Life is hard. There is no other way really to say it. Life. Is. Hard. I’m not talking about the life of a refugee or a flood victim, or the life of a trafficked child in Asia. These types of struggles are unimaginable to me. I can not even put those tragedies into words that will do them justice. No, what I mean to say is that first-world-problems make life hard. I am not diminishing what you are going through, I am not lessening your very real difficulties. I get it, I really do.
Our parents brought us up telling us we could do anything that we wanted but without any guidance to know what that actually was we’ve sort of drifted along. So how do we live now? Chasing the things we want, because we “deserve” them and struggling through each day to cause the ends to meet up and feeling like this can not possibly be the life we signed up for all of those years ago. We look around and everyone else seems to have it together, they don’t yell at their kids, they have two new cars in the garage, they enjoy going to work every day-or at least don’t hate their jobs. You know how it is- life viewed through the social media filters? This view is made worse if you have religion, because the religion of today, at least of mine, tells me that if I live my life in the “right” way God will bless me and certainly those blessings must be in the form of an easy life, right? Sure, a few people in your church may still run up against hard times, but they are clearly not loving God in the right way or else He’d be lining their pockets and ending their suffering as well.
All I want to say to this logic is eff that.
I’ve done life right and I’ve done life seriously wrong. I’ve broken big commandments and I’ve walked the narrow road and life is hard both ways. I will never believe that because I have God I will have happiness. Paul said “I have found contentment in little and I have found it in much…”. The road will not rise up to meet me and the sun will not be always at my back, this poetry is nonsense. If I get ten minutes in the garden alone you’d bet correctly if you bet the sun was either blazing down on me or the rain was starting to fall. And that road? It more often than not drops right out from underneath of me. Churchy people would placate me with meaningless kind words and then whisper behind my back that “she needs Jesus”.
All I want to say to these people is eff you.
We strive to do it all and be it all and have it all. Well, maybe you do, I stopped. I got off that carnival ride and I can see the loose screws. I have a house, I have a mini-van, I have a husband, and five kids, and enough money in my checking account most weeks to buy enough groceries to feed them all. In recent memory I have not. I have prayed and longed and begged for a house that is mine (let’s be honest, I prayed for a yard more than a house), I have dealt with two vehicles held together with bubble gum and duct tape, I left a man who offered all of the things without a scrap of love, I have tried to build a life that shows love at it’s core so that those five kids will know that regardless of what we do, God. is. Love. I have walked into food shelves humbly asking for help, unsure of how I will pay for more than rent this month. No one knew, no one saw (much of) this. Did my sin cause these trials? Did finding my way back to God cause the good?
I have grown quite certain that God’s goal is not my happiness, not in the modern American sense of the word. His goal is also not in meeting all of my desires. Nor is it even in my safety. There is no path that I can wander on that will cause God to give me only “good” things. Mainly this is true because I have no idea what happiness or safety, or good even looks like! A few things I do know are that happiness is not in having a job you love, the biggest house on the block or fashionably dressed children. You may think it is, but it is not. Happiness is not a life lived without loss. Happiness is not often found in the walls of a church, not for long anyway. So if all of this is what happiness isn’t, and we can’t understand what it is anyway, shouldn’t we find another way?
I come back to Paul, and while his life was hard (hard when compared to the refugees, impossible when I compare it to my own), he carried on sharing what God had done for him without stop, fear, or concern for his very life. This was the lesson I needed to learn; that God only desires that I love Him. He doesn’t care much about modern American hopes and dreams. If I walk with Him, living the hard- even the impossibly hard-sharing what God has done and trusting that each day is another opportunity, I’ll find that I know Paul’s secret as well.
There was an awakening in me sometime after I left a life of okay-ness for a life fully-lived. It took a long season of anxiety and fear to come to where I am now. I still struggle with knowing that I don’t want the “good life”. I still get mired in jealousy from time to time, just like you. I still sit in tears in the pre-dawn darkness wondering why this life, this choice to live differently, is so effing hard. I’ll admit that I occasionally ask why it has to be. Knowing that happiness is not the goal is helpful though, I can go through this hard life showing what Christ has done for me and sharing His love with my people. I’ll trade happiness for a life lived close to God and trust that in that choice I will find what I most need, even if I don’t know that I need it yet. I am trusting the wandering path and the One who walks it with me.