Hard is a reality of simply being on planet earth. Every single day we have to deal with something that is hard. It might be something as simple as figuring out what to make for dinner, or it could be as devastating as hundreds of lives being lost in a hurricane.
Already, you are probably wondering how those two things even go together in the same sentence. But in the same way the word “love” has a multitude of meanings in the english language so does the word “hard.” We all experience hard in a hundred different ways. It’s never easy. But I recently realized I’ve been doing something that isn’t making it any easier.
I’ve been comparing my “hard.” I compare mine to those who have it worse and I feel a guilty sense of relief, or to those who have it easier and feel sorry for myself. Or even worse, I judge those who think theirs is hard, because for some reason I have the audacity to say it’s not?
Just a couple of weeks ago I read a friend’s post on Facebook, who was having a particularly hard day, but I only saw it through my grief-clouded lens, so I too quickly commented:
“Well, at least you weren’t in Haiti.” It was the day after Hurricane Matthew obliterated parts of Haiti, and the day before it was supposed to hit my hometown. Clicking refresh on the hurricane center’s webpage became an obsession. I was completely wrapped up in my own anxiety.
As soon as I hit enter I knew it was the wrong thing to say. Why did I come down on her so hard? Because I lost my compass. Grief, anxiety, adrenaline, and fear where clouding my judgement and instead of showing compassion to a hurting friend, I somehow deemed that my hurting was worse. It is incredibly easy to lose perspective in the eye of the storm. We all hurt. We all have disappointment. We all receive our share of grief. Just because ours looks different than someone else’s doesn’t mean it’s any less painful or more devastating. It’s all hard.
Look at James 1:2-4 with me:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete,
lacking in nothing.”
We all experience various kinds of trials. Some trials may feel harder than others, but that doesn’t make the easier ones any less valuable. God uses ALL of it to test our faith, to see if we will count it all joy, and to produce a steadfastness in us that cannot be shaken. Faith is what we cling to as we hold our ground, knowing that God is the one doing the perfecting. God is the one that makes us complete. In Him we replace our fear with hope. In the end we will lack nothing at all, because God allowed hard things in our lives and character was formed. After all, we know that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28)
So, whether it is being stuck in an airport missing your daughter’s homecoming or sitting in a lobby wondering if you will have a house to return to, hard is not something to be compared. It is to be embraced as one more chance to get it right. To respond with joy while enduring the pain. To know that our character matters and our compassion makes a difference. To believe with all of our heart that in the end our hope is in God who has already overcome it all.
Romans 5: 3-4
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings,
knowing that suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character,
and character produces hope.”
“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
A week ago I sat in church still reeling from the events of the days in our very recent past. Hurricane Matthew came and went; I was in a fog-like, emotional state of all that had just happened and how miraculously our area was spared major destruction.
Although there are parts that I will write about, parts that stopped me in my tracks at the sovereignty of God, and parts that I just don’t know how to put into words yet, I still feel as though I will never completely sort it all out. I have sat down several times to try. The words just aren’t coming.
I simply can’t yet.
Stress can do powerful things. I have never felt more tired, while not being sick, than I have this week after the hurricane. I have been exhausted to my core!
I am desperately missing my 5am time with Jesus. My carefully balanced life has unravelled before my eyes.
But while I get myself out of survival mode and back on track in my daily life, my dear friend, Carolyn Lones gracefully wrote about last Sunday.
That Sunday that I felt like my brain was in a fog.
That Sunday that I should have been fully rejoicing with my church family and my heart just wasn’t in it.
That Sunday that marked 75 years since the founding of our little Covenant Church that we have grown to love.
Her words parallel so many of my own thoughts. It was like therapy as I read them, knowing that I was not alone that day. Having a kindred spirit is vital to the healing our heart needs. So for anyone who is feeling like your heart just isn’t in it right now, you are not alone. I can’t wait to share this with you:
When Your Heart’s Somewhere Else…by Carolynn Lones
I can’t get this song out of my head today:
In the eye of the storm
You remain in control
And in the middle of the war
You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor
When my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me
In the eye of the storm
– Ryan Stevenson
Our first hurricane, since moving here 9 years ago, is closing in on our coastline. It is kind of surreal. Seeing the images come out of Haiti and knowing the devastation that has happened there is breaking my heart. Some of the reports we are hearing are telling us that some of the people were not even aware of what was coming. They had no time to prepare.
I went to the store today to buy a few last minute items. The sky is blue, the air is humid, it feels like just another day in Florida. You would never know it…
…But there is a storm coming.
I was struck with overwhelming gratitude that I live in a place where technology is available to us. We get to prepare. We can be ready for this. There are still so many unknowns but at least the preparations can be made. We don’t have to be caught off guard.
I can’t help but think about how this parallels with life in general…
The sky is blue, the air is humid (or not if you are lucky), it feels like just another day…And then, without warning, it’s not. Gut wrenching things happen all the time. No one is immune. Tragedy strikes everyone, the unexpected turns our world upside down, and life is sometimes thrown at us like hurricane force winds.
Placing our trust in Jesus does not mean our lives will be without pain, but by trusting Him we are prepared to go through the pain.
Are you prepared? I Peter 5:8 reads…“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Don’t be devoured by the storms and trials of this life that Satan loves to use against us. Instead be nourished daily by God’s Word, by spending time with Him, by listening for that still small voice that strengthens you in ways that nothing else can. We all go through storms. How are you going to prepare for yours?
As you face your storm remember the words of the Lord to Joshua:
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,
for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”