There are days when I don’t like my life.
I know. I live in one of the wealthiest regions in the richest country in this world. I not only have enough food to eat, I have so much that I have to work to keep off excess pounds. My home provides more than comfortable shelter for my family; it also houses an abundance of stuff. I have a good-looking, hard-working husband who adores me, and I am privileged to be the mother of two of the most amazing human beings ever to grace this planet. What possible reason do I have for complaint? I have everything I need; I want for nothing.
Yet Jesus told his followers that in this world they would have trouble, and he spoke truth. Despite all the creature comforts I’ve had lavished upon me, sometimes life is just plain hard. Yesterday, during the morning worship service, I stood with the congregation and sang these words:
When shall I see that happy place
And be forever blessed?
When shall I see my Father’s face
And in His bosom rest?
Maybe it was the arrangement, the accompaniment swelling to a crescendo in that last verse, but I found myself fighting back tears as I sang. Though the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, and I love my life, I find myself longing more and more for that healthful land where sickness and sorrow, pain and death, are felt and feared no more. Some days I just want to curl up on my Father’s lap and rest.
Before anyone is tempted to stop reading and start dialing 9-1-1 on my behalf, let me say I’m not going anywhere soon. I’m just in the middle of a story which I know will end well, but I’ve got a fair number of chapters yet to plow through. And the one I’m in now seems rather dark.
I recently read Gilead, Marilynne Robinson’s lovely account of an elderly man reflecting on his life. At one point Reverend John Ames, the main character, expresses the following on behalf of his lifelong friend and fellow preacher, one who is wrestling with grief and regret:
Well, I can imagine him beyond the world, looking back at me with an amazement of realization—“ This is why we have lived this life!” There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient.
Ames knew that soon his friend would see the end of the story, the reason for the dark places, and how everything came together.
I’m willing to bet there are others who, at times, didn’t particularly like their lives. The Apostle Paul, for instance. The man was forever getting beaten up, chased out of town, shipwrecked, flogged, and thrown into jail. Yet during one of his stints in prison, he dared to write these words:
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Philippians 1:12, 13
I don’t know how God is at work in the particular circumstances in my life right now, and my brain hurts sometimes from trying to figure it out. I rather doubt that my persevering through the things which are happening to me will somehow going to cause the gospel to spread throughout the known world or lead to the conversion of important government officials.
But I do believe there’s purpose behind my particular circumstances because I believe God is writing my story, even the dark chapters. And I hope that as I dare to share pieces of it with others, someone might find courage to believe God is powerful. And he is good.
So I continue on, walking through this life while longing for that happy place where I will be forever blessed. And as I walk, I keep company with the One who endured a darker night of the soul than I can ever imagine. “In this world you will have trouble,” he reminds me. “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Quote is from: Robinson, Marilynne (2004-11-15). Gilead: A Novel (p. 277). Macmillan. Kindle Edition.
Scripture references are from the New International Version (NIV)