Thursday, September 25, 2014

Beauty in Pots Cracked by Pain

Life is beautiful, but it is oh, so heavy.  There is nothing that exists in this world more wonderful that is so incredibly hard to bear.  Every school year I inevitably reach a point where I just feel weary.  Usually, it hits me sometime around February, but this year it hit me within a month of being back on campus.  I feel like the man from those old Geico commercials who pulled a cord hanging from the ceiling and had a millstone fall on his head.  This early on into the school year and I’m already finding myself wishing that Life Alert made a version of their handy buttons for my life.  All I would have to do when the weight of the world brings me to my knees is press a button and moan the classic line, “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”

But I don’t write this particular blog post to complain about my lot in life, rather, hopefully, as an encouragement to those who are going through circumstances much harder than my own.  You see, my own exhaustion as well as a TED Talk I watched tonight about light and darkness, started me thinking about how the Lord has used the various trials in my life not to break me down, but rather to build me up.

Now it would be easy for me to say my last sentence if I had not ever experienced any real hardship in my life, but from the age of three, God has brought into my life a number of defining trials.  I most certainly cannot claim that the life I have lived has been an easy one, but I can say with the utmost confidence that it is a good one.  During the various hardships of my life, God has taught me a few things which I would like to share with you in this blog post.


When you can’t go any further, take another step:
When the day comes (and it will come sooner or later) that you are so beat down and exhausted that you just are not sure how you could possibly go any further, remember that you can.  During my hardest year of high school, Junior year, we took care of my Grandfather who had Alzheimer’s disease.  To make a very long story short, I ended up having to study for my final exams at the foot of my grandfather’s death bed.  Let me tell you, nothing seems less important than studying for a test when one of your heroes lies fading away in front of your eyes.  Each night, as I told him goodbye for what could easily be the last time, I would go home and cry, not only from grief, but exhaustion.  I remember one night, my entire family sitting in the living room crying and praying for strength because our storehouses had run dry.  It was during that time that God made it very clear to me that when you find you have strength to go no further, just ask God for the strength to take another step.  When you take things step-by-step, you will soon find that you have walked a mile.  What you need is not the strength to make it through to the end of the hardship, rather just the strength to make it through the next moment of it, and the next, and the next; one at a time until you find you have reached the end.  Just follow the path God has prepared for you and let him worry about where it leads.  Matthew 6:34 says, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough worries of its own” (NIV).

Do not be afraid to tell God that you do not understand:
As modern Christians we are so afraid of telling God that we are angry with Him when we are hurting.  We feel as if it is heresy to tell an “omniscient” being that we feel He was wrong and that we do not like what He did.  But let me ask you a question, does God not already know how you feel about what is going on in your life?  Psalm 139:2 says, “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar” (NIV).  If telling God that was a sin, would not thinking it be just as much of a sin?  I struggled with these thoughts for years, until finally last year I came to realize that it is not a sin to tell Him that it feels like He was wrong to do something to me, instead it is a sin to tell Him that what He did to me was wrong.  One way I accuse, the other I tell God how He already knows I feel.  So do not be afraid to cry out to God that you do not understand and tell Him that you are mad at Him (David spent much of the Psalms doing that very thing), but when you tell Him how you feel, ask Him to show you otherwise; I can assure you that He will.

Find someone to confide in:
Find someone that you can share your struggle with.  Whether that be a mentor or a close friend, you need to find someone to whom you can talk.  Not only will you have someone to confide in, but the odds are that whomever you confide in, has dealt with something in their life that allows them to relate to you and give you advice.  2 Corinthians 1:3-5 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ” (NIV).  One the many ways that God converts bad into good is by taking the lessons and wisdom we learned from our own trials and allowing us to help others through the same exact thing with them.

Do not neglect your time with God:
When the darkness overwhelms you, keep the light on.  Jesus, light of the world, can light up the darkness, if you just let Him!  Philippians 4:12-13 says, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (NIV).  God is your source of strength, so do not forget to spend time with him.

Remember God is in control:
Famous Confederate General Stonewall Jackson was once asked why he did not flinch in battle as bullets flew past him and he responded, “Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me. Captain, that is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave” (The Oxford Dictionary of Civil War Quotations, 2006).  I find so much peace in the fact that God is in control.  With God in control, it is not up to us to make everything work out perfectly.  Therefore, we should take comfort in this and remember Matthew 10:29-31 which says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (NIV).

Trials only make us more beautiful:
I recently heard Rev. Kevin M. Smith of New City Fellowship in Chattanooga, Tennessee speak in a chapel at Bryan College on my favorite passage in the Bible, 2 Corinthians 4.  Verses 7-12 in particular say,
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.  So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you (NIV).
Rev. Smith pointed out that the cracks in the jars caused by our trials and tribulations only succeed in allowing the treasure within to shine through.  In Christ, trials can do nothing more than make us beautiful!  The passage goes on in my favorite verses in the whole Bible to say,
Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
No matter what trials we go through, we can rest assured that God is doing a work in us!  What a privilege that is! 

Sometimes we need darkness to appreciate the light:
On occasion the Lord allows us to experience hard things to allow us to fully appreciate something coming up.  God has shown me that sometimes I need a wakeup call from the monotony of life, so that I can truly appreciate God’s blessings in my life.  Without darkness, there can be no light.  Sometimes the Lord allows us to experience moments of extreme pain and cold darkness so that our moments of bliss may be made poignant and the light can warm us.


While God has taught me many more things through the years in addition to the seven points above, those are the ones that have stuck with me the most through the years.  I hope and pray that the lessons that God has taught me through the years can be of comfort and help to whomever may be reading this.  Stand strong my brothers and sisters in Christ

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