Chronic Pain and Unmitigated Joy (or “we just sold our house”)

In mid 2007 my wife and I made the decision that we would not leave the town where we were edged out of the pulpit, but would stay until our youngest two children graduated from high school. Thus we did not list our house for sale in 2007, but waited until 2010. During that wait, there was a year in real estate circles infamously known as “2008.”

In 2011 we moved to Indianapolis to preach for the North Central Church of Christ. We put our house on the market and waited for the offers to come pouring in. We had chosen our house in a more affluent part of town colloquially called “pill hill” largely because we wanted a house that would hold value for resale. We signed with a realtor for a six-month listing and then renewed and renewed and….

Last week, at last, we closed on a sale. May 30, 2017. That is not the date we expected to close when were considering our options in 2007. We took a bath, but at least the beatings are over. Morale should now improve.

It already has! Even though the sale is in so many ways disappointing, it is also gratifying to know that we will no longer have two mortgages, two insurance payments, two tax bills. Just having some pain end is in itself a joy. From now on, I will only make one housing payment. I feel giddy!

When we first could not sell our house, I felt something approaching anger. It felt like the old adage “no good deed goes unpunished.” We had felt led to that church, but it was very difficult. Then we stayed in a very uncomfortable living arrangement for our kids, frankly assuming God would reward us for our faithfulness. We did the hard thing, even returning to secular employment, yet we were going to take a pounding on the sale of our house. It was frustrating. Through time the harshness of my emotion wore down and I began to see ways to “accept it as discipline” and consider how to make the best of a bad situation. Now I can honestly report that this day with a 25% loss is one of pure joy. We are moving on!

I hope I have not been too indulgent talking about our house sale. I hope this has some relevance to someone who has suffered or is suffering from a problem that just won’t go away, or that if it does go away, will not go away well. I think of other areas in my own life where chronic problems arise. At first, I feel angry or resentful. After a while, I learn to lean more on God and trust his will for my life, even where it makes no apparent sense. I wax and wane but over time I do tend to trust more. Gradually, my harsher emotions turn to acceptance. If I am freed from the grinding problem, I feel relief and even joy. If I am not, his grace is sufficient.

Currently we live in a situation that I cannot detail due to confidentiality. The weight of this situation is a daily burden. When it first arose, I felt rage at the injustice of it and the apparent hopelessness of it. As time goes on, my hotter emotions are cooling and I just feel depressed. When will I learn? Must I keep having this experience until I do? “My grace is sufficient for you.” “My strength is perfected in weakness.” I pray, “God, please remove this situation.” Bluntly, I often pray, “God please remove this person.” Why do I not move quickly to a peaceful trust in God’s timing? I must confess that my heart is not easily molded.

A day will come when the burden will be lifted. I know this is true. In a flash the situation will improve, and I will feel joy. Or perhaps the situation will improve gradually, and I will feel my steps growing lighter and easier. It’s even possible that the situation will not improve at all. It’s possible that I will carry this load all the way to my grave, but at that moment, I will lay all my burdens down, and I will be so relieved! I used to find it hard to pray “maranatha – Lord come quickly.” Now I exude that prayer from the heart. I’m ready for all of this to be over. The only thing that tears me is the possibility of useful service to family and faith community. For my part, the better thing would be to go on.

What I’m saying is this: when I was a child, I thought the way to truly experience joy was to receive something – a gift perhaps. Now I know that joy can come from having something terrible taken away. Burning a mortgage, making a final student loan payment, finishing chemotherapy. All of these things are joyful even though they are “just” the cessation of something. Imagine how wonderful it will be to gain all that God has in store for us, by giving up things that we are tired of carrying anyway.

Have confidence in God. He’s already in your future, working things out for your best possible future if you will but trust him. He knows our weaknesses. He knows that we are dust. He also knows the glory in store for us and how joyful we will be when we finally see it all through his eyes. Right now, I can’t imagine what it would feel like to feel pure unmitigated joy ever again, yet I know I will. Our joy, just like that of our Lord’s, is set before us.

Never give up. May God bless you. Maranatha.

Steve Kenney has been married to Leslie his whole adult life, and they have three wonderful children, JaneAnn, Erin, and Scott, and one grandchild, Caroline. They have four cats and pleasant memories of many more. Steve earned an undergraduate degree in missions from Abilene Christian, and his graduate degrees from Pitt (J.D.) and Lipscomb (M.Div.). He and his family have rooted for the Reds, Bengals, and Buckeyes, but always root for the home team wherever they live. That means Steve has cheered the team from Dallas that shall no longer be named by him and the team from DC that shall no longer be named by anyone. He’s also cheered the Steelers despite his Bengal roots. So yes, he’s also a miracle-worker.

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Author:  Publish Date: June 7, 2017

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The CHARIS website hosts conversations of and about Churches of Christ. In partnership with the ACU Library and the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry at Abilene Christian University (Abilene, TX), the website is supported and led by the Center for Heritage and Renewal in Spirituality (CHARIS) at ACU. The Center’s mission is to renew Christian spirituality through engagement of Christian heritage, at Abilene Christian University and beyond. The views expressed on the CHARIS website are those of the various authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of Abilene Christian University or CHARIS at ACU. Questions or comments about the CHARIS website can be directed to charis @ acu.edu.

2017-18 CHARIS Editorial Board:
Dr. Carisse Berryhill
Dr. Jason Fikes
Karissa Herchenroeder
Mac Ice
Chai Green
Tammy Marcelain
Dr. John Weaver

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