Every week in my small group we start by going around the room and sharing our “happy” and “crappy” moments from the past week. This little exercise is also commonly referred to in small groups as highs and lows, mountains and valley, etc. Anyways, we have Bible study tonight and I was thinking about what I would say as it’s been two weeks and I feel like so much has happened.
Coming up with a “happy” was easy – so easy that I realized I would need to narrow it down so I didn’t blabber on and on. I’m feeling so grateful for how things are going at work, I got a snazzy new tattoo that I love and I feel like the Lord has been moving so evidently in my life and the lives of my friends.
But what was interesting was when I tried to come up with a “crappy” I felt like nothing totally fit in that category. In every hard situation – whether that was my finances or struggles with anxiety or frustrations at work – it still felt like God was so present that I couldn’t complain. It wasn’t that nothing is hard at the moment. It was just the idea of labeling it as bad without acknowledging God’s presence that threw me off. As tough as every situation genuinely is, who was I to whine or deem it “crappy” when I knew that the God of the universe was present with me in it and working it into his perfectly ordained plan?
To be clear, I’m a big believer in the “crappy” part of this exercise – I think that some weeks we really need to air out our challenges or things that hurt. That space has value because it allows us to be authentic and real – because there are some weeks where unless you ask me, you’d never know how hard of a time I’m having. I love that our group gives each other space to just admit where we’re at and to always be encouraged. Some of the most moving moments have been when a friend admits their brokenness and by doing so, allows us to meet them there, love them and pour out God’s truth.
But I think there is also something to be said about practicing the art of seeing God in every circumstance – not just the happy’s.
When I was in Young Life my freshman year of high school, my leader Kara coined a phrase we would say when life was tough, but God was present: “hard and beautiful.” The middle word was actually the most important. “And.”
It was not “hard but beautiful.” It was both, equally. That’s just a picture of life. Some of the most difficult things are also the most beautiful. A mother’s labor is hard – and freaking terrifying based on what Buzzfeed tells me – and it is one of the most beautiful things in this world because it results in a newborn life and soul entering this planet. The beauty doesn’t negate the hardship of labor, and the hardship of labor does not diminish the beauty of birth. They are perfectly intertwined and that is how I think God is in our hardships.
Moving across the country was hard and beautiful. Growing as a person is hard and beautiful. Living life on a flawed and divine planet is hard and beautiful. We don’t get just one or the other. God uses some of the hardest circumstances for the most beautiful purposes.
I am not saying my life is perfect and there is no “crappy” to speak of. We live in a broken messed up world – it’s part of the deal. But I’m starting to see it as crappy and abundant in God’s presence. He has never left me, and he never will. I’m starting to see that in my present reality. When I have anxiety and panic, I do not doubt that one day I will feel no pain in heaven. When I am lonely or sad, I remember that even in the midst of my sorrow he loves me and is holding me in it. It doesn’t always mean I feel less sad or anxious when I remember these things, but it does mean that I get to have hope in the midst of it.
Hope is not wishful thinking. Hope in the context of Jesus means we have trust, we have confidence, we have a stake in our future. Hope in Jesus never disappoints. It’s hope in something we cannot see. It’s hope in the coming rescue of our Savior that truly finishes off all evil. It’s hope that our God is good and will never leave us. That is powerful, friends. And we cannot let go of that. And the most tangible way I know to have hope in the big things, is to have hope in the little things.
So in the midst of my “crappys” – whether that is car issues or anxiety or deep wounds from my past, I’m trying to have a perspective marked by hope in the God that promises peace and joy in all things. He is bigger than any “crappy” or any wound or any obstacle. Let’s have hope in that.