Difficulty reveals character. It’s what is exposed when all of your shallowness is hidden in the shadows while the depth of who you are gets exposed by stress. People don’t buy umbrellas on sunny days. When the rain comes, it drowns the hairspray of pretense and reveals the natural texture. Those who love you find beauty in what you thought were flaws.
You thought the mountain was manageable, but then a cloudy day turned into a storm. Your equipment breaks, your stuff gets stolen, and you don’t have enough to fix it or replace it. But, the mountain is still there and you still have to climb it. When it rains, it pours and you hope it just comes in three’s, but it doesn’t. You’ve lost count. Maybe it’s just the three worst. But it’s all so annoyingly inconvenient that it’s hard to distinguish which is worse.
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.”-John 12:27
Any wisdom you may find is only borrowed.
There is purpose in difficulty and it is for that purpose that this difficulty has come. You thought you could get ahead, but it seems that every step forward is against a current. If crisis reveals character and testing increases faith, then the current is there to strengthen you. It seems you can’t get through, but every day passes and it’s one day closer to who-knows-what because it’s not crushing you. It’s not cruelty to be able to survive for another day of fighting the current.
It’s beautiful to finally reach your place of rest, that level ground after a long climb, and know that you got through it, but not be able to explain how. The lack of words is a pregnant silence. All those who have been there will know. You can see it in their eyes and you can see yourself more clearly in the reflection.
“You can always recognize who has been through the fires of sorrow and received himself, and you know that you can always go to him in your time of trouble and find that he has plenty of time for you.”-Oswald Chambers
We’re all in this together, but the hardest part is the one you have to do when you feel the most alone. You’re gong to get through it. And when you do, carve your name in the side of the mountain before you move on to your next destination. Leave a legacy next to the legacy of others so that the collection of names lets those who come after you know that they’re not the only ones.
Difficulty reveals character. It’s the most difficult when all the stuff you’ve been relying on to get you through gets taken away. What do you have now? Nothing but God, and that’s the way He wants it. Like a mother with an infant, He removes your toys and your blankets when He holds you the closest.
I have a friend who collects bird houses. Not in a weird, overrun sort of way, but she lives in a beautiful home out in the Ozark Mountains and she has wildlife all around her. She put this ornate bird house on her back balcony because it was interesting, not necessarily because it was something a bird would want to call home. It was brightly colored and a touch gaudy, but it was a souvenir from her world travels and a touch of color to decorate her view.
One Spring, she noticed a male bird checking out the wild little house. She watched as he inspected it, inside and out. He must have liked it because he returned the next morning, perched himself on it, and began singing his heart out. That’s how males attract their mates. They find a home and sing. Morning after morning this little guy sang and morning after morning he was rejected. My friend noticed that other males were joined by females in her other bird houses. But, not this little guy. The house was too flamboyant for the other birds. They set up house and started their families, and this little guy stood alone by his fancy house.
His singing was relentless. She could hear it throughout her house and made it part of her routine to sip coffee and watch him. There was something endearing about how different he was. She imagined his eccentricity and smiled as she recognized his tenacity.
Spring was well under way and the chances of this little guy finding a mate were dwindling. It would seem that the evolutionary process was going to snuff out the dreamers in exchange for the more predictable. It was a little heartbreaking because he was so determined in spite of the daily rejection.
One morning, my friend poured her coffee in silence. Maybe the little guy gave up. It had been weeks of singing the same love song next to the same peculiar house with no reward for his amazing find. She looked out the window, expecting to find the quest abandoned, but instead, found that he had company. They were making a nest together.
It’s a hard world for a dreamer. It’s the disease of the creative. You fear rejection, you’re afraid that nobody will want what you create, nobody will like your ideas, and nobody will like you. Sometimes your fear paralyzes you. You try to be more average, but are still rejected. You try to use your wings, but end up falling on your face. It seems there is no spot for you. The mold doesn’t fit and you’re lonely in the potential that only you seem to be able to see.
Don’t let the difficulty keep you from starting every day as if it were brand new. Maybe this is the day that somebody hears your song and wants to be a part of it. This isn’t about finding a mate, though it could be. This is about being exactly who you are and not being paralyzed by people who don’t ‘get’ you.
You’re different and you have good ideas. And, yes, you have some not so good ideas, too. But, you could be the next game changer. You could be the one who brings color to a white canvas. Stop trying to make people like you. Create expressions of yourself and keep creating. Put yourself out there in all your potency. Maybe one day, people will look at your life’s art and say you were way ahead of your time.
No matter where you are or what you’re going through, somebody somewhere is going through it, too. Honesty is your calling card on the bulletin board in the lobby of life. Honesty is where you meet people, form alliances, and decide to travel together until the next phase.
The thing that breaks up unity is dishonesty. Dishonesty isolates people because only one person can fit behind one mask at a time. Even people with masks try to find connection. Sometimes they forget they’re wearing a mask until they need something real. Then they’re afraid to take it off because they’ll lose their ‘friends’. They feel trapped by the fact that they’ll have to suffer loss to gain what they’re really after.
Have you ever reached that place where hope hurts because you’ve been let down too many times? We don’t need help being realistic. The pressure is on, the stress is real, and the ache for a breakthrough steals the trinket happiness that has been getting you by.
