My daughter told me the other day suicide has now grown past the murder rate. Essentially, we’re killing ourselves off faster than others can kill us. I found that deeply disturbing, yet somehow I wasn’t surprised.
I have met so many, many people who have lost faith in everything this world sells us – money and wealth, fame, love, friendship, achievement and even religion. It’s like we’ve all been sold a bad bill of goods, and as we’re left holding the bags, we wonder how we got so duped in the first place.
What do you do when what your told will make you whole and happy never actually does? And what do you do when that extends to your views on God? These are the questions I’ve wrestled with on and off my whole life.
But I have learned one secret. I have found a way, even in the midst of bitter trials, to experience faith and peace. I have learned the gift of finding my purpose in the midst of the crap life has dished my way. It’s not found in money. It’s not found in people knowing my name. While I derive tremendous joy and satisfaction from my children and my relationships, they are not what fill me completely full, either. It’s not religious ritual or doing good deeds, though I find deep satisfaction in serving others. It’s not found in any of the awards I have won or the compliments I receive.
The secret is found in walking through all of these life storms with God. I have found in the depths of challenge and despair you and I will also see the depth of God’s mercy and love in ways we had only glimpsed before. We will experience a richness and breadth of blessings that can only come from weathering such experiences hand-in-hand with our creator. It is through those circumstances I have found my faith becomes bedrock, unshakeable. Even though my knees may still quiver and tremble and doubt can shadow my heart, His light pierces through more quickly each time I learn to trust and surrender to His voice, His vision for me in each circumstance.
Now it ain’t always easy. When you’re feeling stuck and lost in your own personal darkness, choosing to look up and out can seem pointless. Yet time and time again, I have found as I begin a dialogue with God I begin to see his hand reaching for me so he can lead me to a better place. I begin to find solutions and see acts of beauty even in the midst of the brutality. In short, I begin to regain hope.
God never promised me I wouldn’t have hardship. Nowhere in the Bible does He say I can have it all while living on this earth. In fact, Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world,” (Jn. 16:33 NIV). Over time I have learned I can do everything “right” and work hard to stack the deck in my favor, but at the end of the day I have no control over other people’s choices. I have no power to make them bend to my will. And that’s not even touching on the many times I can’t bend myself to my will and make the right choice!
Yet the secret lies in the second half of the scripture where Jesus said, “but take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus has overcome every obstacle this world can dish out—even death. So when I struggle, whether from others actions against me or from my own poor choices, He teaches me to use everything as an opportunity to draw closer to Him, to learn some really cool stuff about my heart and character, and about grace and mercy. And He can do it for you, too.
For further thought: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4) What is a way God can use what you’re going through to help others? Think of one new thing you can do to begin reaching for God during this time.