One of the things I’ve noticed in the almost-five months since my move, more than ever before in my life, is the juxtaposition life can offer of hard and good at the same time.
Some weeks ago I was talking about it with my mom, and she said (in paraphrase, since I don’t remember her exact words), “Life isn’t easy. That’s how life is. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be good at the same time.”
I haven’t been able to forget what she said.
“And,” not “Or”
I think of the words of Jane Marczewski (Nightbirde) during her iconic audition on America’s Got Talent: “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.”
It’s true, even in the biblical context. What are we waiting for? Are we waiting for some destination, for the light at the end of the tunnel, when God is placing innumerable blessings along every step of the journey, faithfully providing us light IN the tunnel?
We often compartmentalize life’s offerings (ultimately guided by God’s sovereign hand) and our responses to them: good times and hard times, blessings and trials, seasons of plenty and seasons of barrenness.
In one way it’s fair to do so, because sometimes life does offer us more of one side than another.
But in another way it’s not fair, because these opposites are not exclusive. In other words, if we’re in a season of barrenness, it doesn’t mean there’s no growth. If we’re in a trial, it doesn’t mean there aren’t blessings. If we’re going through a hard time, it doesn’t mean there aren’t good things.
We can have blessings in the trial, good times in the hard time, growth in the desert. Light in the darkness. Joy in the valley. Fruit in (and from) the ashes.
And that’s what I’ve seen painted for me on the canvas of the past few months, stark contrasts of dark and light, tones from opposite sides of the color wheel brushed side-by-side.
It’s been a hard few months, some of the hardest I’ve ever experienced. Being independent isn’t easy. Being single isn’t easy. Feeling crummy isn’t easy. Applying for jobs isn’t easy. Waiting isn’t easy. Being disappointed isn’t easy. Working isn’t easy. Growing isn’t easy. For crying out loud, sometimes just being alive isn’t easy.
But these months have also offered some of the highlights of my Colorado life so far, along with consistent, lower-key (but no less special) blessings.
Being specifically encouraged by biblical podcasts. Re-reading some of my favorite books. Celebrating friends’ birthdays. Receiving special ministrations from my Bible and prayer time. Getting my new driver’s license and license plates. Witnessing answers to prayer. Taking a trip into the mountains. Seeing my first live performance of Beauty and the Beast. Unexpected time with people I love. Finding immense satisfaction in my jobs.
Some of these highlights are recent, and in thinking back over them, brilliant splashes of color against the dull background of worse-than-usual crumminess, like Colorado’s golden aspens standing out in the forest of evergreens, I have felt so blessed that in spite of my crumminess I have still been gifted with such beautiful, exciting experiences, memories that will last me the rest of the year if not the rest of my life.
A lot of pain, a lot of weariness, a lot of fear, a lot of struggle, but also a lot of blessings. A lot of sweet memories. A lot of gifts. A lot of goodness.
Does one side have to outrule the other? Or can they coexist in the tapestry of contrasts woven by God’s good hand?
Expectation vs. Reality
Nowhere does God promise us that life will ever be easy. (We are instead given very clear promises of the opposite: trial, tribulation, and suffering–for all humans because of sin and extra for God’s people because of spiritual warfare.) So where do we get this idea that life should be easy?
Sometimes our personalities tend toward idealism, our perfectionist control-grabbers feeding us visions of something called “easy,” or at least “easier,” or even “perfect,” that foreign concept our imperfect minds can’t compute.
Sometimes we hear false messages from authorities, including preachers, who deceive us into believing that prosperity if not perfection are meant to be ours on this side of eternity.
Sometimes we ourselves misinterpret passages of Scripture, reading promises out of context or inflating verses with our own desires.
It’s a natural tendency. We’re not made to enjoy suffering. As Paul writes in Romans 8, our bodies along with our spirits (along with all of creation) groan for the restoration of Paradise that once existed in the Garden of Eden and will exist again in Jesus’ new reign.
But that restoration isn’t meant to be here or now. It’s coming–we have that promise, thank God!–but we have to wait for it. And in the meantime our bodies break and our spirits break and the world breaks around us, because our bodies are mortal and our spirits are weak and the world is cursed.
We’re stuck with imperfection. With hardship. With suffering. With darkness and brokenness and ugliness and agony. Agony of body and agony of spirit.
But we’re also blessed with joy. With blessings. With tastes of Heaven on broken Earth, a deepening relationship with our Redeemer, His constant presence and care, fellowship and support with other believers, and countless gifts both spiritual and physical.
Our bodies may be failing, but they’re carried in God’s gentle hands. Our spirits may be wilting, but they’re propped up by His own that dwells inside us, with us, beside us, never to leave us, ever.
Words of Hope
As Martha sings in “Make Me Whole,” part of Rob Gardner’s musical portrait of Easter, Lamb of God,
Oh touch my heart and bid it know That ev'ry breath I take Is by Thy tender grace, And thou wilt make me whole again.
While we have the hope of being whole someday in the future, in the meantime we also have God’s grace evident in every moment–every breath–of life.
My memory verse right now is a beautiful passage from Isaiah that has given me immense encouragement in these recent hardships:
The poor and needy seek water, but there is none,Isaiah 41:17-18
Their tongues fail for thirst.
I, the LORD, will hear them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will open rivers in desolate heights,
And fountains in the midst of the valleys;
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
And the dry land springs of water.
God promised to give His children water in the wilderness (not water OR a wilderness, water IN the wilderness), and He can do the same for us today: rivers of mercy that sustain us no matter how dry our surroundings.
I love what guest writer Jasmine wrote in her post a few weeks ago, comparing God’s mercies, new every morning, to the manna the Israelites daily collected during their wilderness wandering. Sure, we may be in a wilderness of our own, and it can be plenty dark and scary, or dry and exhausting, but just like His manna to the Israelites, God’s blessings appear in front of us every day, without fail.
His goodness never stops.
Sometimes it can be daunting to hear the mantra, “Life goes on.” When there’s so much pain and hardship and every moment is difficult, yes, we don’t want to be reminded that life goes on.
But when we count the blessings God gives us, when we receive His daily (hourly) ministration form His Word and His Spirit, when we experience the good things He lays in our path for us, it’s good that life still goes on–because even as the hardships continue, so do God’s mercies.
And what would life be without His mercies filling us with joy (Lam 3:22), His compassionate grace holding us together (Col 1:17), His love guiding our past, present, and future (Ps 139:5), manifested in blessings both spiritual and material every moment of every day?
These are the things that never fail. That keep us company and bring us light in the valley of chronic illness. That make life good even when it’s hard.
Does your life seem to offer more hard than good right now? Are you asking God to show you more of His goodness–more of Himself–in this valley? What are some of the rivers and fountains He’s giving you in your desert?
4 replies on “Life Is Good Even When It’s Hard”
Beautifully said 🙂
Thank you, Jennifer!
Beautiful, Melissa, and so rich with eternal Truth! Thank you!
Sent from my iPhone
Thank you, Mrs. Stephens!