What is the biggest challenge or struggle you find yourself facing?
I don’t always have an answer for this question. Sometimes I’m not just sure which struggle to zero in on. My struggles could run the gamut from finding a recipe I’ve lost, to walking into Kohl’s to return a tank, only to find I didn’t bring the package in with me but left it laying quietly in the seat of my Yukon. My struggle may look like the challenge of attending a large event and making small talk or the sick-to-my-stomach feeling when faced with conflict. It may look like mustering up the courage to step forth boldly or it may simply be the bravery in living out our everyday lives as the unique people God created us to be.
Struggles are a common denominator in life. They wear different faces for different people, but struggles don’t hand out exemptions. I may be completely and utterly confused by the insurance forms you filled out in a few minutes flat. You may struggle with plugging numbers into your budget and I bound through it.
Struggles bring unwelcome guests
Struggles and challenges can cart along a whole truckload of anxiety and anxious thoughts if I allow them entry. But here’s a truth, friend: Easy Street is always closed. Effortless living isn’t a thing. Obstacles, annoyances, and challenges exist.
It feels like some seasons contain more of them. It even looks like some people bear bigger burdens. But no one escapes and our friend Jesus tells us to expect trouble. Does it feel disheartening to think that all through life we will be faced with some set of struggles, skirmishes, or strife? Perhaps.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, ESV)
The truth is more than just the reality of our individual struggles. The truth tells us, “Whatever struggle we’re facing, we are not alone.” We are shoulder to shoulder in this struggle highway. I may break my stride and I may fall and you may not right now, but we are all battling a struggle.
“If the good Lord’s willin’” – and He is always willing to hear and care and help us up – we are going to make it through this setback, this question, this hardship.
“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”
(Psalm 34:17-19, ESV)
A scenario of struggles
That struggling second-grade reader of yours? She’ll get it. Somehow, someway. Perhaps reading won’t be what she medals in, perhaps dyslexia is real, perhaps she will need therapy, but you will come out on the other side.
Those mountains of laundry? On the couch, on the dining room table, tossed in a basket. Well, there’s a blessing in clothing to wear. There are the joy and delight found in choices of fabrics and styles we love. One of these days, those littles are going to do their own laundry and every now and then we may wish we could fold little tees and trousers again. I do draw the line at matching socks. Who loves to match socks?! And if you do, come on over!!! My socks will be waiting.
Those bills that need to be paid? God sees the sparrow. And if He can number the hairs on my head, I’m pretty sure He knows the numbers those bills add up to. It may be hard. It may be frightfully scary. Ends may not meet and pennies may be precious, but He has not forgotten you.
That relationship that causes pain and rends your heart? I don’t have a nice concise checklist for you that will end with the exact results you’d really love to have. I will encourage you to pray. And perhaps that feels a bit patronizing or looks a little butterfly bandage size, but I assure you it isn’t. God sees that heartache.
“You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?”
(Psalm 56:8, ESV)
That pain aching your body, wracking your bones, and building in your every joint? Physical pain – gnawing, annoying, heavy, destroying. I’ve been there. Pain is plain debilitating. And you’ve been to doctors and you’ve tried this and questioned that and you’ve prayed and you are just so weary. I can’t promise your pain will disappear, but I can offer you the promise that Jesus is our Hope and He has already conquered death and pain and tears. And I can tell you that – while I hate pain and I wish you relief and pain-free living – pain teaches like nothing else.
Pain teaches gratefulness for any relief of it and this promotes gratitude for other areas in life. Pain produces patience. It bears empathy for suffering in others.
Letting go of the struggle
Sometimes the struggle is found in whether I’m willing to let go of the struggle itself and give it to God, to offer it up to Him and whisper, “I trust You.”
Even in this, we can link arms and come alongside one another as courageous comrades. “I’m only a texted prayer request away,” a friend tells me. It’s the best gift we have to offer, praying for and over each other. Asking for prayer and then bending my own knee in prayer is a surefire way to surrender to all He has for me.
When I find the struggle feeling insurmountable, be it household chores or heart hurts, I only need to hand it to Him.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30, ESV)
The faithfulness of God in the everyday
I’m always chasing after every good day and seeking the joy and happiness in it. I count thankfulness for coffee in my cup, new shampoo to try, and the wonderful fragrance in my friend’s homemade soap. I do this because by delighting in what I do have, in seeing the grace in all I have been given to steward, I find a way to combat the hardships when they sail in to sink me and set me to worrying and wondering.
Seeking the glory-moments in each day reminds me of my God’s faithfulness. Closing my eyes to savor the buttery mashed potatoes on my tongue reminds me of the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Arranging flowers, stem by stem in my antique flower frog, reminds me of the intricacies formed into all of creation. Pulling out my phone to capture the sun-streaked sky in a picture square on Instagram reminds me of the artwork the Master Artist paints for us every day. Each day brings a new canvas!
Challenges and struggles will square off with us, breathing in our faces some days. We’ll find ourselves worrying when we would rather not, panting out a panicked prayer, and struggling to make sense of senselessness.
At the same time, the beauty of God’s creation is steadfast and sure. His listening ear is always bent down to catch the quietest and most timid of cries. Therefore, as long as we have breath, we will cry out to Him!
“Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I will call to you when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.”
(Psalm 61:1-3, ESV)
We have a good, good Father and His Son, sent to die in our place, who knows a thing or two about struggles. We can confidently hand our worry, our struggles, and our questions into His hands!
Praise the Lord, friend! Let the challenges come. Let’s pray for each other and glimpse the amazing goodness abounding in our very own kitchens and backyards and laundry piles.