A godly mentor once told me that joy and sorrow are like two sides to a railroad track. Both run through our lives in surprisingly close proximity. At the time, I didn’t really get it. I believed the angst of college life would subside around the time I put on a pair of strappy black heels and received a diploma. And it did. Good-bye final exams, good riddance college drama. But surely as the dawn, new sorrows came. Indeed every season seems to have its share. Some are gigantic, others minor. But always, there is something. Something I want. Something I fear. Something that exhausts me. Something that confuses me. Something that disappoints me. In my life, I can always find something to complain about. I can always find a reason to be discontent. A reason to question God.
The ironic thing is, at the very same time there’s a track of joy running through my life. For every handful of cheerios shoved into the waffle iron (ugh!) there’s one little cheerio poked into a bellybutton that sets off a symphony of laughter. And for every private struggle with God, there is the promise of deeper intimacy, truer understanding, and richer communion. I think the secret to contentment lies in learning how to embrace both sides of the railroad track—the things in our lives we love, and the things in our lives we don’t. How do we do that? I’m glad you asked 🙂 I think it begins by…
Contrary to Facebook myth, nobody enjoys everything about his or her life, because no life is untouched by the fall. The question is, are we being honest about the painful side of the track? Few things are more freeing than authenticity. And no people are freer to embrace authenticity than Christians because we have guaranteed acceptance! We are not judged according to how well we “have it all together,” how we perform, or how many people we can deceive into envying us. We live in the shadow of another Man’s perfection which forever declares us righteous, accepted, and loved! So we’re free to risk, to fail, to be rejected by the world, to be struggling, growing, and honest about it.
Conversely, nothing is more enslaving than deceit. When we can’t be real with anybody, including ourself, we live in a narrow prison of appearances. What’s more, honesty with God is paramount to a relationship with Him. Lying to yourself is denial. Lying to others is pretense. But lying to God is the very depths of loneliness.
Once we’re honest about the trials in our life—and we quit pretending we’re not as disappointed as we really are—we can begin to view them through a lens of humility. Like the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down, humility can make the toughest trial easier to swallow, simply by putting it into perspective.
What this means is, it’s time to take your eyes off your belly button, and look up into the face of Christ. There is no quicker, truer way to cultivate humility. Believe me, nobody is more navel-focused than me. Just the other night I had a conversation with friends about how annoyingly introspective I am. Because of this, the “honesty” part is not really my struggle. The humility part is. Yet time and again humility proves to be my ticket to peace with suffering. For in light of Christ, my sorrows are pale, my indignation arrogant, and my “rights” ridiculous.
So picture you and me—shamefully honest, pitifully humble, a bundle of unworthiness in His presence. Pretty pathetic, huh? Wouldn’t you know, our gracious God looks at us, and unlike the world, He does not despise us. As He said to Israel in the depth of her disgrace, “How can I give you up? My heart is turned over within Me; All my compassions are kindled” (Hosea 11:8).
In our honest, naked humility, Jesus Christ imparts hope. He has not left us. He has not ceased to love us. He is greater. Stronger. And in Him lies the victory. Often my disappointment with the painful track in my life is intertwined with discouragement over my own sinfulness. I shouldn’t have these feelings of anxiety, disappointment, or anger. I should be past this. Better than this. More mature in Christ than this. But there is a truth that continually sustains me. It is the mystery of Colossians 1:27—Christ in me, the hope of glory! Because Christ dwells in me, I always have hope. In Him I will overcome—both my circumstances and my sinfulness—and one day, by His grace, I will arrive.
If you are in Christ, so will you. There will come a day when the mighty engine of Hope that’s powered us along the tracks of joy and pain will deposit us in a place that knows no sorrow. On that day, there will be but one track stretching into eternity–that of joy fulfilled, faith seen, and hope realized. So do not lose heart! There is a final destination to the journey. The destination is home.
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10 thoughts on “The Things in My Life I Don’t Like”
You always inspire me to hope, to trust, to rest & to be real.
Once again, thank you for speaking truth at just the right time. God is definitely using you to encourage those around you.
Thanks Emily-so glad it was timely for you!
Thank you for sharing your heart. I totally struggle with this…this balance of pain and joy. The things in your life that you despise or wish you didn’t have to deal with, but knowing that it is through those things that you have really truly learned to trust and rely on God. I really appreciate you being so candid. God will bless you for this!
Thank you Brooke! I really appreciate the encouragement.
wow, so inspiring. truly God lives inside our hearts that we can share the love that He gives. 🙂 Glory to Him!
Seriously, thank you for writing. Your words could have come from my own head. Except, you know, without the conclusions that I have been searching for, and the fact that I can’t write like this. As a fellow navel-gazer, it is always difficult to get the answers that I am searching for from people whose lives look so utterly different from mine. I always respond with, “That’s great for you, but you don’t understand my circumstances” to otherwise good articles. But you seem to have a frighteningly similar life, and so your conclusions give me hope. I am still trying to get it through my head that Christ doesn’t love me reluctantly, that I am not the black sheep of God’s family. Man, it’s hard. I have no concept of being loved unconditionally, so it’s really difficult to “get” that I am. Bah! I don’t know if this makes any sense, but I just wanted to say thank you.
Yes, that makes sense to me!! I think more people struggle with being able to rest in God’s unconditional love than we realize. I’m so grateful that God is using a navel-gazing person like me (who has wrestled with embracing my circumstances many many times!) to encourage a fellow navel-gazer on the journey. Thanks a lot for taking the time to share–it really does encourage & bless me. Always nice to know I’m not alone!
Jeanne: I didn’t like it when my wife of 25 years said she was walking out and never coming back. I didn’t like the affairs on and off over those years. I didn’t like what I knew my children would experience and the legacy that would leave them for life. I didn’t like the way it affected my family and friends and polarized some. I didn’t like how it would impact my career as a pastor. I didn’t like the loneliness and emotional turmoil. I didn’t like the financial impact on all of us. This is just the surface of seeking to be honest and “real”.
You said “For in light of Christ, my sorrows are pale, my indignation arrogant, and my “rights” ridiculous.” Christ chose me. I choose hope in Christ. Colossians 1:27 I choose humility. I believe…Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…
Thank You for your encouragement!
If this isn’t a powerful testimony of humility, faith, and overcoming in Christ, I don’t know what is. I deeply respect you for “seeking to be honest and real.” May the Lord bless and reward you for choosing hope in Him. Thank you, Mark–I don’t think I will ever forget this testimony.