The Long Road to Shalom {Team Journal}

Our team journal was written for you today by our Team Lead, Natalie Herr.

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At the end of 2017, I asked God to give me a word for 2018. Now, I’m not typically a “word-of-the-year” person, but I decided to go where the Spirit was leading. When I asked, God responded with the word shalom.

Shalom is a Hebrew word meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility and can be used idiomatically to mean both hello and goodbye.
Wikipedia

Shalom is an ancient Hebrew word. It’s most often translated to our English word peace, but it carries a much richer meaning than one word can hold. Shalom is wholeness. It’s oneness. It’s completeness. And boy, do I long for it.

Let me back up a bit. God has been teaching me a lot about myself in the past few months. With the help of the Word (and the Enneagram, let’s be real), I’ve discovered that I am not great at handling negative feelings. I don’t like sorrow, grief, or lament. I’m uncomfortable sitting in sadness. Joy and hope - that’s my wheelhouse. I’m an optimist through and through. I always thought that was a good quality to have - like somehow I was doing the Christian life “better” because I was so quick to return to my hope in Christ - but what I’ve found is that it’s actually NOT Christ-like to ignore my negative feelings.

Now, I’m not saying I don’t get sad (I do) or I don’t cry (I definitely do), but I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t know why it’s happening and I want it to be over it as soon as possible. I think things like: Why stay there in sadness when I can run straight to the truth and hold on for dear life? Why extend the grief when I can jump right to the promise? Why hang out in the middle of the story when I know the happy ending?

This problem I have with sadness became glaringly obvious as I read through Job in our DWITW 365 plan. If I’m completely honest, I was slogging through those middle chapters. I was wishing Job would stop repeating himself and the friends would get with it and God would just SHOW UP ALREADY. I know the end of the story. I know our faithful, Redeemer God. Come on with it, Lord!

I needed to sit and read the words of Job’s friends

But, God. Our good God designed the book of Job for short-sighted people just like me who need to do some walking in darkness before they see the light. I needed to sit and read the words of Job’s friends. I needed to realize that “DUH! I AM THE FRIENDS.” I am the person who struggles to be compassionate and rushes to the truth. I am the person who can’t always weep with those who weep. I am the person who has wounded others in their times of grief with my untimely words.

God asks me to love Him with my whole heart, mind, soul and strength (Mark 12:30). He wants me all-in. He wants me whole; complete; resting in SHALOM. And what I’ve come to realize is that I have not been loving God with my whole heart - I’ve been loving Him with just the happy half of my heart. Jesus came and died so that I could have life to the full (John 10:10) - abundance, wholeness, shalom - but I’m missing out on all that fullness if I am avoiding the pain. Pain is part of the human experience. Jesus felt more pain than I ever will. He wept, he grieved, he suffered. And what does that tell me? It tells me that it’s a privilege to suffer because it aligns me with Christ. When I walk with him through suffering, I connect with Him in a different way. I understand more deeply what it means to be human. I become ‘acquainted with grief’ (Isaiah 53:3), as He was. If Jesus needed to be acquainted with grief, then so do I.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
— 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

And what good is it for me to be acquainted with grief? (This is the constant question in my mind when I am escaping my pain). In my grief, I am met with God’s perfect comfort. Paul tells me that the comfort I get from God is meant to be given away to others when they are suffering (2 Cor. 1:4). It’s not just about me. There is a deep, God-reflecting comfort that isn’t possible for me to give if I haven’t worked through suffering myself. If I avoid my pain and refuse God’s comfort, I can’t give adequate comfort to others.

Two roads lie before me now: a short escape route and a long road to shalom. I’ve taken the short road enough times to know that it’s not a path of growth. It’s a path of avoidance and it doesn’t get me where I ultimately want to go. The road to shalom looks dark and twisty and full of danger, but that’s the road I’m choosing to walk down this time, hand-in-hand with my Jesus. He’s walked the path before me and will catch me when I fall. He is my peace (Eph. 2:14) and He will use my trials and suffering to make me complete (James 1:2-4). I don’t have to be afraid. He will also join me in my holy longing for restoration, and for perfect joy and peace. There’s room for hope and expectant joy on the journey, too.

Lord, forgive me for the years I’ve spent running away from pain, escaping from the hard feelings, avoiding sorrow. Show me the purpose in the pain. Show me what it looks like to embrace pain and lean into grief when it comes my way. Remind me that sad feelings are okay and help me to stick with them for a little while. When the trials come, comfort me in a way that only You can, and teach me how I can comfort others in the same way. Grow me in compassion and protect me from hurting others with insensitive words. Redeem the years that the locusts have eaten, Lord! Create in me a clean heart, a heart of flesh, a fearless heart that is not afraid to feel pain. Take me down the road to shalom and teach me what wholeness looks like. I long for the day when tears are no more, but until then, show me how to honor You with my feelings. Amen


Natalie Herr is the founder and team leader of Dayton Women in the Word. She is a servant of God, a wife, a mom of four and a God-sized dreamer. She loves teaching and equipping women with God's Word.