When we talked about having another baby, there is one thing that I had blocked from my mind, and that's the washing they create! I had prepared myself for being tired (perhaps not quite enough as Lucas still hasn't got the memo that nights are for sleeping for extended periods of time), but I had totally forgotten how much washing one little person could add to our already overflowing laundry basket. With our busy household of 6, much of my days are spent making sure everyone has clean clothes and food to eat - like the song that never ends, my days are full of tasks that never end!
So let's just put it out there that some days, weeks - some seasons can feel very long. Sometimes, it's nothing particularly big or bothersome and you know it's just a season that you will come through (like the sleepless nights - I've been parenting long enough to know that eventually kids do sleep and that one day I will again too). But other times the enemies to our freedom that we've been talking about this month on the blog - the burden of shame as we face our failures, painful disappointments when life and people have let us down, the sense that it's happening for everyone but us - can feel like they're suffocating us and we don't know how, or even if, we will ever see breakthrough.
We went through a chapter (quite a long one I must add) in our life as a family where honestly, I didn't know how much more I could take. It felt at times like nothing was untouched - I was surrounded by disappointments and discouragements. In this time, passages like James 1 became my go-to verses. I just needed to keep on persevering so that I could be made mature, or like Romans 5 says, to develop my character. I got very good at gritting my teeth and just getting on with it. But my heart felt so heavy and I often felt like God had forgotten about me.
During a particularly difficult time, I was given this verse in Colossians 1 from the Message paraphrase:
As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul--not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that He has for us.
I just love how Eugene Peterson has phrased this, not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength that God gives. Doesn't that just sound so good - God's glory strength becoming ours.
Now this type A personality, eldest child knew how to work hard! But I needed to let myself be yoked to Jesus so that it wasn't about gritting my teeth and steeling myself to get through, but about partnering with Him and letting His strength become my strength. You see, I had lost sight of the fact that maturity and character, while incredibly important, were not God's end-goal for me. James tells us that the one who perseveres receives the crown of life, Paul says that the fruit of character is hope, a confident expectation of God's goodness. Freedom, life, hope - these are what God is always wanting to lead us towards.
This revelation changed everything for me; it changed how I read passages like James 1 as I now understood that God was using the difficult things of this world not just to shape and refine me, but so I could experience His life within me. I began to see the valleys I found myself in, the struggles that I was wrestling with as an opportunity to see God at work and to experience His goodness firsthand. It was not the absence of pain or grief but eyes wide-open to see His presence and His goodness right there in the midst of it all.
Understanding the goodness of God and His heart for me has taken me on a journey of revisiting the things that have disappointed me, the places that I have failed, the times that I have felt overlooked and forgotten. In revisiting these hard places He has pulled back the curtain and let me see what He sees. And oh how differently He sees everything, how skilfully He weaves my life and brings healing and freedom.
In Isaiah 45, God promises this:
I will give you treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.
I currently find myself in a period of discovering God and the riches that He has for me in the mundane and unseen nature of this present season. But this verse is my testimony - that from the darkest places of my journey God has given me rich treasures; He has shown me time and time again that I am not forgotten, that He knows me and calls me by name.
Don't settle for just gritting your teeth, God wants you to know His glory strength and for you to live aware of His goodness in every season. Whether life currently looks like piles of laundry, or if you're caught up in storms, finding your way through a valley or living with desires fulfilled, He has treasures in it just for you. He knows you - intimately, personally - and He wants you to know Him that way too.
Live today with purpose,
One of my favourite pass-times as a kid was writing. I used to make my own books and write poetry on our old type-writer. Thankfully both my writing and technology have come a long way!
It is my prayer that these posts from both myself and guest contributors encourage you to embrace the season that you are in and to live it with purpose for God's glory.
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