the day. I am floundering in my parenting. The older our children grow, the more difficult the issues become, and the more obvious it is that I cannot make the choices for them. If I cannot keep my own heart pure and focused, how do I expect to change someone else’s?
“Then Jesus taught the followers that they should pray and never lose hope...I tell you, God will help his people quickly. But when the Son of Man comes again, will he find people on earth who believe in him?” Luke 18:1,8
Feelings aren't always reality. I may feel alone or hopeless, but that is almost never the case. In times of depression or discouragement I may not be able to be logical, but I can give myself time to clear my vision. My goal is to fix my eyes on Jesus and strain to see through his perfect wisdom. I recognize my myopia and trust that Jesus' vision is sharper than my momentary feelings.
Sometimes we must recognize and give deference to our grief. We are not faithless when we feel sad. We are merely experiencing what it is to be human in a fallen, broken world. Although we are already in Christ's kingdom, we are still a part of the pain of the current world. Although sin and failure have been eradicated, we yet live with their oppressive touch in our daily lives. We hope in their inevitable and irreversible removal. And, in this way, we sigh with a mixture of joy and ennui. Whether our pain stems from our own shortcomings or simply from the secondary effects of living in a world waiting to be "liberated from its bondage and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God" (Romans 8:21), we still suffer.
Feeling sad about a current situation doesn't negate the hope we hold on to in times to come. If anything, it binds us tighter to the only one in whom we hope.
"And this hope will never disappoint us. We know this because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts through the Holy Spirit he gave us." Romans 5:5
God can still use us at our weakest and most vulnerable, and often does. It is one of the paradoxes of the Christian faith. Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. To be first, we must be last. To be wise, we must become foolish. When I am weak, then I am strong.
Instead of hiding behind platitudes and pleasantries, in Christ's community we are free to be fragile. We grow closer to one another through confession, and closer to him by relying on his power instead of our own.
What about you? Does your faith ever feel fake? What is the greatest encouragement you receive from others?
April Bumgardner is a mom of three boys, two of whom she currently home schools. Generally, it seems there are more than three, but she has counted several times and there really are just the three. She has been married to William since 1996. So far, it’s going fairly well.
April was raised in Phoenix, Arizona in a strong, Christian home. She received her B.A. in Russian from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas and her MPhil in Slavonic Studies from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.
Her favorite Bible verses tend to be about rest and the hope of heaven. When she was little, however, her favorite was Daniel 1:4 when Daniel and his friends were taught “the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.” Perhaps because this sounded so exciting, she has lived in Belgrade, Serbia; Vienna, Austria; Sendai, Japan, and Glasgow, Scotland. None of these places actually speak Chaldean, but she did learn to speak Serbian pretty well.
April loves drinking coffee, reading and sautéing garlic. She inconsistently maintains a personal blog on parenting, educating through good books and on matters of faith.
She believes narratives and stories of all kinds offer the most profound avenue by which to learn and enjoy God’s truths.
April and her family have been happily involved at North Central since 2012.