Difficult seasons of life. They are unexpectedly remembered during quiet moments while sipping coffee in our kitchen. They are suddenly remembered when I hear of another person struggling with a similar situation. They are vividly remembered when I am blessed to help guide another person through the same difficult journey. At times, the life-changing moments are hard to push down in my thoughts. Hard to revisit. Hard to make peace with. Other times, when I am reflecting, I am surprised at how silently and stealthily those seasons of life slipped away into faded memories. Only to resurface over coffee or conversation.
When you first encounter hardship, you try to make sense of it all. Feeling encumbered, weighed down, and exhausted. Wishing and hoping for a change in circumstances. Praying things will get better someday soon. Begging for relief from the discomfort. Time passes and, all of the sudden, you notice things feel better. Lighter. The feeling of immense heaviness in your mind and heart is finally gone. The world seems brighter. You begin to slowly let out that big, deep breath you have held in your lungs for so long that you didn’t even realize you were holding it until the moment you begin to exhale.
I’ve been there, My Friend, and releasing that breath makes you realize just how tense and just how tiring that season was to your soul. You don’t even recognize the fact that it silently crept out of view until it ceases being an ever-present, unwelcome source of company. Like a ferocious wave in the ocean, it suddenly disappears into nothingness. Leaving only the sound of its power echoing in your mind. Signaling the end of the seemingly never-ending journey you were traveling. You are now ready to walk forward in peace and silence knowing that God has fought and won this battle for you. You can now walk again on your own. This time your companion is the wisdom given by God through the struggle you just survived.
During my most difficult battles of fear, uncertainty, and discomfort, it seemed as though I would be permanently placed in the unrelenting clutches of the situation. It seemed permanent at times. Although those hard seasons of life did not pass quickly or easily, God sent people, songs, authors, books, podcasts, and mentors to guide me into a beautiful new world beyond the suffering. For me, it was a slow climb out of chaos in many instances. Yes, there were many things I did not understand, did not agree with, and did not feel thankful for during the moment. However, I saw beautiful results spring up out of the hardships and struggles. On many occasions, I have argued with God, questioned God, and prayed to God, but He has steadfastly held my hand and walked me through each season even when I didn’t want to be walking that road at all.
What did I learn from these dark, but beautiful, life experiences? Trust God. Trust Him to walk with you and lead you. Allow Him to walk with you and lead you. Invite Him to walk with you and lead you. You must offer up your mind and heart and make them teachable in order for God to invoke permanent change into your life. When you open yourself up to change and growth, He can do amazing things in your life even in the midst of hardships and struggles. In fact, I will be bold enough to say that he cannot do amazing things in your life without the hardships and struggles. They are what keep you grounded and connected to your fellow man. They are what keep you dependent on God and His word. They are what allow you to give and receive grace, give and receive love, give and receive forgiveness. Without those experiences, we would miss out on so very much in this life.
When the hard seasons of life come your way, look for opportunities to learn, grow, and change. Be a vessel of learning. Soak in the lessons and carry them in your heart and mind until you are called upon to share those lessons with others who are walking on a similar path. At times, your encouragement may be the very thing that keeps them afloat. A life raft when the tide threatens to take them under. Your words and your guidance will be a gentle reminder that the waters will soon be calm again and the sun will rise on the horizon once again. With your words, you will remind them to hope.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NIV)
“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” Psalms 31:24 (NIV)