I’m tired. I’m angry. I’m lonely. I’m overwhelmed. I’m afraid.
Have you spoken, or even thought any of these words over the past months, weeks, or days? Well, if you have you’re not alone. And it’s easy to get caught up in the raging storm, especially when it’s so long, so big, so all-encompassing. It often seems easier to put up a front, showing our friends, neighbours, family and church community that we’re strong, that we’re getting through this and that we’re okay. And don’t the physical masks we wear right now help us to achieve that? It’s easy to show others that we’re brave, strong and that everything’s okay when half of our faces are hidden behind a physical mask when we’re in contact with others. But you know what? It’s okay to not be okay right now. We’ve been through a lot over the last year, and none of us can see what’s on the other side of the horizon yet. That’s God’s territory. He knows what’s to come. And He knows where we’re really at too.
Earlier this month as I was listening to music, a song came on that I had heard many times before, “Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns. This song gives me peace in knowing that God not only holds my life and my heart, but loves me, and never lets me go. On this day, however, as I listened to the opening verse my mind started turning beyond these truths.
Verse 1: Hold it all together, everybody needs you strong. But life hits you out of nowhere, and barely leaves you holding on. And when you’re tired of fighting, chained by your control, There’s freedom in surrender. Lay it down and let it go.
The first line of this song is exactly what I’ve been seeing around me. On social media, Facebook friends are posting cute pictures of their kids and walks in the park. Smiling faces and good times. Lots of people give “likes” for those sorts of things. That’s what people want to see and read about. That’s what people need. Especially right now. We might be holding on by a lifeline at times, but we want to be seen as strong and resilient because maybe, just maybe that will bring others hope.
Or maybe it’s just because we don’t want to let other people see our struggles and pain.
How would others view us if we allowed them to see beneath our masks? Not the physical masks we’re wearing right now. Our internal ones. The masks that show us to be holding on, staying strong, doing well, getting through with a bit of breathing room to spare. As a parent, when my children see me having a rough day, I often want to hide what I’m going through. I want my children to see me as a resilient and joy-filled mom who can handle anything. But they know the truth. They’re experiencing stress and hardship too. My five-year-old daughter regularly tells me that she wishes that coronavirus was extinct.
They don’t need to know that I’m strong and holding it all together. Not my kids, or the folks on Facebook, or anyone else. They need to know that God is stronger than the best strong-front I can put on. He holds me and loves me and is my greatest strength amid my greatest weaknesses and times of trial. They need to see that even when I’m not okay and I start to feel like I’m not doing enough, or trying enough, or even being enough, that I’m being held by the One who died to be my enough. God’s power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9). He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless (Is 40:29). This is what the Casting Crowns song is talking about! When we are tired, angry, lonely, overwhelmed, afraid… it is in these places that God reaches down to hold us, uphold us, strengthen us and reveal His power in us. He carries us when we are having trouble carrying ourselves and His power in and through us becomes our greatest strength when we are weak. We don’t need to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. Christ has already taken it all.
But it’s hard to lay down our burdens. That involves surrender to God. Letting go of everything we hold dear. It means letting go of our pride, our self-sufficiency, and our own strength that we often rely on. Surrender means to admit that we’re not enough, and never will be, and that’s okay. Surrender means that we don’t have to put on a front and show the world or fellow Christians that we’re strong, resilient, and we’re doing just fine. Surrender, although to the world’s standards sounds like weakness, is in fact the place where our true strength begins, not where it ends. Because in surrender we find that our weakest, most broken place has room to start the journey towards healing and wholeness. In the act of surrender, that is, our every weakness and strength, hope for the future and despair from the past, we will find a peace and a strength like no other. And that is because in our weakness God is made strong.
Do we need others to see that we’re always strong and holding on? It is in our weaknesses, brokenness and imperfections that God’s strength is most acutely seen. And isn’t that who we really want the world to see in us? So maybe right now we don’t need to hold on and be strong. Maybe this is the time to let it all go and let some of our weakness and brokenness show through. It is there that our True Strength is found.
Jennifer Heidinga is a first-year MDiv distance student. She’s a wife and mom to two wonderful children in Ontario, Canada. She loves to sing and enjoys spending time with her family and springer spaniel in the great outdoors, including weeklong backcountry canoe trips in the summer.