“Life is hard. Then you die. Then they throw dirt in your face. Then the worms eat you. Be grateful it happens in that order.”
I don’t really know who David Gerrold is, but I’m grateful for this quote that is attributed to him.
While it certainly presents a painfully dark and narrow view of life, there are times when it paints a fairly accurate picture of the struggle I feel in my heart. For any of us who have dealt with disappointment, feelings of inadequacy, seasons of depression, deep and personal loss (insert your hardship here), the struggle is all too real.
And to some extent, there are moments when it appears the order of sequence has been shuffled and the cause for gratitude is gone. It feels as if dirt has been thrown in your face. There are worms eating at your heart and mind. You feel like you could die. Life is hard.
On several occasions, Jesus warned his followers they would face tough times in this world. In John 16:33, Jesus leaves no room for ambiguity. He says, “In this world, you will have trouble.” None of us are exempt.
One of my big points of contention with certain streams of theology is the notion that having enough faith, praying the right prayers, praying with passion and consistency or doing the right things will mitigate life’s difficulties.
This seems to fly in the face of what Jesus himself said and what common experience and human history teaches us. Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean that all of life’s issues will miraculously resolve, nor does it assure that everything will always go our way.
While our preference would be to have our problems solved and our pain stopped immediately and completely, that’s not the way life works, nor is it necessarily to our benefit. Our growth is often dependent upon the difficulties we have endured. Strength is developed through the struggle. What we truly need then is not for the difficulty of life to be destroyed but for the strength to assure that the difficulty doesn’t destroy us.
As I was thinking about the struggles of so many people in my life, the words of the apostle Paul in II Corinthians 12:8-10 came to mind:
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Regardless of what struggle Paul was facing or why he was facing it, the words offer encouragement for us in the midst of our own issues. We can certainly relate to the pattern of his experience.
It is common and right for us to turn to prayer when the going gets tough. There’s nothing wrong with us asking God to “take it away from me.” More often than not, however, God doesn’t take it away. Instead, God offers to sustain us through the struggle in his power and by his grace.
That’s the great thing about God’s grace. It’s not just something that grants us access to heaven and saves us from hell in the life hereafter. God’s grace provides us with the strength and perseverance needed to keep going when it feels like we’re going through hell in life here and now.
As we learn to lean into his strength during our times of trouble, we find a peace that provides us with the power needed to endure in the moment while looking with hope to the next. Life is hard, but there’s a grace that is sufficient for dealing with the difficulty it brings and making us better for having faced it.
The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at jeremysmyers.com. Send comments to [email protected].