It’s been a hard year, hasn’t it? I see you, curled up alone on the floor of your bedroom, stifling your sobs with your hand so your family doesn’t hear. I see you, sitting numbly at your desk chair, wondering what all of this is for. I see you because I’m you, years later, reflecting on the life you’re living right now.
I know it’s been hard. I see you, working tirelessly over classes that you’ll forget about in a year, attending events you’re not interested in, investing in shallow friendships to feel less alone, feeling like a different person in every social situation as you struggle to fit in everywhere at once. You worry endlessly about the future—grad school, career, relationships. You wonder if things will ever change, if things will get better. Most of all, you wonder why you’re even doing all these things in the first place.
What are you working for?
I see you, wondering if this life is worth living through. Sometimes you just push the feeling down, drowning yourself in pages of text and the colorful blocks crowding your calendar, but if you let yourself think too much, you find yourself slipping back into that feeling of meaninglessness. If all there is to life is this endless pursuit of success and comfort, you wonder what the point is in continuing. You choose not to confront your pain and confusion because it hurts too much to think about. After all, you tell yourself, your life isn’t so bad. You have good grades, friends, family—how can you be unhappy? But as each blurry day rushes by, the question keeps rising up in you:
What are you doing all this for?
I see you, working for the future, believing that somehow this life will get better if you had more money, more comfort, more friends, more love. You’re toiling over school and relationships in hopes of gaining these things, but when will you feel satisfied? Will you ever reach a point where you’ll feel like you can stop working so hard to get what you don’t have?
We’re all just looking to be filled by something.
For you, it’s not even about material success. I see you, crying alone at night, overwhelmed by the expectations set upon you. People always called you smart, gifted—now, being in an environment surrounded by other, smarter people, it’s impossible to feel seen. You’ve built your identity around your intelligence and success, but now, outside of the bubble of your hometown, there’s always someone out there better than you. You wonder if people will still love you if you can no longer bring success, service, fun, intelligence—if you’re no longer special, if you’re no longer useful. I see you, hiding your feelings of inferiority, concealing the parts of your body that you hate, wishing that you didn’t have to work so hard for the simple yet unreachable goal of feeling truly, unconditionally loved and valued.
What does it take to be loved?
I see you, wondering if there’s anyone out there who cares. Sometimes you rage at God, the God you’re not even sure is out there, for allowing you to go through what you’ve gone through. You’ve been deeply hurt by abuse, abandonment, failure. The feeling of not being good enough smothers you daily. You have so many people around you, and yet you feel so alone. Sometimes living seems so hard. You get angry at the God you’ve heard tales of; the God who promised to love you. You hate the thoughtless, automatic responses you’ve gotten from Christians: “God works in mysterious ways”; “God has a plan for everything.” Maybe you just want someone to comfort you in your loneliness, to love you in your brokenness, to accept you as you are without facade.
I see you. I know it’s hard. But even I—your own self—cannot understand your thoughts completely. I cannot heal you of your hurt. I cannot offer you the unconditional, unrelenting love you desire. The most caring family, the greatest friend, the most faithful lover, or even your own self-love will not stop your pursuit of something more; I think you’ve realized that. But what I can tell you is that when you feel like you’re suffering alone, there is someone who weeps alongside you. When you feel like you’re living a purposeless life, there is someone who says your life is precious and planned, created with intention. When you feel insignificant and unloved, there is someone who calls himself your Father, Friend, and Lover—even when the fathers, friends, and lovers of this world let you down, he has promised to be faithful forever.
I know sometimes it’s hard to imagine a loving God would allow you to suffer in all the ways you’ve been hurt. But he does not callously watch your suffering from a distant throne; he left that throne to come to you as a poor, humble carpenter—born in an animals’ stable, unwelcomed by society, abandoned by his friends, beaten and mocked, killed for crimes he didn’t commit. He endured the most unjust, humiliating suffering in all of history. And yet, as he hung naked on a cross, bleeding and gasping for air, his flesh torn by nails and whips, he still looked upon those in the crowd mocking him, those ashamed of him, those ignoring him, and said: “Father, forgive them.”
Who is this Jesus?
He is the one who promises that he will never leave you or forsake you. He is the one that truly understands you; he has numbered every hair on your head, has seen every breath that you take. He is the one who promises that even as you are faithless, he is faithful. With him, you will never thirst again. With him, you can rest, knowing that you do not have to earn his favor through perfection; he paid that price for you. He has promised to carry your burdens, to provide for your every need. He assures you that he is gentle and lowly at heart, slow to anger and abounding in love. He grants you strength when you are weak and offers himself as a shelter and comfort in our suffering.
I know it’s hard to believe this right now. You’re worrying about the future—I promise that life is more than grad school, career, relationships. I promise that one day you’re going to live with the quiet, constant joy that you are unconditionally loved by someone infinitely more stable than the things you’re working for right now.
You’re wondering if things will ever change and get better—I promise that even though things look hopeless right now, they will. You’re still going to struggle, you’re still going to mess up (a lot), and life is still going to hurt sometimes, but I promise you that one day the God you’ve been running from for all these years is going to run to you. I promise you that through knowing his presence and love, you’re going to begin to heal, slowly but surely.
So keep living, keep working, keep pursuing those friendships, and keep moving forward. Just do all these things knowing that there’s more out there than just yourself and your life, that you are already fully loved and valued, and that though you feel alone, there is someone who sees you and hears you in your pain—someone who gave everything so that you can be with him in peaceful joy forever.
There is nothing on earth more sweet than the unrelenting love of a God who has the power to help you, the wisdom to understand you, and the patience to endure all with you. He has not promised a life free of suffering, but he offers you freedom from the endless pursuit of things that will not fill you. Run to him. Leave behind your worries and anxieties and run to the arms of the One who promises life and love greater than any career, any possession, any relationship. In his arms, you will find that you don’t need to work so hard, because you have all you need in him. In his arms, you can slow down and enjoy your work that is part of a plan greater than you can imagine. In his arms, you are not alone. You are fully known by the God who carefully crafted every tiny detail of you, and you are fully loved, wholly, unconditionally, always.
Don’t give up, please.