In times of trial, of trouble, or of illness, what most of us want most desperately and most urgently of all things is simply to feel better. We want to feel like ourselves again, want to feel like human beings, want to feel like there's something good in life or even in God, for these times tend to test our faith more than anything.
But even for those of us who remain faithful in trying times, there is this deep yearning within us for "better," which is often something somewhere close to whatever we consider "normal" for us.
And we become people who pray. Earnestly. We say to ourselves, to others, and to God that we are people of faith, which makes us people of prayer, and that when life isn't going the way that we wanted it to or that we feel entitled to or whatever, we remain people of faith by remaining people of prayer and praying faithfully, earnestly, until we feel better. Until life gets better. Until things level out and become recognizable again.
A question worth asking at this point, however, is whether or not this is what faith truly looks like.
Is a life of faith a parched land, where in seasons of dryness we merely pray for rain? Is a life of faith this thing that ebbs and flows and demands constantly to be filled up, continues to seek stability and evenness?
Or does a life of faith ride the waves? Is faith more about learning to live at your low points than simply learning to pray in them?
In other words, when life is hard (and God promised that it would be), does a real life of faith do more than simply pray for things to get better?
We talk about this, actually. Quite a bit. We talk about learning to dance in the rain, because that sounds so poetic compared to what we really want to say, which is something more like learning to breathe in the dung. Let's just be honest. It's learning to eat with hands that you can't quite get clean. It's tracking mud through a life that you wish was a little cleaner already. It's learning to sing with a voice that keeps catching in your throat and learning to style hair that keeps falling out.
It's embracing the fact that God doesn't owe you a "better" life, that faith doesn't just "fix" problems, that you don't always get to "feel better," but that that doesn't change the fact that God embraces you, that faith carries you through, that at the very least, you're feeling something.
As people of faith, our greatest challenge is to accept both this truth and this moment and learn to live honoring God no matter what we feel like today. That doesn't mean that we pretend. It doesn't mean we whitewash over it. It doesn't mean we cover it in some flowery religious language that sounds good but doesn't satisfy the heart.
It means that we find satisfaction for our heart, no matter what we feel like today. It means that we acknowledge that this isn't the life we wanted to live, that this isn't the way it was supposed to be. It means that we confess our broken things, but put a candle in them anyway and see what kind of glory shines out of them. Figure out how to say, "This is broken right now, and it's hard. But here's what faith looks like, what God looks like."
It means that we pray to feel better, yes, and we keep hoping, but we do not put our lives - or our faith - on hold waiting for that day. We can't. We are a living testimony right now, broken or not. Our best selves or not. Or best life or not.
This world needs to see us not entitled to better, but embracing broken. For isn't that, after all, where we live? Somewhere broken...somewhere painfully, crushingly, agonizingly broken and full of persons who feel entitled to something more. Shouldn't we, as a people of faith, be something different?
If our God is truly good (and He is), shouldn't we be a people who find a way to show that, to live that, to love that even when our lives don't seem all that good? Even when we live in trial and trouble? Even when we're not sure we're ever going to "feel" better?
Even when we're broken?
Pray, yes. Hope, for sure. But live and love where you're at. Put a candle in it. Shine a light.
Watch the shadows dance.