If asked the question, “have you ever struggled?” we would all raise our hands. Some of us, maybe both hands in exaggeration. We all know this to be true of reality: we will struggle. Knowing that doesn’t change the pain it can bring, the sorrow it can produce, the confusion and even anger, but we know we will. We know there are seasons of struggling just as there are seasons of rejoicing.
It makes me think of flowers. Trees and shrubs and weeds too. Flowers are beautiful to look at, with lovely aromas to share. Trees stand grand and strong, like green covered canopies. But remember where they have to start, how they have to start: as a seed. Seeds are buried in the ground, completely submerged, and have to break before they can grow. Even then, they experience an intense season of growth before they can bloom; before they are ready to bloom.
I don’t know where you are – still buried, starting to break, beginning to grow, forming roots, coming up out of the ground – but I know that in order for us to bloom, we can’t skip seasons. We can’t skip the process. I know you’re ready to move forward, to be done with the struggles, I am too, believe me, I’m right there with you, but it takes time. It requires patience. It also requires filling ourselves with healthy things.
Flowers and trees don’t think of their struggle to break free from their seed, of bursting forth from the ground, they simply do. But, they only thrive in their growing process by being fed with the right things – sunlight, water, and good soil. Are we filling ourselves with godliness and Christlike virtues? Are we growing roots deep into His Word? Nourishment is vital to the growth and outcome. What you feed yourself with – books, TV shows, movies, music, relationships, food, drugs, alcohol – it always comes back out.
“For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” Matthew 12:34a, NIV
“Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” Ephesians 3:17 NLT
“Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:7 NLT
What you consume, especially during these times of difficulty, will take deeper roots in you than you realize. My friends, be patient in the process, but be watchful with what you fill yourself with. What you let in will affect your outcome, I guarantee it.
There is so much more for you, as there is for me, beyond what we are experiencing right now.
“We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” Hebrews 6:11-12 NIV
When a trial arises, most of us probably would already jump ahead to what we hope the outcome will be. But as time wears on and things don’t change, sometimes getting worse with every passing hour, our hope tends to get a little frayed and our endurance begins to fade. I want to encourage you, as I am to myself, to not give up. To not become stuck in your circumstances. To grow lazy. But rather, pick yourself up, cling harder to your hope in Christ, and by your faith and patience, continue seeking the LORD. We don’t know when our trial will end, if another will bombard us directly after this one we’re in, but have hope knowing that this struggle is just for a season.
“I have to choose to thrive, even in the pain. Even when it’s tough. … We can do this. God has not brought us this far to let us down now.” Joanna Gaines, The Magnolia Story
“For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” James 1:3 NLT
“These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1:7 NLT
God doesn’t want harm to come to us. He doesn’t want us to have broken hearts, crushed spirits, shattered dreams, and weak bones. But being that He is God, He knows that struggles and trials are often things that draw us to a deeper intimacy with Him. He knows that they refine us like fire to gold, cleansing us from our impurities. I’m sure God does not enjoy seeing us suffer, but He knows how He can use it to make us better, stronger, wiser, have a more solid faith, and still receive the glory He is due. It’s not like God’s the one throwing us into the fire pit or hurling storms at us. That’s life. That’s this broken world. That’s sin. But He’s also not standing at the finish line tapping His watch. No, God is with us through it all. He is still by our side, in the midst of the ashes, comforting us and whispering His peace to our weary souls. He is the God who was, is, and is to come. He is present at every point in our lives: before the trials, during the hardships, and in the aftermath. All the tears we’ve cried and laughs we’ve released, God was present.
Life is so much more than the struggles we face; it’s the journey of going through them and how we change for the better coming out on the other side.
I hope to see you all grow stronger and bloom in such beauty. Does not the gold look more lovely after it’s been refined by the fire? Does not the flower look more beautiful once it’s grown from it’s simple little seed? Struggling is a part of life. It’s a part of change. It’s a part of growth. I know it’s not always easy, some difficulties are far more harsher than others, but we will make it through, and when we do, we’ll look back and see just how far we’ve come. We will see that there is always more to the struggle and more than just the struggle. It’s remembering that the outcome will outweigh the current situation you find yourself in. God doesn’t allow us to struggle for nothing. He uses them for greater purposes than we will ever imagine until we go through those trials and see how He has been working.
“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” 2 Corinthians 4:17 NLT