Twenty-three years ago on our wedding night, I gave my husband a gift. Some of you are thinking, "Well, of course you did!" But THAT is not what I mean.
I had decided to give him a piggy bank too. :) A simple and practical present, yet right away he understood its deeper meaning. It symbolized our plans and dreams for the future. We understood that those dreams and plans would require hard work and sacrifice.
And so began our journey. I finished college, then he started. We worked all kinds of jobs. We had some babies. Finished college again. Whatever money had once been in that piggy bank was long since gone. But there we were, about to enter into the life we believed we'd sacrificed and worked hard for. A life we believed in and felt God had called us to. It had all been worth the struggle...or had it?
It's so easy to make our lives about "someday." Someday when I have this or when I'm doing that, I will be fulfilled. Someday when this changes, life will really be happening. Someday...... Meanwhile the moments we are living in become filler for the real stuff.
It wasn't long before "living the dream" proved to be just as difficult, if not more difficult, than the sacrifices it took getting there. Incredible loss and pain. Regret and hard relationships. Damaged dreams and change of direction. So many doubts and questions for God about His plan and His goodness.
"Are you good, God?"
It's easy to say that He is good when everything is working out as planned, when dreams are on their way. My idea of a good God for much of life had been hijacked by a false application: He is good when I don't experience pain and struggle. Because after all, He is powerful enough to keep me from all that.
But here's the truth: I've been buried in tear-soaked pillows. I've been slammed against the wall of worry. I've been blindsided by the blows of betrayal. I've scraped myself off the floor of self-loathing. Only in having gone through those very hard things have I been able to really see and know God's goodness for real.
Here's how. He redeems it all.
He is the loving, intentional God who wastes nothing.
Here's how I know.
#1. I am weirdly grateful for the struggle because of what it's produced in me. I am more able to live in the understanding of my dependence on God as my source. His strength is made perfect in my weaknesses.
“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NLT)
#2. My pain allows me to see and empathize with others. I can say to someone "I know, I've been there." I've experienced so much comfort as others have given that gift to me.
"Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep"
Romans 12:15 (NLT)
#3. I know walking through life's fires has matured me and brought wisdom and character.
"And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation."
Romans 5:4 (NLT)
#4. I live life with an eternal perspective. I am hungry for heaven and understand that "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)
Looking back and looking ahead, this I know........Love. Wastes. Nothing.