In Trials on
24 October, 2013

Falling leaves & difficult things

pexels-photo-54539

It was the beginning of May when I glanced outside my living room window and noticed the first signs of spring transforming the world before my eyes. The grass was greener, the sky was bluer and the lilacs were blooming in all their pink-and-purple glory.

As I observed these sweet changes taking shape around me, I naturally began dreaming of all the things I’d accomplish in the coming season—all the books I’d read, the sandy beaches I’d dip my toes into, and the friends I’d laugh and make memories with.

And as I pen these words in reflection, the world outside me is changing yet again. The bitter chill of autumn has arrived, the sky has grown darker and the leaves cover the ground like a blanket. As much as I love fall weather, I can’t help but stop and think about how I never got the perfect summer I dreamed of.

And in my heart, I quickly begin to feel ripped off and, worst of all, entitled.

To be honest, I had big expectations for my summer. I was going to spend every waking moment in the sun and every quiet evening buried in a novel. I wanted to wake up with the birds and train to run my first 10K. My goal was to visit new places, try new foods and document it all on Instagram.

And then, just like that, difficulty came my way, and I watched all control slip through my fingertips.

The truth is that very few of my exciting plans came to be. Not one novel was finished, not one 10K was completed and not one day was spent at my favorite beach. Instead, I faced transition in my workplace, illness and stress in my family, and a whole lot of selfishness in-and-between it all.

My first reaction when difficulty came my way this summer was to evaluate my circumstances and say from my heart, “This isn’t what I signed up for. This isn’t what I wanted.”

And it was a wretched way to live. I became nothing short of miserable.

But what I needed was not for God to change my circumstances. What I really needed was for Him to change my heart. By turning to the Word, I learned that God is not only directing my steps (Proverbs 16:9) but also working everything out for my good, to make me more like Jesus (Romans 8:28-29a). This means I can trust him—always, and even in the hard times.

This was also a reminder to me that I’m not entitled to an easy life. I’m not entitled to anything for that matter. What I actually deserve is condemnation, but instead, God offers me the gift of eternal life through the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Even more so, I am actually blessed when I go through hard times (Matthew 5:4), especially because those hard times teach me perseverance and build my faith (James 1:2-4).

So as I recognize that God is in control and that my struggles are a gift, what happens next is gratitude. This means being thankful no matter what my circumstances look like—that is, being content. 1 Timothy 6:6 says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.”

In all of this, I realize how prone my heart is to wander. I am aware of how easily I believe I am in control when things are going good. And praise be to God for how quickly He stops me, opens my eyes, gets my attention and reminds me that I am His. I truly believe that every struggle we face is grace from God because it’s His way of refocusing our hearts and minds on Him. It’s His way of never letting us go.

Jen

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