I was halfway finished with this article when I decided to start over. I wasn’t really being honest. The truth is, I’m angry. I feel dishonored, devalued and underappreciated. I went for a walk to calm down. Then I came home and had an ugly cry. Scripture tells me that I have the mind of Christ, but boy am I not feeling it today!
This morning I woke up to an email from an organization that I have worked with closely for nearly five years. It announced the addition of four new board members. This is an organization that I had desired to work with in a leadership capacity. I had even expressed my desire to be considered for a role with the board of directors when an opening presented itself. Not only had I not been selected but also, I had not even been told that they were seeking candidates for any board position—let alone four!
My mind went over the many times I hadn’t been selected for something I was interested in. In my senior year of high school, the top 12 girls were selected for the homecoming court. I was Number 13. In writing contests, online contests, scholarship applications and the like, I was just shy of the winner’s circle. I was off by one point or lacking a few votes. In short, I was not quite good enough.
It’s very hard not to project my earthly experiences onto my heavenly standing. I know intellectually that the world’s definition of winning in this life has nothing to do with my security or position for eternity. Yet somehow, I find myself feeling not quite good enough, even in the eyes of God. After all, why doesn’t He throw me a win every now and again?
Now, most of us could come up with spiritual-sounding sayings to insert here, but I hate Christian platitudes. We toss them around, turning truths from Scripture into cheap, thoughtless responses. But they go through my head at times like these. God’s ways are not our ways. He works all things together for good. Be anxious for nothing. . . . So, I sit and reflect on what I know to be true but often fail to internalize and believe for myself.
I started thinking about biblical examples of God’s use of individuals to bring about change or influence in difficult circumstances. There are many, but the first two people who came to mind were Joseph and Esther.
Most people know the story of Joseph and how God used many years of trials to finally elevate him to the position of second in command of all Egypt, saving the multitude from starvation. I found myself imagining his years in prison, where he would have had every “right” to become bitter at God and hardened toward the world. I think I might even prefer the story to have included details about Joseph having a pity-party, getting mad at God, and then finally being transformed into the hero we know. But the Bible doesn’t give any such details. Like me, Joseph had issues with pride, but perhaps it had been stripped away years earlier when his brothers sold him into slavery. I don’t want Joseph’s suffering, but I surely would like to fully experience the main part of Genesis 39:21 (ESV), “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor. . . .”
Esther is a biblical heroine who has her own holiday, movies and a Veggie Tales episode. It’s easy to imagine a gorgeous woman saving her people from the evil plan of Haman. What we don’t often think about is the fact that she was essentially a sex slave. She was taken from her home, along with many other young women, and had to wait her turn to “go into King Ahasuerus” (Esther 2:12, ESV). Then we are told, “She would not go in to the king again, unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name” (Esther 2:14b). I can’t begin to imagine the mental anguish that Esther went through to be counted among the greats.
If I’m being honest, I want history to remember me as it does Joseph or Esther. When I’m long gone, I want my work to have made a difference in my generation. But being equally honest, I don’t want any of the suffering in the life of almost any given person in Scripture. Is greatness achievable without walking through pain?
Sadly, we live in a broken world, where suffering is almost certainly unavoidable. Sometimes that suffering is from evil done to us. Sometimes, it’s from something as subtle as being overlooked or devalued. I’m trying to learn the lesson of not comparing my suffering with that of others. We’ve all got our own stories to walk through and lessons to learn.
I continue to write because it helps me process the situations I face. I hope it also serves as an honest reflection of a dedicated Christian who doesn’t always have her act together. Following Jesus doesn’t mean I come out ahead in this world. Often, it means seasons of anxiety and pain, confusion and uncertainty. While I want to be recognized for my efforts and hard work, I will no doubt face continual disappointment every time I try to find my value in the eyes of others.
I may be in a moment of lament, but I don’t want to remain here. I want to remember God’s faithfulness and call upon Him to be my fulfillment.
Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your word! Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your word. My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statues. My tongue will sing of your word, for all your commandments are right. Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts. I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight. Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments. ―Psalm 119:169-176 (ESV)