On the phone with a dear friend yesterday, I communicated how tired I have been. I told her of the stress of my job, trying to echo positive sentiments of truth amidst my lament (“it’s an opportunity for growth”, etc.). And, oh my, am I ever so thankful for encouraging friends who graciously listen to me as I try to be real (“I’m struggling right now”) without being overly negative and untruthful (“everything in my life is awful and there’s no hope”). In fact, I would argue that there is a very real need for authentic friendships like this, where struggles can be shared and encouragement given. Because, in addition to the encouragement given, it’s nice to know you’re not alone. (And you’re not alone.)
But sometimes I think I focus too much on the struggle…
In the middle of a full-time job, life as a wife and wannabe homemaker (I can’t sew. I actually can’t cook without a recipe in hand. I hate laundry. For these reasons and others, I remain a “wannabe”), and as a daughter, sister, friend, hopeful parent via international adoption (so.much.paperwork.), and possibly a future pastor’s wife (hubby just completed his first year of seminary in pastoral studies) I can easily fixate on the stress, and upon the fatigue that all these things (these very good things) cause in my very human body. I wonder where the time has gone each day, and whether or not I really accomplished anything of worth. In limiting my focus to solely the struggles, however, I nearly miss out on recognizing and rejoicing over the rich blessings that God has given me in each of these roles and among these facets of life. Because, my friend, the blessings do abound.
Yes, my job stresses me out. I struggle with fear of failure, and I feel a keen sense of pressure and responsibility in my position. BUT. I have a job (and work is a good gift). I am learning so much. I am being stretched in ways I didn’t even realize I could be! I am being given opportunities to try new things, and I’m figuring out what excites me (who knew that I would ever love to read about business and marketing strategy? I sort of do!)
Yes, it is extremely difficult to juggle work and home responsibilities. My house is not nearly as clean as I want it to be, I have a tough time getting dinner on the table most nights, and don’t even look at the growing pile of laundry in my room that’s just waiting to not be washed for another week. BUT. I am blessed to have a roof over my head, and clothes to wear (many, many clothes), and food to eat (lots and lots of delicious food). These are gifts. Additionally, my eyes have been opened to more completely understand the juggling act my husband will likely always be learning to do (we are hoping that I can be a stay-at-home mom while our children are young, maybe forever…). Speaking of whom, my husband is learning how to support me in my role at work by doing a lot of the housework for me, and I’m reminded more than ever that he is one-of-a-kind. (And a very good dish washer.) I am continuing to learn to prioritize people over things. (And building relationships most always win over having a squeaky clean house.)
NO, I am not a fan of paperwork. Or of the legal jargon that goes along with adoption. BUT. This process is stretching me, and changing me, and God is using every piece of paper to solidify what He is doing in our family’s life: He is blessing us richly. With children. From India. (And we are already so in love with our little ones.) What precious gifts from God!
In these ways, and among the other areas of life that richly abound with gifts from the gracious Creator and Giver of good things, there is one gift that supercedes all the others. In fact, it is this gift that enables me to deal with the struggles I face amidst the blessings (for struggle is inevitable when humanity is involved, and I am very human). God, out of the overflow of His riches in Christ, has given me Himself. (And He will not leave or forsake me, and He is faithful and will complete the work He’s started in me.) What’s most incredible about this gift is that it has not come from any merit I possess, or anything I have done. It’s sheer grace, in the face of Jesus Christ. Because of what He accomplished for me at the cross and through His resurrection, I am never alone. The Everlasting One, Creator of heaven and earth, Redeemer of lost souls – He is always by my side. And when I’m struggling with fatigue (a daily battle), or unsure of the next step in my job or in the adoption process or in ministry, or just in general? Somehow (and by His grace) I see Him more clearly. Any sense of self-sufficiency I possess is stripped away, and I recognize (again and again) my desperate and unending (un.ending) need for Him, much more so than on the days when everything seems to be peachy-king and I’m handling everything well (mostly because everything is going “my” way)! What a most precious gift – God Himself.Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ… -Ephesians 1:3-9
*Please know, this post was specifically intended to address the more positive areas and gifts of life: family, work, friends, children, homes and food, and the like. This post was NOT intended to address the topic of suffering, and while I do believe that many of the gifts in the face of suffering reflect some of the same truths (most ultimately, the keen awareness of the presence & strength of God amidst difficult times), I also believe that this particular topic must be addressed very cautiously and with great compassion for individuals who are dealing with a variety of horrific and life-altering circumstances. Maybe someday I will add to this much-needed discussion on suffering; until then, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of Timothy Keller’s book on the topic! It is titled Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, and I found it to be a comprehensive, compassionate, and gospel-focused book. I encourage you to read it, if you’re interested!