Have you ever noticed how just about every television drama wraps things up in the last ten minutes of the show? For the first fifty minutes or so, the struggle or trauma is created, the setting and the characters are defined, and then just after the last commercial break, the solution is revealed, and all is made well in the world again.
One of my favorite TV shows is Blue Bloods. It’s about a family consisting of cops and a DA who work in New York. Week after week they face horrible crime and even challenging family struggles, but week after week the struggle is resolved in the final moments of the show. Typically, the issue is often discussed around the family dinner table with a large dose of homespun wisdom and street smarts to boot.
Wouldn’t it be nice if that was what happened in real life?
We wrestle with a relationship filled with agony or tragedy, but in the nick of time, everything is made right. (Cue up romantic music and gorgeous sunset.)
We fight for our very existence against physical issues that threaten to destroy us, but at the eleventh hour the doc saves the day and our lives are spared.
We are faced with a mystery that perplexes and discourages us, but just before we’re ready to throw in the towel and give up, everything is explained in a nice, neat way.
We stare death in the face as someone evil threatens to end all life on planet earth as we know it, only to have somebody with superpowers rescue us in the end.
Last time I checked, life rarely goes quite that easily. More often than not, the resolution of our struggle or problem takes days, weeks, months, or even decades. Sometimes, in fact, the answer we need or the solution we long for seems like it will never come.
In my experience, life is messy, answers are often elusive, and tidy, neat bows seldom get wrapped around my problems.
Of course, I have faith in God. Certainly, I do my best to keep my eyes fixed on Him. And yes, I pray. But sometimes it’s hard to stay the course. Especially when the journey takes far longer than I want or expect.
So what can we do when life doesn’t go as expected?
- Decide now what you will do then.
Waiting until you’re at the end of your rope to determine to trust God is probably not a good idea. I’ve found it best to enter into a struggle with this attitude: No matter what it takes or how long the battle, I will lean on the One who has promised to never leave me or forsake me.
- Immerse yourself in truth and hold on.
One of the sad realities about “the valley of the shadow of death” is how easy it is to fall into false beliefs when we’re in the dark. We’ve been conditioned by our culture to expect life to be easy. We demand to understand, and when we don’t, we can start to question everything and everyone—including God. Truth, however, is not relative or based on our circumstances. Either God is good or He is not. Either He is with us or He is not. Find the truth and stand on it regardless of how you feel. By the way, this is far more than positive confession or being self-confident; it’s being God-confident.
- Surround yourself with people who will hold you up and hold you accountable.
Alone, we get devoured. Alone, we lose our way. Alone, we get deceived. Alone, we cannot survive. Together, however, we will find the strength to carry on. As Solomon wrote, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NLT). Get a “band of brothers” (or a sisterhood) that will carry you through the deep and dark waters of life.
- Obtain and maintain an attitude of gratitude.
This is perhaps our greatest challenge when the storm rages. I know from experience how hard this is to do. Finding something (anything) to be grateful for is tough. Staying thankful is easier said than done. For some strange reason, we humans tend to find comfort in our complaining. However, one of the greatest assets we can acquire is a thankful heart. We don’t have to be thankful for everything, but the Word challenges us to be thankful in everything (1 Thess. 5:18). We are sustained and empowered when we choose to have an attitude of gratitude.
So when your life doesn’t get fixed at the pace you want, or in the last ten minutes of the show, don’t give up or give in . . . maybe it’s time to turn to Him.