In Faithful, Abundant, True: Three Lives Going Deeper Still Priscilla Shirer says: “As I’ve considered different seasons of my life, it’s occurred to me that I’ve often been waiting on my circumstances to change before feeling like I can experience God’s abundance. We often think: If I can just get out of this season and into the next one, then I know abundance will be waiting for me. If I can just get out of this disappointing, frustrating circumstance I’m in, then I know I’ll experience God’s best” (p.68).
Like Priscilla, this thought process has occurred in different seasons of my life. One time that stands out was my freshman year in college when it felt like all of the comforts and security of home were stripped away from me. Instead of embracing the exciting new phase I’d entered, I grieved the end of my childhood. Making meaningful connections with new friends was a struggle and I longed to be known and valued. I viewed my new surroundings in Southern California with a critical eye and compared everything to home. Nothing met my unrealistically high standards. I thought: If I could just leave this place, I would be happier.
In spite of my struggles, I knew I had to figure out how to make things work. I grew up in a home where “We Don’t Quit” was a motto—I could even picture the paper with my dad’s printing written in green felt pen and pinned to my brother’s bulletin board. I didn’t want to give up so easily after all the hard work of getting into college and I certainly didn’t want to disappoint my family.
So, in the midst of my intense loneliness, I turned to God– the only One I felt really knew and loved me in this strange place so far from home. For the first time in my life I needed and wanted to spend time studying His word to find truths that would sustain and encourage me. I poured out my heart in prayer, sharing my struggles and heartaches. I listened to Christian music at night as I fell asleep. It bathed my mind with God’s comforting promises, which seemed more relevant to me than they ever had before.
As the school year progressed, I slowly began to accept my new surroundings, to find friends and to enjoy Christian fellowship. By the time my parents came to collect me in June, I realized that I was leaving a little piece of me behind as we drove up back to Northern California. More importantly, my relationship with God was stronger and deeper than it had ever been in my life.
In the midst of my misery and loneliness, I’d discovered the abundance of God’s love and the reassurance of knowing that He would always be with me. By removing me from the comfort and security of my earthly home, He showed me that my ultimate comfort and security came first and foremost from Him. God took my sour outlook and sweetened it slowly as He revealed Himself to me during that difficult year.
There have been many other times when I’ve struggled through hard things. Difficulties are always going to pop up, but that doesn’t mean we just have to grit our teeth and white-knuckle our way through them. God is there with us and has things to show us through our struggles. Priscilla Shirer says it well: “The abundant life is not when no impossible situations occur and you’re experiencing peace, joy, and happiness. While that’s nice, true abundance is really seen when you’re sitting in a prison circumstance, when you’re eye to eye with an impossible situation, and right in the heart of your impossible, you experience the fullness of God” (p.69).
Seven years ago I found myself staring impossible right in the face and felt hopeless to do anything about it. My Dad’s health was rapidly deteriorating as a debilitating neurological disease ravaged his mind and body. Although we loved each other, we’d never had a great relationship. We’d both made feeble attempts to connect at various times in life, but they never produced much. As I watched him decline, I despaired that I’d lost the chance to develop a close relationship with him because of his compromised state.
And then, right in the heart of impossible, God showed up and made the last two weeks of my Dad’s life our sweetest time together. He gave me the courage to initiate sharing thoughts with my Dad that I’d never been able to verbalize before. Although his ability to think and speak was painfully slow, he responded and we had several tender conversations. It was the first time we shared honestly how we felt about each other without the usual awkwardness or sarcasm that characterized our relationship. By the time my dad passed away I had a peace about our relationship that had eluded me for my entire life. I’d thought my Dad’s illness had eliminated any possibility of having a meaningful connection with him, but God used it to bring us together in a way I never would have anticipated.
Ironically, the relationship with my dad that had been such a source of pain and hopelessness for me was the catalyst that launched me into sharing my writing with others. After my dad passed away, I wrote about our final days together and submitted it for consideration in an anthology of short stories. To my surprise, the story was chosen and published in 2013 in a book called When God Makes Lemonade: True Stories that Amaze and Encourage. I was humbled to discover that God often uses the hardest things in our lives to reveal Himself to us. Reading the book has showed me the authors of the other stories experienced something similar.
The truth is we get access to God’s power when we lay our weaknesses and difficulties at His feet. The apostle Paul knew this when he wrote 2 Corinthians 12:7b-10:
“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
When we take our hard circumstances and our weaknesses and entrust them to Jesus, we invite Him to bring change. Sometimes He changes the hard things we’re dealing with, sometimes He gives us the courage to take action, but often He changes our perspectives more than anything else. There is no circumstance too large or too small for Him. Paul tells us God is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). We can have great hope remembering that He can go beyond our wildest imaginings.
Is there a sour circumstance in your life? Maybe something that seems impossible to change? God can and will work to bring sweetness to it in His perfect timing. He is able. Are you willing to let Him show you?
For added perspective on this topic, click on the link to listen to Laura Story’s song “Blessings.” It will show you how God uses hard situations to change us and to show us a new perspective.