Dear Friend, You’re Not Alone… {The first 3 things I want to tell you after 10 months of blog silence}

Dear Friend, You’re Not Alone… {The first 3 things I want to tell you after 10 months of blog silence}

Dear Friend,

It’s been so very long. The better part of a year, believe it or not.

Much has happened. In my life, and I know in yours too.

Today I felt alone. And I longed to indulge in self-pity. I may have actually done so for a little while. But then I found that my own pitiful self was poor, uninspiring company, so I begged my already-present Savior to be with me in my aloneness.

And, of course, He was.

For months now, I’ve mostly avoided posting on social media, especially blogging. There has just been too much to think through. Too much to live through and pray through. I’ve let go of creating, marketing, and even updating. Life boiled down to the essentials. Me and God.

This past week I’ve been reminded of the reality that in no way do I have anything of worth to offer anyone. I am nothing of myself, can do nothing of myself, and have nothing of myself. I am so very empty. And the longer I live and the more fallenness I experience, the more I see and feel that.

And if you are on the same path of struggle, you know exactly how depressing that can be. Especially in this world where being, doing, and having is celebrated.

So, I’ve steered clear of saying much. Partly out of sheer emptiness, partly out of obedience to just be still.

But today, as I leaned again on Jesus in my ache, I was stirred to speak out.

Because you can’t read my mind. And I know you experience aloneness and discouragement too. And we all need to be reminded that we’re not the only one. We’re so not the only one. But our enemy would have us feel we are. That everyone else is fine, better off, included, managing, thriving. Being. Doing. Having.

close up face

But even the Perfect One, the One who knew exactly how to trust His Father fully, obey completely, be an unfailing Friend, speak truth with love, and serve selflessly was misunderstood, alone, heartbroken, rejected, and abandoned by all those closest to Him in His hour of greatest need. Not to mention experiencing ultimate aloneness on the cross as He bore our sin. And Jesus did all this for you and me. To make sure we would never have to be truly alone. To fill our emptiness with His completeness.

You and I have nothing. We are nothing. We can do nothing. But God…!

But God came to earth and reconciled our miserable sinful selves to Himself. He bought us back from the devil to whom we were enslaved.

So now we have everything we need for life and godliness. We are children of the Most High. We can do all things through Him who gives us strength.

It’s hard to live in the world of the unseen. What I see tells me that I’ll never be able to make ends meet. I don’t know how to raise, let alone educate and prepare five children for life in this world. What I see leads me to fear that I may never have the health and energy I want or that anything I do will make a difference on this earth.

But what is unseen is the truth. My God will supply all my needs. He will fulfill His purposes for my children. He will give me strength to equal my days. He uses jars of clay like me to prove that this all-surpassing power is from Him, not me.

My dear friend. You are made of flesh and blood like me. And your soul is made in the image of God, as is mine. Therefore I know your struggles are of the same nature as mine.

You wonder about the future. And are tempted to shrink back in fear.

You worry about your health. Your kids. Your marriage or lack thereof. Your finances. Your inability to measure up, do it all, earn approval, win love.

So often I’m kinder to my friends than myself. Maybe I see things more clearly in others than in myself. Maybe we all do. So I’ll tell this to you and listen in…

Jesus loves you.

He loves you. So completely. In spite of your wickedness. Your traitorous, adulterous heart. He has forgiven everything you have done, everything you will do against Him. When you put your faith in His work of salvation at the cross and in His resurrection, you and your sin die (DIE!) and you are raised in newness of life. Let His forgiveness and love wash over you. Rest in His love.

Jesus wants to give you more of Him.

No, He doesn’t give you a map of the rest of your life. He doesn’t promise to solve every issue you’re facing to your exact specifications. If I had it my way, and if you had it your way, that’s what we’d ask for. And we are so sure that would be better. But somehow, we would find ourselves worshipping the map, the answers, the gifts. And somehow, we would still be unhappy. Because we would be trying to make gods of things that can never be God. Jesus is giving you and me more of Himself. And He is the source of everything good. That’s a tough one to live out and believe to the very core of our beings. But it’s true.

Also, God isn’t done yet.

Proverbs 10:24-25 (ESV) says, “What the wicked dreads will come upon him, but the desire of the righteous will be granted. When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous is established forever.”

We spend so much time dreading and worrying, fearing the worst. But when the storms pass, God’s people will find that their desires will all be fulfilled. We’ll be established, not destroyed. That’s how it will end. I want to see that here on earth, of course, but this isn’t where the story ends.

And your aloneness, discouragement, pain… my struggles, frustrations, and setbacks are constant reminders. God isn’t done yet. He will finish what He started. He wins. Satan doesn’t. And any of us who is willing to lose his life for Christ’s sake will actually find it.

lady in field black and white edited

 

I know it’s hard to press on with good courage.

