Dude. 2016: That’s gonna leave a mark. Not so much here — or here — but right along in here. (If you know what I mean.)
Looking back over the past twelve months, I find myself deeply grateful for God’s nearness, for unexpected gifts, for my children, for so much. So very much, it’s stunning.
And yet I find my soul frayed by the unpredictability of life. Looking forward, a sense of fragile faith looms low. Dare I look up, look ahead? For the longer I live, the more I realize how tightly the good is woven with the bad. With joy comes sorrow, with friendship comes loneliness, with gain comes loss, with health comes sickness, with favor comes cost, with purpose comes sacrifice, with new life comes death, with yes comes no. You can’t parse any of it out, can’t take your pick. The tares grow up with the wheat and we harvest it all.
So somehow, if we are to find joy, if we are to hold on to faith, we must be able to stomach the whole harvest.
What do we do with the good; how do we process it; how does it inform our lives? Every gift comes from the Father of Lights. Is it because of what we do? No, it’s because of who we are – His children. More precisely, it’s because of who He is – a Good Father. And yet faith is defined as believing that God exists and that He rewards those who seek Him. So as we live in Christ, we are to go from glory to glory; we are to expect His abundance.
And what do we do with the bad; how do we process it; how does it inform our lives? To say we can just throw it out is harmful. To say we can ignore it is disingenuous, even foolish. To say it is categorically not from God is short-sighted. To say it is punishment is cruel. To say it is parallel to our level of faith… well that is complicated. Bad things happen because we live in a fallen world, because God chooses not to violate free will, no matter how poor our choices. We have an enemy and he is pretty good at ruining lives. Faith is not faith until it is tested, and God means to establish our foundation firmly. Yep, it’s complicated.
I have wrestled with these questions quite a bit throughout a year of extreme blessing and jolting heartache. Part of me believes in a faith that can move mountains, in a God that has made provision beyond all that we could ask or imagine, and the key is to live above the mess of this world, seated with Christ in heavenly places, claiming what He’s promised even when I can’t see it with my eyes, believing it will one day manifest. If He loves us, everything will end well.
Another part of me wonders though, how much of heaven can actually break through to this ugly world? How much freedom can we see on this side of the dim glass? How whole can a heart become while living in a broken world? Can I trust myself? How much do I give away? What is God doing in the midst of the suffering? Could the painful journey prove more fruitful, more powerful? Could the difficulty even be coming from His hand?
Which is true:
A life hidden in Christ should look like blessing and reward. We share in His inheritance!
A life hidden in Christ should look like sacrifice and lower still. We share in His suffering!
A narrow faith says it is either/or. A realistic faith says it is both/and. This year I have become more of a realist. It takes tremendous capacity to stomach the full harvest, doesn’t it?
I can’t say my faith is stronger having lived through 2016. Fragile is more the word that comes to mind. Not to worry — I’m more certain of His ways than ever — just more familiar with the extreme mystery of His ways. My trembling hands hold His tightly. Who is man to define what blessing or reward looks like? Who am I to decide what is best? How could I ever see the beginning from the end? Reminds me of how God questioned Job:
Inexperienced, trembling hands hold His tightly. Darkness and light live together – there is not one without the other. While I can’t always tell which is which, I know I’m a daughter of the Father of Lights, and that is enough certainty. I must believe this to be true for each of His children, no matter what they are going through.
I’m coming to think that a fragile faith is more valuable, more desirable than I’ve given it credit. Thank you, 2016, for all you’ve taught me. I’m not feeling ready for 2017, but I’m holding this guy’s hand, and I think that’s enough.