Over the past year I have had some rhythms of struggle in my life. They haven’t been super visible. But there has been this underlying current of struggle, suffering, trials, and difficulty. Isn’t that how it usually is in life? Most people don’t know that we walk around trying to be ok after we were yelled at by our boss, had a trying day of fits and toy throwing with a toddler, or got news of a family member with a diagnosis that isn’t good.
Most of us walk around shouldering these troubles and no one sees them. Sometimes we walk around and people can obviously see them. I have been the mom with the dirty messy bun, the faded yoga pants, and the screaming toddler in Target. But what we see is often only surface. When we see people who look weary, we might think, “Poor woman, she is having a bad day.”
Today I want to talk about something deeper than what happens on the surface. I want to talk about what happens within us and the faith that can display itself like a beacon of light in a dark stormy night.
Have you ever had a splinter? You know how when you have a splinter and it HURTS. It is so uncomfortable and all you can think about is getting that splinter out of your skin. But you are ok right? You aren’t headed to the hospital with that splinter. You aren’t having to have your foot amputated. You can still walk with the splinter. But it HURTS and you can’t stop thinking about it. This is often the way struggles feel. We are OK, yet not. It is a thorn just like Paul speaks about in 2 Corinthians. I want to spend some time here today because I think we can all relate to what Paul shares about his thorn and for our call to have visible faith.
Here is what we know about the thorn Paul speaks of:
1/ It was given to him.
2/ He pleaded with the Lord to take it away three times.
3/ The Lord answered that “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor. 12:9
How often does a struggle or a difficult thing happen in your life and you immediately think, “I have to figure this out”? The natural responses we have to pain, suffering, and difficulty is to “handle it” or “solve it” when often times God is saying, “turn to me child.” You see, God desires for us to seek him in ALL things (See Proverbs 3:6) but that isn’t what we tend to do. From the very beginning with Adam and Eve in the garden, they tried to take matters in to their own hands instead of seeking the Lord. This is in our nature. But often, God can put this ongoing current of suffering in our life to remind us of why we need him, at all times, every day. If you have that splinter in your foot—you will not stop thinking about it until it is gone. So is the same with God. He sometimes allows us to suffer through something so we have a constant reminder of how much we need him.
So in real life terms, how does this play out? Let me share a personal example. For those of you who don’t know, my youngest son is a CHALLENGE. My family has nicknamed him “The General” because he acts like a tiny dictator. If I have grey hair soon…this is why. I love my son with all my heart, but there is usually a moment every day when he pushes my patience to the limits and I have a hard time keeping calm. It is so hard not to blow a gasket when he digs up my fiddle leaf fig, or writes with purple pen all over my couch, or draws a beautiful picture on the hard wood floor with black sharpie. Grace upon grace you all. I wouldn’t make it through the day without God’s grace!!!! I have learned that God has given me a son to challenge me because he wanted me to turn for him for grace instead of turning to worldly things. In the past I tried to read enough parenting books to build a tower in my office. Although some of these books have been helpful, they aren’t what I NEED. What I need in that moment when it all feels so overwhelming is grace and strength that only God can give. I’ll share another example of what this looks like.
A lot of our difficult moments happen in the car. I don’t spend as much time driving and in my car as what I did a few years ago, but anytime we are in the car—there is usually a meltdown of some sort. When my youngest son has a meltdown it isn’t usually just a fit. It is EXTREME you all. I feel like I need a storm trooper suit when this happens. But I am driving. We all know its not really good or safe to be stressed and having a screaming toddler launching stuff at you while in heavy traffic traveling at 60mph! So about a year ago I heard Jennie Allen say this one thing that stuck with me and lead to a lot of what I am sharing here. “Turn to him.” That was all she said. Similar as seek him, but for some reason it stuck with me that she said when things get tough, to “turn to him.” So in the car when these moments started happening, I started turning to him. I started saying these tiny little prayers to him. “Lord give me strength.” “Lord give me grace.” “Lord please calm my heart and my nerves.” And it HELPED. Not in a bit, like immediately. That is the power of prayer and God.
Which leads me to my main point. We can’t see God right? He isn’t in the flesh, we can’t touch him, we can’t hear him out loud, but he is there, he is listening, and he cares for us! God wants to help us with the small things and the big things. He wants us to come to him with ALL things. What is VISIBLE, is our faith. When we turn to him when we are face in the sand, we are visibly showing others around us that we need God and we believe he is real. When we ask him for strength and grace on the days when we feel like we have no energy to keep going—we visibly show others how to navigate suffering.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. -2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Friends, we have to show others how they can get through the difficult times. We have to show them where to look, who to turn to, and show them they have a savior who can help them in all things! We are that beacon of light, because the spirit is within us, we have to show people the unseen. We have to make our faith visible so they see more of God. The books and the quotes only go so far. They are temporary. What we need is the eternal, the permanent fix to our temporary problems.