Jesus never said that the abundant life would be trouble-free. In fact, He explicitly told His people that “in this world, [they would] have trouble” (John 16:33). That statement stands today. We will have trouble. We simply cannot escape it. So, how is it possible that an abundant life, a life filled with blessings and joy, can also be a frightening, frustrating, painful life?
I’m dwelling on this. Last week I told you that several of my friends are dealing with some really tough things. We’re talking big things here, like death and abusive relationships. Chris and I continue to scrape by on the seat of our financial pants. There always seems to be more bills than there is money. I lay awake last night wondering how we could possibly make it work. My parents are in the same boat. My brother is recovering from his third foot surgery.
I get the trouble part. I’m living that.
Thus it was a bizarre feeling that rose up within me when we took the dogs for a walk last night and spied the barest hint of Autumn color tinging the trees that line the neighborhood pathways. In the midst of struggle, there was beauty. Splashes of gold and vibrant red, lit by the blaze of sunset. I could not have enjoyed the moment more if everything in my life was perfect. I suspect that I enjoyed it because my life is not perfect.
These little reminders from God are what keep us going. I don’t know how we’ll pay all of my medical bills or replace the engine in the stupid, stupid truck. I don’t know how to adequately comfort my friends. I have no money to give my parents to help them and I can’t make my brother’s foot heal any faster. But I do have the changing leaves. I possess a reminder any time I look out the window, a reminder that tells me that there are seasons. That life is never static. That the hardship of the now will not overtake me for I know the One who has overtaken the now (also John 16:33).
I am a pessimistic, deeply cynical person, so I know how impossible the words I am about to write will seem. Nevertheless, it’s true that there’s always something to be thankful for. I am learning that, if I let Him, God will step in a blow that pessimism and that cynicism away. He will give me little glimpses into something better, something more. I’m learning that I can listen to the Enemy’s lies if I want to and travel the path of discontentment and despair, but what’s the point of that? I’m learning that holding on to hope – really, God Himself – is the only thing that makes sense even as it seems senseless.
Why do people die when they do? Why do relationships turn sour? Why does the car have to break down the same time the body does? Why do people run away? I don’t know. I simply don’t have the answers for any of that. All I know is that the leaves are changing. That, somehow, is evidence enough that God is at work.