Have you ever thought you were walking into a good week, month, or year only to find a season of aches, pains, and not-so-wonderful surprises? Maybe it was harder and more costly than you could have dreamed? I certainly have. A few years ago, I was certain I was arriving to an oasis only to find a desert.
Eager for a new season, both my husband and I transitioned from jobs we knew to ones we didn’t. My husband left teaching to go into real estate, and I left full-time ministry to stay home with kiddos, write during naptime, and teach Bible study in the evenings. We knew it was time for something new but found ourselves grossly underprepared for the waves of change. We changed jobs, churches, pre-school for our son, and life groups. No stone went unturned in our obedience as we felt strongly it was time to move into a new season.
In no time at all, housing deals fell through, and our savings account ran low. We stayed awake wondering how we would make the mortgage payment. In the natural, it was a season of lack, no question. Yet, we held onto hope, believed God was with us, and sought the sanctuary of his presence. Day by day, we felt a bit stronger and a bit braver.
Desperate times call for desperate prayers. We uttered dozens of them while we kissed our babies to sleep, under our breath as we drove, or with tears in our eyes in the shower. We knew God was near; we clung to him like he was our first and last hope, because he was. In those days we found something sacred. We found the abundant presence of God. It was as if we were on a honeymoon, craving the presence and goodness of God in every moment knowing he would meet our every need. We never went without a meal or a mortgage payment unpaid, but the miracles were greater. The miracle of his holy presence, alive in our hearts convinced us He was and ever will be enough. He would never leave us alone. It was our peace for the day and our hope for tomorrow.
I muttered to Him, “What do you want me to do in all of this, what are you teaching me? Do you see me full of anxiety and worry as I clip coupons, change dirty diapers, and clean peas off the floor? How can I thrive alongside my husband as we battle unforeseen disasters, one after another? Lord, we thought this would be a season of vibrant new beginnings, not a season of hopelessness and loneliness. He answered every prayer I uttered with his good presence and grace. I couldn’t escape it. He taught me to trust him regardless if I liked the outcome of his will and timing. He reminded me that my life, my marriage, and my destiny was no surprise to him. He was with me and would never leave me. He reminded me to embrace the discomfort and frustration, pressing into him all the more. This was a time to thrive in my faith, not merely survive.
We can all easily trust God in the joyous seasons of life but what about the hard ones?
Those are the times when we find who we really are. What we really believe. Those are the times when we grow our faith or let it die. It is in our trials that our identity is tested. If we have poorly planted our seeds in the soil of security, safety, or good feelings, we will soon find out. We will find out if we truly believe God is sovereign. If we can believe His plan may include asking us to endure unthinkable acts, we will find out if our soul is settled in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Not a surname. Not an income. Not a family. We will find out if we really think we are image bearers, loved by God no matter what happens.
Something inside of us expects life to be perfect. We expect everything to bend our way. While I would be first in line for free cupcakes and world peace, I know that is not always my reality. My reality is that life is hard, and suffering is imminent. It is because of the brokenness that surrounds me that Christ came for me.
Christ is not the author of all atrocities, He is the Savior of all souls.
We can take heart because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). The love of God and the struggle of humanity co-exist. It isn’t one or the other. Love and struggles are a package deal. God is not a traitor we can blame when we feel wronged. His is not a faulty love but a holy, unconditional love that stands with us. Always. Forever. No matter if life feels like a desert or an oasis. He is with us. He is near. And we can trust Him in times of trouble.