Staying Whole When Your World Shatters

The Middle East crisis, refugee crisis, child soldiers, sexual slavery… so many crises make me think about the atomic bomb that upended my own life, changing me forever and how sadly common it is to be traumatized.

As a believer, this often becomes a moment of impasse because it is so excruciating to our faith. It is very easy to get stuck and never progress from it.

For me, it was the dissolution of my family over the course of ten years — lasting from my early teens through my mid-twenties. It all started when my father lost his job as a minister and didn’t find other gainful employment. The sudden transition from middle class to abject poverty coincided with my mother’s nervous breakdown.

This was the beginning of an agonizing wait for a break in a cycle of despair. Every day, I was hopefully waiting, trusting, believing things would turn around. But days became long arduous months and months became soul crushing years. Over those years things never seemed to get better. Instead they got worse.

Something significant happens when an experience costs such a tender part of your heart. It can look like a million things: infertility, divorce, the death of a parent, death of a child, violence, a car accident…

These things that turn your world on its head in a deep deep way often leave nothing but a sense of loss.

Lately I’ve been thinking about this passage in Habakkuk.

“Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed & founds a town with violence! Is it not indeed from the Lord of hosts that peoples toil for fire & nations grow weary for nothing? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

The sea is a place of unknowable depth which was carved out by extreme forces.

Think about that.

See, I think this passage is saying that atrocities which are so destructive and oppressive can’t help but usher in His prevailing purpose. They carve out huge areas which are left mercilessly exposed. Unbeknownst to the destroyer these areas have actually been prepared to be filled, covered with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord in the same way that the waters cover the sea.

The writer finishes his book with a final thought

Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails, and fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stall, yet I will triumph in Yahweh. I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! The Lord is my strength. He makes my feet like those of the deer and enables me to walk on the mountain heights.”

Habakkuk, like many of us, doesn’t see the glory yet.

He is still in the middle of the destruction. Despair is in his face. I think there’s a key in here for us. We can choose to trust His purpose and His goodness even when it doesn’t appear evident. Even when everything seems the opposite. Even when it costs us everything. Trying to make sense of senselessness is destabilizing and will undermine your mental health.

Trust me on that one.

All we can do in the face of agonizing brutality is offer Him the ashes of our brokenness. I believe that’s precious to Him.

And the thing about God… He gives beauty for ashes so we can expect a solid return.