Life is hard. Of course, life is often good too, but there’s no denying the struggle most of us face on a regular basis.
- You don’t get the promotion or raise you deserve.
- Your spouse says, “I want a divorce.”
- You have a miscarriage.
- The doctor says, “I’m afraid this is going to require surgery and a long recovery period.”
- Your twenty-something kid moves back home under difficult circumstances (again).
- A precious family member or best friend unexpectedly passes away.
- An in-law becomes an outlaw.
Yet life goes on . . .
Maybe you’re one of those special people who can put a happy face on anything. Maybe you have the unnatural ability to see the struggles of life as an opportunity rather than a problem. If so, you can probably skip the rest of this blog. But if you’re so mad right now you want to hurt somebody or you’re so depressed you can’t get out of bed, keep reading.
You’ve probably heard me talk about or you’ve read in Epic Grace about the loss of my grandson, Phineas. Without a doubt, the weeks that followed his death were the hardest of my life. Phineas was my very first grandson, and he was a beautiful baby. One of my greatest joys in life is being a grandfather. It’s hard to describe the delight I have as “Gramps” and the blessing each of my children and grandchildren are to me.
Almost three years ago, my doctor told me I had prostate cancer. Within weeks after that less-than-glorious moment, I was under the knife and wondering if my life would ever be the same (or continue).
In the last few years I’ve lost some very special family members. My stepdad, Frank, my uncle, Don, and several others who were heroes and mentors in my life.
Added to all of the above, 2013 was the toughest year I’ve ever had in ministry. Enough said.
Even so, there have been many majestic moments too. I now have three grandsons, I had my first book published with Tyndale, and I’m coming up on thirty-nine years of marriage to my very best friend. Yes, God has been good (too good) to me. I am the recipient of His amazing kindness and favor on a regular basis. But life is still hard at times.
So what have I learned about life and hardship?
Glad you asked!
- I’ve learned to expect the unexpected and to not be quite so surprised when trials do come.
- I’ve learned to stay the course no matter what the course may bring.
- I’ve learned that I’m not nearly as godly or Christ-like as I need to be. (I’m still in process.)
- I’ve learned that grace, God’s unmerited favor, includes his incredible patience with me.
- I’ve learned to be humble and utterly dependent on the Father for everything.
- I’ve learned to embrace the mystery of life with hope in the One who knows all things.
- I’ve learned to fix my eyes and heart on the One who has never left me (even though I’ve doubted His presence at times).
- Speaking of doubts, I’ve learned that God can handle my questions (go figure, he’s not intimidated by my questions).
What are you facing right now that is gnawing on your soul?
Where are you struggling with questions and doubts? Read this next part very slowly: God never promised you an easy life. He never assured you an answer to everything, not on this side of eternity.
But you protest, “Wait a minute, I thought God was good! I thought he would fix everything! What good is he if he can’t take care of my life? Why would I trust him if he can’t help me understand the why of my life?”
Well let me ask you, if we’re guaranteed answers to everything, how do hope and faith play into the mix? Just because God is omniscient (all-knowing) does not mean you and I have a right to know everything too.
Jesus praised those who believed even when they didn’t see (John 20:29). The apostle Paul wrote, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). The normal expectation for Christ-followers is faith in the face of the unknown and trust even when we are baffled by life.
The hard reality . . .
Is it easy? No. Does walking by faith always fill us with warm fuzzies? Nope. But here’s the last thing I want you to hear about all of this: Though we have no guarantee of an easy life, we do have the promise of his presence. No matter what, we are never alone and never left to wade through the mud and muck in our own strength. (Check out Hebrews 13:5 and Psalm 23:4.)
Literally hundreds of times in my life I’ve felt completely inadequate and overwhelmed by the challenges before me. I have a long list of things I plan on asking Jesus when I see him. After all, I’ll have eternity to work through all my questions (though it probably won’t matter then). But from personal experience, I can assure you of this—Jesus is Immanuel—he is with you, always has been, always will be.
What’s the hardest thing you are facing right now? Please know you are not alone even when surrounded by darkness and despair. You can’t know everything, but you are always connected to the One who knows all things. So hold on even when, especially when, life is hard.