If you are facing multiple concurrent crises, you are naturally weary. Your thought life will be tempted to wallow in the truth; life is hard. Hard doesn’t seem to equate with good. It feels exhausting or depressing. Experiencing hard can give us a sense of being powerless or a victim or a failure. Worst of all, it may lead to hopelessness.
James, the brother of Jesus, wrote in a letter to Jewish Christians scattered among the Mediterranean world, to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
God is committed to our maturity. Maturity is rarely a high priority for me! I’m fond of ease and terrifically fond of having those around me being happy.
My massive desire to have quick, positive resolutions to crises doesn’t drive me to “count it all joy”. It drives me into a fearful and disappointed state of mind. Highly unproductive mixed in with a bit of immature tantrums.
Resetting our assumption that hard equals bad to hard produces good could be the key to the good life we desire.
John 16:33 — “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”. Notice we WILL have trouble, not we MAY have trouble. Chapter 8 in the book of Romans reminds us our hope is not in what we already have. Our hope is knowing God is for us and nothing will separate us from the love of God and His glory will be revealed to us.
Reinhold Niebuhr’s “Serenity Prayer” does not beseech God for an easy life. It’s a realist Christians’ prayer. This prayer may be familiar to you. I thought it was familiar until a friend sent it to me as a gift of comfort during my concurrent crises; I read it and felt it in a new way. I found myself reading the second stanza slowly and repeatedly.
God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
I experience a release of tension as I read, “accepting hardship as a pathway to peace”. Acceptance stops us from fighting the wrong battles. “Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it” is wisdom backed by the ultimate role model. “Trusting that You will make all things right, if I surrender to your will” is a move toward the promise that seeking maturity is a desirable goal. “So that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with you forever in the next” gives hope for the weary and joy in the midst of “hard”.
We’re not asked to pretend to be happy about our pain; we’re given the assurance our pain can produce good in us. Good in us equates to a good life. A hard life is not a bad life!