|Photo taken by Julie Pohl|
The above image is of a hymnal from a United Methodist Church destroyed in a tornado on February 29, 2012 in Harveyville, Kansas. The hymnal survived. It was found in the midst of absolute ruin. It was beaten and battered – but it survived. It is proof that things -- and I believe humans, as well -- can and do survive the storms that come into our lives. Yes, damage can be left in the wake of storms and it can be devastating but it can also provide for growth, change, new possibility and re-creation can occur.
Sometimes we wonder how we are supposed to endure all that comes our way. Sometimes it feels as if we are living a life of sheer survival. Sometimes we feel like the good moments are merely reprieves between the storms.
But the truth is … life is a blessing. That blessing is a series of ups and downs. It is a bounty of experiences and opportunities. It is a feast of people, places, and events that are part of our journey. It is a journey that is rich with possibilities and options.
In my younger days, I would moan and complain about the “crap” that would pile one on top of the other in my life. I thought it was some horrid test that I was failing. Illness, car expenses, lost jobs, stresses, and other stuff seemed to come over and over. It felt like evil and negativity were laying traps for me. It was frustrating.
I remember hearing that God never gives us more than we can handle. But, I thought, obviously God was overestimating what I could handle.
As I have matured in my faith, I understand that God is not testing me ... it’s life. Life happens. Good things come our way and difficulties do, as well. It is the cycle of reality. We have mountains and valleys. If we focus on the valleys – we will miss the amazing journey up and around the mountain – and the view from the top. If we only focus on the mountain top we feel betrayed when we find ourselves in the valley. It’s the whole journey – not one extreme or the other – that helps us grow in our life and in our faith.
As Brian McLaren writes: “Yes, thank God, in this life there are green pastures, still waters, overflowing cups, and laden banquet tables. But there are also valleys of the shadow of death in which evil lurks and enemies wait for a misstep or mistake upon which to pounce. To sustain us through those dark valleys, we are given simple words of aspiration, refusal, and lament: when?, no, and why?” (word 9, from Naked Spirituality pp. 181)
And what I trust is this -- “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4.13: (NRSV). Or maybe another version works for you: “Christ gives me the strength to face anything.” (CEV) This passage is so important in my life. It reminds me that I am strong – I can survive – because Christ has given me strength to survive and thrive.
No matter what – mountain or valley or in between – we are not alone. We are not too weak to endure. Christ is with us on our journey. Christ strengths us to endure.
The journey continues …