A few days ago, I had a conversation with a devoted believer who is struggling in her personal life and in her professional life. Usually, we’re stable in one and upset in the other, which gives us a little refuge in the one not in turmoil. But this time, she got zapped with challenges in both simultaneously leaving her no refuge in either.
We talked, I listened, we talked more, and we prayed together. Later, as I moved from that conversation and situation, I had a hard time shifting focus. Something niggled at me. Some nebulous something I sensed I was missing and I needed to not miss.
The more I thought on it, the more her situation reminded me of other people and other similar situations, and then came to mind the inevitable, Why do the people trying hardest always seem to have the most challenges? I don’t get it.
I don’t know if life really is that way or it appears that way because the contrast is so stark. I mean, we expect people who seek trouble to find it. But people who are not seeking trouble find it, too, and it, well, sometimes it just seems so unfair.
The moment that phrase crosses my mind, I hear my father’s voice telling me that no one ever said life was fair, and no one ever said it was easy. It isn’t, and it isn’t. Accept it, and live on.
Then I’m reminded that the Bible bluntly tells us we’ll be tried and tested and face hardships and troubles. Each of us. All of us. But it also promises us we will never be given more than we can handle. And that we’ll never face anything alone. We just can’t get to a place—physically, emotionally, or spiritually—where we’re beyond God’s reach.
I find enormous comfort in knowing that. Admittedly, I sometimes have wondered if He thought I was stronger, wiser, more capable of handling things than I am. I’ve wondered, and whined and, yes, at times, I’ve crawled into bed and pulled the covers up over my head and hid out from the world for a minute or two to catch my breath because I just knew I wasn’t that strong—not enough to face the challenges pounding me down.
But the challenges remained, so I did what we have to do. I got up. And I faced them. And, surprise—I got through the challenges. He was right and I was wrong. I was strong enough—with Him—and I’m grateful for it.
One of the things that we hopefully learn with each new challenge is that He has more faith in us than we do. He knows us best—every flaw, every error, every mistake and short-coming—all of it–and yet he still has the greatest faith in us, during good times but also during trials. We doubt. He’s there with us, cheering us on, trying to get us to see ourselves the way that He sees us.
The first time I considered that, frankly I found it amusing. Well, astonishing that He’d bother, and amusing. I expect we amuse Him often in all the ways our young children amuse us. He knows the outcome before things start. Knows what free will choices we will make and whether or not they’ll be to our detriment or benefit. And I often imagine Him weeping at our poor choices, and delighted by our good choices. Oh, yes. I imagine we do amuse Him often; He loves us.
Yet, following that same line of thought, I can’t deny that we also break His heart. A perfect parent couldn’t not be brokenhearted at seeing His children mess up, harm others, head down the wrong path, or miss his or her destiny due to any of a thousand reasons, including indifference and apathy. Our imperfect parents are heartbroken. We’ve seen their agony, their fears and worries. How much more must our perfect parent, knowing outcomes, be hurt and heartbroken.
Still thinking, I wonder at what hurts most. We all mess up; we’re human. Hurt? Yes. Hurt most? I don’t think so.
I explore this and I come upon those times when we are floundering, lost and in the dark and clueless and yet we fail to turn to Him. I think that must be most difficult for Him. He’s there, waiting for us, eager to help, but can’t intrude uninvited due to the gift to us of free will. I mean, imagine being a parent, seeing your child about to do something that will hurt him/her forever, and you can’t intercede because your child hasn’t informed you, or made you aware, or come to you for help. As parents, we often don’t know. But as the perfect parent with expanded vision and knowledge, He does know.
Definitely heartbreaking. And incredibly difficult. Much, much harder.
You know, when you believe and come upon a trial, often you think, I should be able to handle this. I have the tools. And you do. We all do. But while we have vision, we don’t have the complete big picture. He does. At times I expect that makes things even harder for Him, not easier.
Handling it all on your own as a believer. That’s living with faith in the margins. Going to Him as a last resort instead of right out of the gate. Waiting to see how much you can do before taking your concerns to Him. That’s more “faith in the margins.”
Thinking that you don’t want to bother Him with little things; He has so much to do. Even more faith in the margins.
I give myself a mental thwap! Do you doubt He can handle all? Seriously?
I don’t. But the thwap has released an avalanche of random thoughts. Running in a hundred directions in my mind, I see a multitude of flaws in my thinking. I see that I’ve been getting in my own way, making my challenges more enduring and difficult than they needed to be. I’ve shared them but in case my ramblings are indeed ramblings and are not clear to anyone outside of my mind, let me be blunt on the upshot:
Get out of the margins. Everything about us is of interest to Him. He created us. Nothing we say or do can shock Him or make Him turn His back on us. He’s with us for the long haul.
That puts a twist in the thinking, doesn’t it? And it sends one scrounging for the bottom line. Yours could be different, but this one is apparent:
He does not exist with faith in us in the margins. He’s all in, all the time, in all ways. If wise, we’ll follow His example and get out and stay out of the margins in our faith in Him.
Finally, I think. I’ve identified the objective of this mental journey.
It seems so simple now.
To reap the reward, you must make the journey.
Ah, the niggle reveals yet another gem…