2013 was, without any competition whatsoever, the best year of my life. I’ve never felt greater happiness, truer joy, or more peace in my life. God was good to me; He blessed me with a beautiful girlfriend, who I fell head-over-heels for and love dearly. He blessed me with an absolutely incredible first semester at Cornerstone University. He blessed me with a job that brings me fulfillment. But most importantly, he blessed me with himself. The joy of his presence, bestowed on one who does not deserve it.
But 2013 was the hardest year of my life as well. There’s a very dangerous temptation that is placed in front of us when we’re faced with enormous blessings: that is, to value the gifts more than the Giver. I struggle with that temptation every day, and in order to work in that area of my life God chose to remove some of the idols that I placed above him. As I left for my first semester of college, I felt my sources of comfort disappearing quickly, leaving me feeling alone and abandoned. It was incredibly hard for me to adjust; I was angry with God for taking what I loved, and instead of turning to him for guidance I pushed him further away.
Fighting and Embracing
So, a little about me: I don’t like our society’s typical response to hardship. You know, the whole “pity yourself until somebody else makes it better” thing. I think that’s a way to cheat yourself of the process of trusting God (see James 2). Instead of leaning on him and trusting his plan for the situation, you fight for what you want. And if you fight for long enough, God may just give you what you want (in a not-so-fun way). As appealing as it is to seek your own desires, we grow and mature in our faith by doing something a little different: seeking Christ’s desires for us. See, it’s far from easy at first. It goes against what our society tells us, even what our own mind tells us. But the beautiful thing about putting our identity in Christ is that the more we do it, the easier it becomes. And that has become more and more evident to me as I’ve gone through this journey over the past few months; I’ve seen the hardship that comes with going my own way, and I’ve seen the freedom that comes with letting God lead. God has put it on my heart each day to be content with where I am – not looking back and wishing things were the same, not looking forward and wishing things could be different. As I’ve reflected on the past few months of trials in my life, I’ve found that fighting gives us earthly rewards – we can fight for our idols, for the things we place above God – but embracing Christ’s plan for us frees us to see the amazing work that he is doing in our lives. Clinging onto these earthly rewards gives us the illusion of joy, but letting go allows us to claim the reward that Christ has promised us: peace in His name.
See, I could shake my fists at God and struggle until I get what I want. But seeing God’s plan is so much more fulfilling, so much more worth it, that I’d be foolish to push it away. And as he has revealed that plan to me lately, I’ve been able to see that and appreciate it more. To be honest, I don’t really know what is going on in my life right now. But just because I don’t know what’s going on doesn’t mean God doesn’t know what he’s doing. I am called to be thankful for my past, to look forward to my future, but to embrace what God is doing in my life right now. And that is of utmost importance in our walks with Jesus so that we might not lose faith and dependence on his will for us.
I’d like to finish this post with an encouragement to all of you that comes from the Gospel of John. Listen as our Savior guides us to true peace:
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33 ESV)
God wants you to rely on him. I could hang on to my best memories and wish that everything had stayed the same, but God knows that his presence alone will bring peace and meaning to our lives. He knows that nothing else matters. He wants us to let go.
“Surrendered I come with open hands; I give you my life because your love is better than anything this world has to offer. So I let go, I leave it all behind, let go, I’m taking up your life. All for your name, even if it costs me everything.” – Elevation Worship – Let Go