Sometimes, life sucks. I wish I could declare triumphantly that our lives are always roses and sunshine. But they aren’t. So what do we do? Well, that’s a huge question. I’ve written about tragedy a bit. I wrote about how beauty helps us navigate tragedy. I’ve written twice about how we ought to talk to one another in light of tragedy. I’ve written about our expectations for others during tragedy. I’ve also written about how we ought to speak to God in our tragedy. You could say this is on my mind a lot, I suppose.
One thing I’ve learned about the sucky parts of life is that they don’t tend to get less sucky. If anything, life escalates. I long for the struggles of being a teenager, now that they are juxtaposed against those of a father. So what’s the point?
Let’s look at what Paul says in Romans 5 (NIV).
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Notice, sufferings produce perseverance, which produce character, which produces hope. Your personal growth isn’t the point. The list doesn’t end at character. God’s not concerned with making you into a better person. It’s your hope that God wants to build. He doesn’t want to make you into a good person. He wants to make you a hopeful person, a person who looks at life and says, “God has brought me through so much. I believe he will bring me through this as well.” Of course, that person has character. That person has grown. But their growth isn’t the objective. The objective is trusting God, even in the midst of the ugliness.
That’s easy, right? Nope. Not even close. I’d almost rather the point was building character, because I might be able to fake that. I can’t really fake trust, not really. I can make a show of it, but it doesn’t matter if it isn’t rooted deep down in my soul.
So what the heck do we do? That brings me to the sermon for this week. Rod talked about our times of loneliness and how God can use them. It brought Isaiah 58:10 to mind. Here’s how the Message puts it:
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
In the midst of ugliness, sometimes we are to be the reminder of God’s faithfulness to someone else. What better encouragement can there be during a rough day than to be used by God to encourage someone? Instead of letting loneliness turn you inward, use it to push you outward. As you think, “I really wish someone would say hi to me or ask me how I’m doing,” take that as a reminder and motivation to say hi to someone and ask them how they are doing. Extend yourself to the broken, even as you are broken and you will see God do some amazing things.