There is such grace in getting older. Such wisdom in perspective. When I was younger, I viewed problems as obstacles; unfair circumstances that got in the way of my living the life I believed I desired and deserved. And maybe it is not so much my age, but the fact that I feel like I have been so beaten down by trial and tragedy; beaten down to nothing, that "being small,” as St. Therese instructs us to be, is not something I choose to be on my own, but something that just happened, hit after hit, blow after blow.
But I know it is more than just that.
'Something amazing happens when I accept my hardships as a gift from Him, and ask Him HOW I can best navigate myself and my family through these troubled waters, versus WHY did you send me this trial? The moment I stop complaining, I can hear Him.'
We all have a choice as to how we respond to life's blows and disappointments, and we all know how much easier it is to make the unhealthy, unproductive, poor choice, right? We can choose bitterness or forgiveness, love or indifference, judgement or compassion, argument or discussion, blame or understanding, life or death. And more often than not, I would have to say, I think we tend to choose the not-so-great response.
Not sure about that? Go check out your Facebook account, then get back to me and tell me what you think.
Reacting out of emotion, and trust me, I speak from personal experience here, is useless. Rarely does it ever make you feel better or result in a happy resolution. It is okay to get angry, it is okay to voice our opinions, it is okay to cry and to protest and to fight for what we believe in, but there needs to be a pause button. Somewhere in between the anger and boiling blood, sometime before we sharpen our tongues and throw verbal darts at each other, we really all need to take a step back, and hit pause.
You know, when I do this...which is not as often as I should...but those times when I do this; when I take this pause and do a quick heart and soul check, you know what I find? Buried beneath the anger, hiding at the bottom of my bitter-soaked heart, I find fear. Somewhere underneath the big, loud reaction, is a small, scared voice. And I realize...I am afraid.
And yet, what do we hear Jesus say, over and over and over again?
Be not afraid. Be not afraid.
But I am. No matter how many times I read it, I still am.
Because as soon as I take my eyes off of Him, and fix them on the ocean of troubles below me, like Peter taking steps out onto the ocean, I start to sink. You see, when we refuse to respond with trust in Him, and instead, choose to cling to our reactions based on how we feel, trust flies fast out the window, and we are left to be drowned. Drowned, not by our circumstance, but by our own fear.
Turning to scripture, I find unusual encouragement in words I have failed to notice before.
We are not only instructed, "Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid" (John 14:16)
but we are also told that these hardships we try to pray away? They are necessary.
"It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God." (Acts of the Apostles 14:19-28, read it all)
Do you know what necessary means?
Necessary means needed.
That thing you hate with your entire heart and soul?
That tragedy? That illness? That disaster? That heartache? That break up? That loss?
It is needed.
You NEED it.
And I can imagine, that some will read that, and shut their computer off and walk away angry. And I get it. Boy, do I get it. These are the kind of verses that tempt us to toss scripture aside, call it all crazy, and give up on God. Hard biblical sayings, often misinterpreted, have sent many running off to another place of worship, a church with “fewer rules,” or perhaps to follow some other false idol that is not so uncomfortable; one that feels good and offers immediate gratification.
Because who in their right mind wants to be told that the very thing that is weighing on their shoulders, and pressing on their chest, and keeping them up at night, and feels like it will absolutely kill them, is NECESSARY?
What kind of God does that?
And so maybe this is something for us to think about today.
Maybe you are going through a hardship right now that you see as a problem, an obstacle, an impossibility, or simply unfair. Maybe you are a victim of a misunderstanding, a injustice, a personal devastation. And if so, meditate with me, on the word necessary.
Let us ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand.
Let us pray to recall that His ways are not our ways, and He works all things for good.
It has taken me years to see and believe that every single hardship that I encounter actually was, and is, necessary. This does not mean I like it. This does not mean I do not crumble beneath it all, often. This does not mean I do not get on bended knees and try to pray it all away. This does not mean I do not ever doubt or get suspicious of God's plan. Because I have done, and still do, all of this. There are more days than I care to admit, that I wish I could simply pray it all away.
But then...something happens.
Something miraculous happens when I stop yelling at God, and begging Him to change my circumstances. Something amazing happens when I accept my hardships as a gift from Him, and ask Him HOW I can best navigate myself and my family through these troubled waters, versus WHY did you send me this trial? The moment I stop complaining, I can hear Him. The moment I stop fighting His plan for me, I soften. And it is here in this place that He assures me of His faithfulness. It is here, in this hardship, that I am reminded of how much He loves me. And it is here, in this unpleasant place, that I remember that this world is not my home, and I have my eyes set on something so much better. And it is right here, where I am washed over by His merciful grace, and I am no longer afraid.
Regional Area Coordinator
Walking with Purpose
Read Laura's blog here: http://www.lauramaryphelps.com/