This is Really Hard

I haven’t journaled, really sat down and journaled, for going on two months now. It’s not from a lack of thoughts; in fact, it’s the opposite. I’m afraid to sit down because I know that thankfulness and wonder and pain and awe and fear are all going to tumble out of my pen, and I’m afraid they won’t stop. The margins of my class notes are filled with phrases that I write down before I forget, planning to expound upon them at some later date that never comes. I haven’t been able to find the words for how hard-hearted I have been to think myself too good for manna, how stunned I have been by my heart’s tenacious grip on light, how I am learning to say—and believe—that it is well with my soul.

When I sit down to write, I don’t know what to do with all of it, so I keep wrapping it up in the same words: “This is really hard.” I am about to turn twenty-one, and I told my roommate a few days ago that I hope twenty-one is gentler than twenty. In the past twelve months, I’ve moved to another country, come home early from that country to a shutdown order, gone through heartbreak, come face-to-face with my own privilege, started my senior year of college completely online, and decided not to pursue the graduate school path I’d imagined since high school, all during a pandemic and an election year. None of this is exceptional, and others have had it worse than I have, but still, all the words I manage to eke out end with “this is really hard.”

For this entire year, those words have felt insufficient. I haven’t wanted to write them here or anywhere else because I haven’t wanted to diminish God’s new mercies. In all honesty, those new mercies are exactly what’s been hard, even though they’re also full of hope and joy. Hard as I try, I can’t tie up the overwhelming everything in a neat bow. The words I have taken to the past ten months come out weighty, if they come out at all.

It’s the tenth month of a long, hard year. Day in and day out, we’re inundated with tragic headlines, and all the while, real life stops for no Instagram story. I am still reeling from all that twenty has brought, and sometimes the way the sun keeps rising feels more like new heartbreaks than new mercies.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in my friends’ apartment watching church, as has become our Sunday routine in the era of Facebook Live sermons. It had been a long week, full of difficult conversations with people I love, some with new wounds tearing open and others with old scars reopening. In the minutes before the sermon, pen poised over my notebook, I jotted down one of now-countless phrases in the margin: He knew what it was to have the darkness weigh in on Him, too. More than I ever will.

Jesus knew long years, too. He was tempted in the wilderness, betrayed by his best friends, and questioned on every side. He is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, having been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). He knows the weight of the darkness, having carried the sinful hearts of the whole human race, all our evil thoughts and deeds, on the cross. On Calvary, He felt the Father turn His back. To say that that must have been really hard is an understatement.

Still the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

So I’m going to keep scribbling in the margins, letting myself falter for words as I sit down with my journal and my cup of morning coffee. This is really hard, but our high priest knows the hard things, too. This is really hard, and it is well with my soul.

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