Romans 5: 3 – 5 (ESV)
3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
I never really much liked this section of scripture, or others that talked about tribulation and hardship. As far as I was concerned, I didn’t want to deal with “suffering,” even if I could rejoice in it. Rather just skip it altogether thankyouverymuch. I was praying tonight though, and realized that my attitude has changed since this summer. The derailment…. I was so upset when God asked me to move from the Paraguay to the Puna team. So hurt. Yet it seems like every week or so I realize something else that experience taught me or helped me with, or am thankful for a relationship or experience I gained that I never would have had if I’d stayed on my original team.
Tonight I realized that it gave me a good experience with tribulation. I look back on that week during which I was making the decision to switch teams and feel almost nostalgic because I was SO CLOSE to God during that time. I was brokenhearted and scared and mad, but I also remember being peaceful and being comforted by God over and over and over again. I would come to Him in tears of sadness and He would turn them into tears of joy. I would come to Him with questions, and He would answer them. I would come to Him upset and confused and He would pinpoint for me exactly where the turmoil originated and help me figure out how to fix it. I almost miss it. In fact, I realized tonight, I’ve swung too far. I’ve found myself in this time feeling like life isn’t enough of a struggle.
Hahahaha will I ever find a happy medium? I’m only 28, there’s probably still hope. Let’s go back a ways. Throughout my childhood and even through college, I was excessively good at enjoying God when I was happy. In fact, I never understood people who talked about not turning to God until things got bad and they needed help. When things got bad I got mad at God. I was a fair-weather friend. Me and God were on the best terms on sunny days in the springtime, when the flowers were blooming and the birds were chirping and all was well with the world. I would well up with thankfulness at His goodness and His love and we would frolic along enjoying life together. Then I went Way Disciple, and discovered that *gasp* there is hardship in life! It nearly broke me. I didn’t know how to deal with it. I struggled to overcome that betrayal for years and get back to my happy, frolicking relationship. Then came YWAM. It was, once again, full of hardship. One of the most difficult times of my life – I was WAY out of my depth, highly uncomfortable, and to top it all off had to abandon the people I had bonded with and give up my hopes of an international adventure. Fortunately, this time around I was better prepared to cope with these hardships and I grew in my relationship with God IMMENSELY. He was always there when I needed help through a hard time. He always had an explanation or at least consolation when I was overwhelmed or confused by something. I learned to be His friend even in foul weather.
But I still didn’t have any idea what to do in between the fair and the foul. I’m good at loving God and having a kick-butt relationship with Him at my highs and my lows, my peaks and valleys. But there’s A LOT of in-between space. Those average days. The days where 80% (ish) of life happens. Generally, my relationship with God during normal life slowly degrades until I hit a crisis, then *phew* I’m at a low and can resume a strong friendship. This situation leaves a lot to be desired. It leaves my relationship status with God entirely dependent on circumstance. If life is really good or really bad, I can have a strong, close relationship with God. Otherwise, it’s kind of “meh.”
This “meh” has been the case for a good deal of the time I’ve been home. It’s left me second-guessing my whole life. “Is this really what you want me to be doing right now? I feel like things should be a little bit more difficult. This is the path I would have come up with on my own, are you sure you don’t have anything a little more out-on-the-limb for me to do?” I realized tonight that I’m looking at things backward. I’m second-guessing because I’m focused on changing the circumstances to have more extrema (math term, nerd alert), more highs and lows so I can have my close relationship with God. Hmm. Poor strategy. I realized instead that what I should be doing, and what God has in fact been teaching me to do, is fighting for my relationship regardless of the circumstances.
I’ve been learning (and will continue to learn throughout this season, I’m sure) to crave and seek that strong relationship, without drama, without desperation, without circumstantial highs or lows. I’ve been learning to take responsibility and control of my own relationship with God, and not let life have the driver’s seat. I’m learning, at the end of a mundane day, without really feeling like it, I can still sit down and dive into prayer. I can still decide to be passionate, to seek Him with my whole heart, to grow more in love with Him. God promises He will be found of those who seek Him with their whole heart, so as I seek Him this way, I can continue to discover Him and hear from Him, even when life doesn’t seem all that unusual from an outside perspective. I can make the in-between just as strong as the highs and lows.
And suddenly His strategies make a little more sense…