I spent the morning chasing my dog down a 50 mph road with my 25 lbs toddler on my hip. All participants in this morning’s adventure returned home sweaty but safe. It’s been one of those weeks where, despite preparation and good intentions, little has gone my way. My dog alone was a main contributor. I had the pleasure of lifting all 80 lbs of him into my car for a trip to Petco. That same day, he took advantage of a diaper change to consume the 4 turkey burgers I planned to cook for dinner. Speaking of diapers, it’s really important that your child wears one. If not, you may find her playing in a pile of her own feces. Needless to say, it’s been a week.
Although, in the scheme of things, these challenges are small and even comical, they uncover the depth of my faith. It’s easy to trust God when everything is going my way. It’s much harder when things start to fall apart. Where I turn in the messy moments reveals what I actually believe. Do I rely on my own strength to will good things into fruition, or do I trust in a God who is in control and working for good? The former leaves me discouraged and frustrated when my preparations inevitably go awry. However, the latter offers me the freedom to let go of the things I’m pretending to control. It means a little poop on the floor doesn’t hold the power to make or break my day. Each time I place my hope in Christ for the small trials, I am training myself to run to him when real suffering comes my way.
No matter how diligently we work to avoid it, suffering is inevitable in this life. This is a broken world full of fallible people. My own life is marred by the wounds of this fractured world, my deepest scars a result of my own shortcomings. I am not suggesting we plaster on fake smiles, dam up our tears, and pretend that life is just fine. That is not the kind of hope I'm speaking about. I'm referring to a hope that feels and grieves, but because of where it is rooted, transcends circumstance and invites peace into the most desolate situations.
Suffering, in all its forms, is also proof of the enemy at work.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 612 ESV)
I’m at war with real evil that tries to distract me from my purpose as a child of God. This evil doesn’t come full of fire and fury. It’s clever. It sneaks in unnoticed, tempting me to replace love and unity with bitterness and division. It whispers that enticing lie, that life is just about me and my momentary happiness. This is why it is so important to fill myself with scripture. I need a constant reminder of truth to defeat the continuous attack of lies. I need to see the world from God’s perspective instead of my own, so that I may endure the trials this life promises to deliver.
Our pastor’s latest sermon, focusing on the Gospel, reinforced my thoughts about surrendering to God. He talked specifically about our need to be continually reminded of the Gospel. This trains us to choose God when the speed bumps of life make the road rough. When we forget the sacrifice God made to reconcile us, we quickly dismiss His power, goodness, and accessibility. It becomes easy to turn elsewhere. But anywhere else we look for hope is idle, because we were created to be in relationship with Him. When the pride of man destroyed this relationship (Genesis 3), our good God had mercy on us. We owed immeasurable debt for our iniquities, a debt we could not pay. A debt that separated us from God and our intended purpose. Ultimately, it is a debt God paid. The blameless son of God died with the mistakes of the world on His shoulders. Instead of being crushed by their weight, He rose again, defeating death. His life means life for all who believe. This is the hope that transcends circumstance. Suffering in this life is fleeting. Victory is already won. We cannot be defeated by any trial, large or small, when we face each day with this enduring hope.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; (2 Corinthians 4: 8-9 ESV)