Our family has been sick, one person after the other, one illness followed by the next. Add to that various other life stressors which pop up at inopportune times between and during each hard stretch, and life starts to feel comically hopeless. Our hearts are hovering somewhere between the dark shadow of late Winter and the brightness of the Spring the groundhog under-promised but over-delivered.
When life gets hard, I put my head down and plow through whatever activity is necessary. I work through the to-do list, focus on the next task and slowly, things will turn. I move a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer and stuff a new one in. I sanitize the countertops again, take another bag of trash out, wash my cracking hands for what seems like the hundredth time that day, and remind my little people to wash their own hands and take another small sip of water. Then I check the list to see what’s next.
We just have to make it through one more night, I tell myself. Life will be better when we get through this.
But lately, we walk out of one mess into the next. We have just enough time to breath, catch up on housework, and make new plans before the next crisis comes along. Then the cycle repeats. We cancel the plans, and fall behind again on the housework. Grab your thermometer – we’re back on the wheel.
And I’m hearing Paul say, “…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11b)
I ignore Paul for a moment, because I am, after all, a pretty content person, especially when it comes to things like belongings or my role in life. Then I hear it again and pause. Whatever the circumstances? That complicates things.
I’m under no illusion that I should expect comfort or ease as a Christian. In fact, I believe things can be quite the opposite. Yet here I am, always looking forward, waiting for the load to lighten or the clouds to part.
I’m seeing that the space between hopefulness and contentedness in the moment is more fuzzy and gray than I believed. Can I be content in this moment? Can I praise God for life as it is right now? Can I cling to the promise that He works things for my good?
I often remind myself to thank God for my blessings when life is hard. We are sick now, but thank you, Lord, for bodies that heal and access to healthcare when we need it. My car isn’t running today, but I am grateful to have the resources to get it repaired. I’m exhausted from the tasks and stress, but thank you, God, for a family that needs my care.
The relentless waves of tough times got me thinking there may be a lesson for me here and one morning, some verses in 1 Samuel 2 caught my eye. Here is Hannah, who ached and prayed (and prayed) for a child, praising God for the long-awaited gift of her son Samuel. Her prayer was broader than gratitude, though. Rather than simply thank God for Samuel, she praised Him for His faithfulness and His power. In fact, she spent almost the entire prayer doing just that.
I may be further from contentment than I knew.
Can I praise God not simply for what I have “left” but for who He is through it all?
For I know this: His greatness is not dependent on my circumstance.
Focusing on my changing circumstance and my wavering outlook leaves me buried in frustration and despair when the waves come too quickly, and reliant on my own strength to make it through with spirits intact. Focusing on an unchanging God despite my circumstance steadies me and gives me a hope far more substantive than I could generate on my own.
I finish the laundry, climb into bed, and offer words of praise to the One with all the world resting in His mighty hands. Then I breathe.
Image Credit: Ron Gaedke (Montezuma Valley)