But “let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9 ESV)

Praying God’s strength, presence, and blessings in your life,

Jennifer

 

***

And in case you’re wondering… 

I’ll share more detailed happenings of the past year in time, but here’s a quick rundown of what the past months held.

January 2016 – God stirred our hearts to consider leaving South Florida for life and ministry in Southern California.

Spring 2016 – After a trip to CA, Jarod received God’s confirmation to pursue that calling.

June 2016 – Our family of 7 made a ridiculously eventful cross-country move to Lancaster, CA, 70 miles north of Los Angeles. Jarod accepted the position of Athletic Director at Desert Christian High School.

August – December 2016 – I was extremely sick (much of it bedridden), fighting bacterial and parasitical infections and adrenal fatigue. Brendan (our youngest, who is homeschooled) and I spent 2 months in Kansas with my mother to receive treatment and care while Jarod and the other 4 kids fought to maintain sanity at their new job/school.

Christmas – Present – Brendan and I rejoined the family in CA. My health is improving. In many regards, I’ve come from “death” to life (praise God!!!). I still have ups and downs and am limiting my daily activity to a fraction of what it used to be. 

I would deeply appreciate prayers for continued recovery. And for those of you who have been in touch, offering encouragement, inquiries, and for those of you who have prayed us through the past difficult months, I offer a heartfelt THANK YOU!

Also, I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave a comment or send an email (jenebenhack at gmail.com) with your own update and prayer requests. I would be honored to lift you up in prayer.

Jen 🙂

Loneliness: 3 Surprising truths that can change everything

Loneliness: 3 Surprising truths that can change everything

Loneliness

I’ve been there more than once.

Unknown.

Aching.

Lonely.

I’ve heard the enemy whisper that I’m the only one in a dark empty corner. That this kind of pain isn’t fair. That if anyone really cared, they’d try harder to reach me.

Lies, all of them. But believed by so many of us.

The truths about loneliness might surprise you. No, they’re not easy to hear, but these three truths just might change everything for you.

1) Loneliness is not about your circumstances.

But I hear you. When you’re single, it’s so tempting to believe your pain would be alleviated by a soul mate. Divorced? Widowed? As you mourn the loss of love, you live in a place the rest of us dread. And some of you are married, yet completely alone emotionally or spiritually.

Then there are friendships. Or the lack of them.  But no friend can meet the deepest needs of the heart. Even the best friend forgets to check on you during the worst week ever, becomes enamored with a new friend… a new job… a new baby.

Do you see it? Loneliness finds its way into every life. New circumstances only bring new corners into which it can settle.

Ever since Adam and Eve chose their way over God’s way, loneliness has been the condition of the human soul. It’s not about our circumstances; it’s about our soul’s hunger for God.

2) Loneliness, like pain, is a gift — a symptom that alerts us to the real problem.

Medical studies prove the value of physical pain. Not only does it alert us to life-threatening danger, it also signals our brain to speed the healing process.

And loneliness is the symptom of our soul’s need for Jesus. It urges us to run to Him.

“Pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”  Psalm 62:8

He alone knows when you come and go, when you lie down and rise up. He chose you, formed you, knit you together and knows your inmost thoughts. No other friend will ever be so interested, so eternally invested.

Our spouses, our friends, facebook, chocolate… none of them will fill the cracks of our hearts.

So stop. Stop for a moment and allow yourself to feel the ache of the loneliness. It’s telling you something. It’s pointing you to your true refuge.

Without loneliness, that gut-wrenching despairing kind of lonely that catches up to each of us eventually, we could never know God as our all-sufficient friend.

3) The ball is [almost] always in your court.
There are times when there is no choice. There is simply no one with you besides God. And in those moments, God will be enough.

He is enough.

But when you have a choice, remember: We are part of the Body of Christ. We weren’t meant to go through life on our own.
And while we’re quick to agree that we were meant to live in community, we’re also often slow to make the first move.

But do it.

You might be new to your community, your church, your ministry, your job. All those “settled” people around you should be welcoming you, embracing you, taking you into their lives and homes. (“Settled” friends, read this.)

But the chances are pretty good that they’re not. That’s how it often goes. I’ve been there.

So pick up the ball that’s in your court.

Make the first move. Make the second move. Make the third move.

It’s hard to break into what you see as a “clique,” I know; but don’t let bitterness, shyness, or awkwardness rob you of the joy of life in the Body.

In swallowing your pride, in humbly opening your life to those who haven’t yet really seen you, you bring Christ to them, and set yourself up to see Christ in them.

Don’t believe the lies, my friend. You aren’t the only one feeling alone. And your loneliness is not a curse, it’s a gift, reminding you that your eternal best friend longs to meet your needs. May He give you peace and also grant you courage to make the first step, the second step, and the third step toward a new friend.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.    2 Corinthians 13:14