Lacking Lift

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:17

Gazing out over the lake in front of the cottage, I notice a wasp crawling up the arm of my Muskoka chair, and moving perniciously close to my hand. I knock it away with my pen, but he doesn’t take flight. He just falls to the ground close to my feet. I flick him away expecting that he’ll lift off. He doesn’t. He just crawls across the flagstone patio in front of me.

I notice he doesn’t seem to have anywhere to go. He just continues crawling and periodically stops to clean himself (I think, but I’m no expert in insect grooming practices). Perhaps he is one of the displaced wasps from the nest my husband, son, and cottage neighbours recently – even gleefully – took turns knocking off the cottage with a football, the carefully crafted paper house – and all its precious contents – mercilessly ravaged to a pulp, its papery insides left ragged and exposed in the nearby grass.

I suppose that in mid-August in Northern Ontario, it’s already that time of year when the bees and wasps seem to grow a little groggy and you’re more prone to getting stung by them. Maybe, between the cold and homelessness, this wasp doesn’t have the strength to fly. Probably all he can do now is simply crawl.

I think some days our lives bear a striking resemblance to this crawling wasp, and his destructed home, maybe even some weeks, some months, or some years. Strangely cold and numb, we feel all we once knew has been knocked out of the sky, when the coldness of winter whispers word of its cruel onset, when we only have the strength to crawl when we used to fly – soar even.

But now we are relegated to the ground. No marvelous scenery, no lofty heights, no busy work with which to contribute, no friends and family buzzing around us, no perspective in the dirty, low-altitude dwelling places. We’re grounded, with no sign of flight.

Praise has turned to pallor, dreams to drudgery, and light to dark.

How can this be? How can we have experienced such heights, such faith-filled intimacy, been so on top of the world, only to fall to such depths? Has God abandoned us, we ask. Is He withholding His loving kindness? Worse, is this some kind of punishment? The silence can be that stifling.

Though backward thinking perhaps, I’m growing more and more convinced that these trials are the exact opposite of what it appears in the natural. That the darkness of the valley of the shadow of death does not exclude those living in Christ; the trials, and even the voiceless silence, an act of supreme kindness and love by a God who is willing to have us think He is anything but, to invite us to the very best.

For by them, we find faith that looks to things unseen (2 Corinthians 4:18), we are refined as silver and tested as gold (Zechariah 13:9), we learn perseverance, character, hope, and gain the ability to love more fully (Romans 5:4). And, amazingly, these heartaches become the rugged pathway to eternal glory (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Do not despair if you seem to be lacking lift. It is a temporary place in preparation to ascend the other places God intends. But first you must be trained in order to endure higher altitudes – the places where eagles soar.

Though you may not see tangible evidence today, may you rest in the truth of what you know of God.

Picky Eaters

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:13

You’ve seen it before. The meal placed before the child whose nose wrinkles in disgust. “I don’t like that!” he says, pushing away the plate. He crosses his arms and stubbornly refuses to eat. After a while, he asks his parents for something he prefers.

What is our reaction when we are given something less than appetizing in life? Do we get angry, play the victim, feel rejected, blame others, and allow our joy to be extinguished? When difficulties darken our door, what is our posture toward God? Do we, like the willful child, reject what we have been given and shout, “I don’t like this”? Maybe we compare our portion with another’s and declare, “It’s not fair!” or wish – even pray – for another serving of a different variety? Perhaps we get stuck asking “why?” Maybe we grow weary or become disillusioned with God because He didn’t meet our expectations or demands.

Maybe we have demonstrated some, if not all of these reactions, but there is another posture we can assume. We can choose to thank God for the trial that He has allowed. He may intend it to sharpen our character and nourish our soul, if only we would ingest it. We can choose to agree that our Father’s ways are higher than ours, and that He knows the very circumstances which produce the greatest beauty in our lives. It may be difficult and painful, but if we accept what are actually the choicest morsels – the handpicked cuts – we will ultimately grow in strength, beauty and grace, and indeed prosper with this heavenly nourishment.

It is easy to thank God for the “good” gifts – the nice things we consider blessings. But today’s verse says that it is God’s will that you be thankful in all circumstances. Maybe God knows something we don’t about the shift that happens in our mind, heart, and body when we are thankful for the tough stuff. Could it be that we have been looking at hardships all wrong, and that they are some of God’s greatest blessings?

The next time you are faced with a situation that is difficult to swallow, or if you are facing one right now, thank your heavenly Father that He has entrusted you with it. He loves you enough to use this challenge to alter your taste buds so your desires line up more fully with His. He is more interested in your character than your comfort. In fact, comfort often befriends complacency, and He loves you too much to let that happen. These less than palatable circumstances shift us out of our comfortable places and have the potential to create a change that may not have otherwise occurred. Although not what you asked for, it just might be what you needed, and the insight you gain just might be what someone else needs to hear in their struggle.

We may not have the faith or insight at this moment to believe our circumstances will change, but we have enough to take just one step. And one step – one mouthful at a time – is likely all that is required. Maybe that first mouthful needs to be words of thanks. Bon appetite!

May you see ways to thank God for the trial He has given you, and be open to where He is leading.