>”The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah.” -2 Chronicles 36:21
Forgive the hyperbole, but it has been a year of desolation. I left on the Taiwan mission trip on this day last year, which itself was a year after I had the rug pulled out from under me by someone I thought I knew and trusted. The mission trip was difficult yet gratifying, but it turned out to be the high point from which I sank steadily downward for about eight months. The first four months after I came back from Taiwan were marked by a vague but growing sense of discomfort; for all my efforts to seek God, I seemed to be sliding back into that dreadful numbness I knew at the end of my freshman year.
I came up for air at the winter youth retreat, then was dragged to the depths with a vengeance. My body sort of fell apart after four years of anorexia; inexplicably, I gained about ten pounds in about two months’ time, to which I responded by active purging in many forms, which only made things worse, of course. (Ironically, my outer life couldn’t have looked better: I made a 4.0 that quarter and was selected for a scholarship interview and a national quiz show.) It was then that I was once again plagued by the gnawing fear that things were never going to get better from that point. I saw a viral video of a child’s post-operative behavior under the influence of laughing gas, and he mumbles groggily, “I feel funny. Why is this happening to me? Is this going to be forever???” And that’s how I felt all the time. (I should note that throughout this entire period I was torn between maintaining and exorcising a past relationship, which I now realize was a significant drain on my emotional resources.)
Things turned when I started going to a Christian support group for women with eating disorders. Meeting others who knew exactly what I was talking about because they had been there…and beaten it…brought me to a turning point and I declared my first victory over my disorder. In keeping with the spring season, my life bloomed again, and I found myself wishing that things could, indeed, be like they were then forever. Of course, all things must come to an end, but this end did not mean a return to sorrow but a transition to something new, which I am in the midst of right now.
A passage from Elisabeth Elliott’s devotion for today:
There are dry, fruitless, lonely places in each of our lives, where we seem to travel alone, sometimes feeling as though we must surely have lost the way. What am I doing here? How did this happen? Lord, get me out of this!
He does not get us out. Not when we ask for it, at any rate, because it was He all along who brought us to this place. He has been here before–it is no wilderness to Him, and He walks with us. There are things to be seen and learned in these apparent wastelands which cannot be seen and learned in the “city”–in places of comfort, convenience, and company.
I usually characterize the summer after my freshman year the worst period of my life. When I compare this past year with that summer, I think that the circumstances may indeed have been worse this year, but the difference is that this time I did not hide from God as I did then. I cried out for Him, and He answered with silence only to let me cry out more. When I strove to fix things myself, He put up walls to absorb the brunt of my futility so He could, finally, carry my powerless self. (Quite literally, He hit me with a car to break my compulsion to exercise!) In the past I would have resented this way of teaching, and many times I still grow terribly discouraged. But I often take encouragement from the book of Hosea:
“Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will sing as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
“In that day,” declares the LORD,
“you will call me ‘my husband’;
you will no longer call me ‘my master.’
Life is a cycle of desolation, rest, and restoration, and each enhances the experience of the other. I don’t pretend to remember this all the time, but I try. Now the question is, Am I resting now or being restored?