My Heart is an Ugly, Ugly Place

I have some confessing to do.

I am harboring bitterness in my heart right now. I can’t blame on it on my depression. My depression doesn’t cause me to sin. My choices cause me to sin. And with each day that I let go by with my insides rotting, the harder it is becoming to fake it on the outside.

One of the things I am discovering in my counseling is just how selfish I am. As I dissect my motives and my decisions, the more blatantly obvious it is becoming. While I am one of the first people to do something for someone, and willingly to obey God when He asks me to do something uncomfortable or to make a sacrifice, when all is said and done… I want to know what is in it for me. I question God’s intentions and whether what He asked of me was what was best for me.

I have a history of self-protection. Whether it is from taking care of myself when I was little or a defense mechanism from one too many broken hearts, my reaction to difficult things is almost always to protect myself.

Case in point and what brought all of this to head… was my trip to Portland. I planned that trip over 6 months ago with the intention to use that time for relaxation… for rejuvenation… for a true vacation. But God had other plans. With absolute certainty, I knew that God had orchestrated a divine appointment for me to be there for Jenni and her family as she aided to the Resnick’s. And I considered it an honor to have helped them and to have been used in that way. And in every way a person can be drained… I was, yet He renewed me with each new morning.

And while in that moment I was obedient to what He had me face and had me do, the moment I got home I was immediately pissed off.

Pardon my word choice, but I think it is important to explain my thought process.

I was so angry that I was robbed of my plan. My plan for vacation and relaxation. I mean, I didn’t get to do almost any of what I had planned to do or see. And it certainly wasn’t a relaxing and rejuvenating experience. I mean, didn’t God know I needed that? That I needed a time to relax and get away? Did He even care that I was absolutely depleted?

In reading from Psalm 139 and I was struck by verses 7-12 (which I’ve read and heard a million times before of course) that says:

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

Of course God knew what I wanted out of trip to Portland. The relaxation… the rejuvenation… the vacation. But His plan was different… better. He reminded me of my purpose. That life isn’t about what I need or what I want… but what He needs and what He wants. He created opportunity for me to use my gifts and an opportunity to love people. An opportunity to really get to know my friends on a more intimate, real level… that if we had just done all the fun stuff, we surely would have missed. He is wherever I am. Even in the dark–He is with me. And yet I still consistently doubt His best.

One of the challenges I’ve been given and am giving myself is, “am I willing to sacrifice my desire to self-protect? And do I trust God enough to protect me?”

The idea of fully surrendering my will and my need to self-project is one of the scariest things I’ve ever entertained. Yet, I know I need to do it. The longer I stay in this cycle and the bitterness grows… the worse off I am going to be. The more rotten my insides will become and less He is going to be able to use me.

I don’t enjoy writing posts like this.
I don’t enjoy revealing the ugly parts of my heart.
But I know there’s grace on the other side.


  1. I’m glad you shared this Crystal. God’s been teaching me a lot along the same lines lately and you make some great points that will be easy to keep in my pocket.

    The best part so far is realizing the strength that found in my identity being firmly grounded in Him. It is there that my protection comes from. What HE says about me is what matters, everyone else can say what they want – and it may hurt – but my core is untouchable.

    1. Crystal Renaud

      Thomas… I am so glad you would share that. “My core is untouchable.” That fits nicely into my pocket as well. Thank you!

  2. I love you, Crystal. I love you because you are real like this.

    I am exactly the same way. I know how you feel because I ALWAYS ask “what’s in it for me.”

    You are not horrible. You are human.

    The good news… in a few short weeks, you’ll actually be here for a REAL vacation. Unless God has a really ridiculous sense of humor.

  3. Michelle

    Crystal, you share all the hard things that are deep within each of us to some degree. Thank you! Some people have enough trust and faith to let it go and others just hide it well. I am neither of those people. And once again, your willingness to share and expose a little of your heart has challenged me to lay it at the throne and let God work and heal me from the inside! Love you, girl!

  4. Katie

    Wow! Thanks for sharing. Hits home. Convicting. I’d say being willing to share on your blog is a step towards not self-protecting.

  5. Kristin

    Thanks for sharing! I know just what you need. I was thinking this weekend how God’s promises and commands are always going. He was telling me, “Be still.” And I was thinking “Is he really saying that for now? Or am I just making it up?”
    But then, I realized that it is a command in the Bible, so it is always true!
    I don’t know if that relates, but I totally relate to what you are saying.

  6. YES! I swear, Crystal, that you are the female version of me and that’s why I love you and your blog! You have spoken the very words that I have been struggling with throughout my recovery process. I know that my hesitancy to let go of my will and need to protect myself is interfering with an authentic relationship with my Lord but it is so, SO difficult to do. It is a daily struggle and I thank you for having the courage to remind me that I am not alone in fighting it. I think this post demonstrates that your heart is far more beautiful than you might think!

  7. I have many times “blamed” my sin on my depression only to make it worse. Finding out that My choices were destroying me. You have so much courage, and your courage is giving me courage. Sacrifice is a difficult thing. It’s so hard to grasp. As I struggle letting go of what I want for what the Lord wants it just seems to get more difficult. But I know that each time I do this I grow closer to him. While you might see your heart as ugly I can assure you that He sees it a Beautiful! I know because I feel the same way too. <3

  8. You truly have a gift. Ya know that? The way you bare you soul comforts others and draws them into an authentic conversation.
    I struggle with some of the same things…and so many times I keep myself in some kind of mental “bondage” because I feel I must be the only one who thinks this way. Thanks for “going first” and dispelling that lie.
    I’ve definitely had my fair share of ugly moments recently. As you said, “But I know there’s grace on the other side.”
    Thanks for this!

    1. Crystal Renaud

      Thank YOU for the encouragement. It is always encouraging to know I am not alone as well.

  9. jennifer

    i have been struggling with going out of my comfort zone . but i know that it is the only way for others to see Jesus love through me. he knows the plans he has for me even if i don’t. it scares me .

  10. Crystal,

    Your honesty is a breath of fresh air. I am working on being this open and honest with myself, and hopefully with others one day soon. It’s hard though – being scared to open up because others would automatically judge me for struggling with everything under the sun. “What?! You’re struggling with that?! You are so not right with God! You are a sinner, God is sooo dissapointed in you, You are such a bad Christian… etc…”

    God has allowed me to go through many things within the past 6 months – well, actually my whole lifetime, and I can now say that I have finally learned the meaning of grace in abundance. Thank you God for loving me inspite of my messiness. I was reading something this morning that I think will apply perfectly here:

    “Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! The Father is a merciful God, who always gives us comfort. He comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share that same comfort with others in trouble. We share in the terrible sufferings of Christ, but also in the wonderful comfort he gives.”

    ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

    I have never met you, but God has given me this tremendous love for you already! Thank you for your openeness to share your heart. It has challenged me to start opening up mine. Many blessings.

    ~ V

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