God knows how to find you and He knows when to speak.
Your purpose in this life is to be ‘one’ with the Father. It’s the way the world knows that He sent Jesus. Your purpose is to be ‘one’ with each other. It’s the way the whole world knows that He loves them (John 17:20-23). Everything you go through, every prayer you pray…it’s for the purpose of bringing further in to Him and to each other. Your relationship with Him is the kind of ‘want’ that wants more. You go after Him and He goes after you. It’s the constant tug of trying to get to each other. It’s passionate.
Any action you take should be in response to that Love. Too many of the actions we take are to get that Love.
He’s jealous (Exodus 20:5). He doesn’t want you spending too much time working, even if you’re working for Him. He gets jealous if you give more of your time to something or someone else than you do to Him. He knows you’ve forgotten your True Love when you think you have to earn it.
So, He lets pressure get thick and the hope hurt so that you stop trying and let Him find you. Like a child lost in the store, you’re looking in all the wrong places. You’re His child. Call out to Him if you can’t see Him. Let Him be the adult. His ears are trained on you.
The child calls out and the Father answers, “I’m right here.”
Relief. “I thought you left me.”
“I would never leave you (Hebrews 13:5).”
God is not concerned about our plans; He doesn’t ask, “Do you want to go through this loss of a loved one, this difficulty, or this defeat?” No, He allows these things for His own purpose. -Oswald Chambers
God is not cruel. He doesn’t let you hurt just to see how much you can take. It’s that belief that is keeping you from knowing His love. You don’t just believe He loves you. You know it.
We are one. Life is lonely when you forget that.
Something you have to remember is that your life isn’t your own. You can’t hold on to your plans so tightly. I know it’s hard because we’re dreamers. Just line your dreams up with His. It goes beyond you. His dreams are for the whole world and what you’re going through is necessary for that. The pressure and stress is to reveal your insufficiency so you’re forced to come out from behind your mask.
“Can the prey be taken from the mighty, or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?”-Isaiah 49:24
There are those, saved by grace, who are still under the thumb of a tyrant. Shamed and discredited, mocked and rebuked, lambs thwarted by one with more weight. A target of injustice by those claiming justice, a target of humiliation by those who claim righteous authority.
A sinner saved by grace tries to get up and the fearful big brother knocks them back down. Their relationship is with the law and the ransomed are in a relationship with grace. They make them doubt the power of the cross because they can’t believe it themselves.
I don’t know if they know what they’re doing. I’m just sad that the fight of unbelief is among those who can quote the Gospel without believing it’s enough. The addendum’s they add, the post script they scribe, was never intended by the One who died. Sometimes I feel like writing a letter: “How many more steps? Show me the boxes that need to be checked before we are free.” Because the yoke of slavery they put on the fallen is an endless list governed by doubters. Doubters inflicting painful spiritual abuse.
People have a hard time believing that God still loves them when those who claim to be His people refuse to. They have a hard time believing they can be forgiven when those who claim to be His people will not. People have a hard time believing they can be redeemed and restored when those who claim to be God’s people refuse to let them come back.
Men do not own the church. They do not have authority over the Gospel. They do not have a say in who God uses. But try telling them that and they’ll make you’re life a living hell.
“Can the prey be taken from the mighty, or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?” Will the tormented targets be vindicated?
For thus says the Lord: “Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken, and the prey of the tyrant be rescued, for I will contend with those who contend with you, and I will save your children. I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh,and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine. Then all flesh shall know that I am the Lord your Savior,and your Redeemer…”-Isaiah 49:25-26
The tyrants can speak against you, write letters to discredit you, speak curses over your children, or even keep them from you. They can do all of this saying it’s God’s will and that you’re just fooling yourself for thinking God can redeem you. People , who claim to be His, do this and if you don’t think this is a problem, then you might want to consider that you are part of it.
“Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’-Luke 13:24-27
The narrow door, the gate, is Jesus. Many will claim to know Him, but their most painful realization is when they find out that He doesn’t know them. Jesus does not have addendum’s. He forgives before the failure. He forgives failures yet to be. He is quick and thorough. He causes you to see that He intended good where you intended evil. This is what repentance is. It’s a complete release and departure from the death blow of your sin. It puts you in complete reliance on Him and what He did. It makes you have to put all of your faith in His grace even though everything else is telling you that you went too far. The miracle of salvation comes to those who know they are unsalvageable.
The street grime ragamuffins, the complete failures, find that Jesus knows them. He loves them. He chose them. He will vindicate them. You know who they are by their love. Anyone who does not love, who does not believe, who holds your sin over you at their whim are as good as dead.
These people are not contending with you, they’re contending with Him and He will vindicate you.
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel;I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”- God’s work about Jesus in Isaiah 49:6
It is too light a thing to save the insiders. The Gospel is not just for the insiders. They reject Him repeatedly. The Gospel is for everybody. Let the outsiders come running. He’ll hold on and never let you go.
I recommend that you read all of John 17 because it’s a prayer Jesus prayed about all of us. This is an excerpt:
“Holy Father, guard them as they pursue this life that you conferred as a gift through me, so they can be one heart and mind as we are one heart and mind. As long as I was with them, I guarded them in the pursuit of the life you gave through me; I even posted a night watch. And not one of them got away…” -John 17:11-12