And then, no matter what you do, sometimes life just doesn’t make sense. Our friends betray us and leave us bleeding on the side of the road. Our circumstances turn to absolute garbage and put us into mortal danger. Our own sin catches up with us even as we watch the wicked get their way in all things. Our money runs out at the most inopportune time. We suddenly realize that the very important decision we made last year was the wrong one. Illness stalks. Death takes. Life just sucks. In fact it sucks so bad it becomes The Suck; the absolute pinnacle of suckitude.
Our joy dissolves into a puddle of tears at our feet. That stupid cartoon thundercloud hovers above our head. We snap at everyone or cry at the smallest emotional stimulus. And some stupid preacher tells us that it’s a matter of perspective. Don’t you just want to shoot that guy? But wait, he is just the messenger, and that message is a truth that will see you through.
Scripture tells us that our suffering produces perseverance which produces character which, in turn, produces hope. That doesn’t make me feel better at the time but when I think through it, it’s true. I got through something bad, it teaches me how to come through hard times, makes me a more resilient person, more committed and then, the next time I face crisis, I have hope, based on experience, that I can get through this next thing as well. Now scripture also says to consider it pure joy when you face trials of different kinds, for the same reason. Pure joy? It’s a matter of perspective.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
It’s very difficult to see everything from where we are. We are creatures of limited sight and although our Creator has endowed us with an imagination that allows us to see the un-see-able and know things that are un-knowable that even allow us to comprehend eternity, we can’t see what’s right around the corner and that sometimes leaves us cold and frightened and hurt. Rich Mullins wrote in his song Hard to Get:
All I really need to know
Is if You who live in eternity
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in time
We can’t see what’s ahead
And we can not get free of what we’ve left behind
And Andrew Peterson wrote in his song Many Roads:
If you’ll step inside this great glass elevator
It’ll take us up above the city lights
To where the planet curves away to the equator
I want to show you something fine
You can see the roads that we all traveled just to get here
A million minuscule decisions in a line
Why they brought us to this moment isn’t clear
But that’s all right, we’ve got all night
Could it be that the many roads
You took to get here
Were just for me to tell this story
And for you to hear this song
And your many hopes
And your many fears
Were meant to bring you here all along
One of the greatest old prayer and meditation tools of the ancients was the Labyrinth. If you have never used a labyrinth in prayer and meditation, you should look one up online and see what’s in your area, just google it. When you are walking the labyrinth and praying and listening you notice a few thing. One is that it is a much longer road than it appears when you begin. Another is that you are constantly backtracking and seemingly moving away from the direction you want to go. There are many more. When you reach the center you are ready to shift your perspective and hear what God has to say. I highly recommend it, if it is done in the Spirit of God.
Romans 8:28 tells us that, for those of us committed to the higher purpose, all things work are being worked out for our good. That’s hard to swallow sometimes but it is the truth we live in as disciples of Jesus. Sometimes we just need to gain some perspective. Not just thinking how much worse you could have it, although that sometimes helps, but understanding that you are on a journey and you can’t see the end from where you are. I love looking back at my life and seeing all the things that happened along the way, good and bad, that gave me all I have today. I can’t see it in everything yet, but I know I’m walking the path. Sometimes the path is scary and turns away from where I think it should go. But faith, faith let’s me see the end and know that if there is a Storyteller, as I believe, that He is moving me forward to a good ending, my ever after, every day.
Phil Stacey’s take on the late Rich Mullins Hard to Get