I’ve run a couple marathons. Done some triathlons. Sat silently next to friends whose spouses passed away way too early. I’ve been up all night night-after-night with sick kids, put beloved animals to sleep, stayed behind to sell houses when my husband’s job transferred him to other states, and sat in hospital waiting rooms while biding time for a doctor to share a diagnosis. I’ve tried to nurse a baby while suffering the stomach flu, been the first one on scene of an awful car crash, been woken by the noise of the roof blowing off overhead during a violent storm, and had disagreements with longstanding friends that seemed irreparable.
All hard things.
I bet you’ve experienced hard things yourself. Probably some much, much worse than these.
Some, like marathons or selling houses seem to have a built-in finish line that once you cross it, makes the hard things seem worth it.
Others, like sick babies, car crashes, job losses or friends that die unexpectedly seem to have little purpose other than fatigue, grief, confusion and doubt.
Regardless, life is full of hard things. In fact, there are hard things everywhere we look.
Don’t get me wrong – there’s an overwhelming abundance of the easy things in life too.
The problem is… we don’t recognize when something’s easy.
Running a marathon is a whole lot harder than walking your dog to the end of the street and back. So do you say to yourself at the end of the dog-walking excursion, “Self, that was easy. Thank you God for giving me something easy today”?
Probably not. I wouldn’t. I don’t. I’m human and me-centric most of the time. And as much as I try to find the good in everything, if I’m honest, I’m not actively looking for the good in everything. Per Oprah, I keep a gratitude journal and I try to find those all-important “3 good things” in each day, but there are easily another 2,784 good things in each day that I
fail to notice.
- The new soap makes my hands smell good every time I wash them.
- I’m caught up on my laundry.
- My dog happily eats the lettuce cores, so he’s getting veggies too.
- It’s winter; I don’t have to weed the garden.
- I’ve been able to read more lately.
- My church is pretty awesome.
- I don’t have to eat mushrooms or brusselsprouts now that I’m the grown-up.
- Likewise, I can make chocolate chip cookies anytime I darn well please.
- The cotton I picked in Georgia earlier this year looks lovely on my mantle.
- I’m making progress cleaning out my email inbox.
Yeah, so now I only have another 2,774 good things I didn’t make note of. Why?
Because I’m busy thinking about my “struggle” and complaining about how hard things are. (Sinner, sinner, chicken dinner.)
I sometimes think God talks to me by showing me metaphors in the everyday. For instance, we have a river fairly close to us, and I took the pictures that you see above. In the top picture I adjusted the aperture and shutter speed on the camera, so the water looks smooth and silky.
But the water doesn’t really look that way IRL. (I know that means “in real life” because I have millennials in my life.)
Instead, you can see the water moving or “breaking” as it hits each and every one of those rocks. Rocks are hard things, you know.
But the water finds its way. And it never really breaks, it just takes a different route.
When I was at the river, trying to “smooth” the water by playing with apertures, shutter speeds and such, I could see that it was a metaphor for what I try to do in my life. I want to be able to make my own path forward and downstream smooth and without impediment. But the reality is that life is full of obstructions. Like those rocks preventing the water from flowing in the path of least resistance, my life has changed course because of those very obstacles.
I don’t like deviations to my plans. If I’m honest about it though, some of the best things in my life have come from doing something I didn’t plan to do. I was planning on moving to Atlanta after college and I didn’t. I wouldn’t have met my husband if I had. Or had my three kids. When we moved from Florida, I started running. I never had running on my radar, in fact, I wanted to keep it out of my radar, but running changed a lot of things in my life for the better.
If I put my mind to it, I probably could find more positives that came out of all those deviations than negatives.
Because God works all things together for our good.
Simple as that.
Like the water meeting rock in the river, I changed course.
I change course. Every time.
So if it’s something’s hard, I’ll just rub up against that rock, smoothing out its hard edges. Maybe the next time I meet that challenge, it won’t be as difficult to get around.
God doesn’t make things difficult for us just because. Not because He wants us to have pain or grief or hardship. It’s because He wants good in our lives, and we won’t recognize the good until we’ve come up against immovable forces that cause us to veer in another direction.
Maybe the next time you meet your rocks, your challenges, your struggles, you’ll find that you have to change course too.
Look for the beauty and goodness around you. Just because a river is full of rocks doesn’t mean there’s no virtue in the terrain. Just because your life is littered with strife, weariness and ‘less than’ doesn’t negate the joy and laughter that are there too. Cling to the rock that is Jesus. Recognize that meeting that obstacle means meeting Him. Know that with Him, everything that’s happening is for His glory and your good.
Because He wants nothing more than the best for you.