Have you ever been so weighed down by something, you thought it might break you? Have you ever been so worried, so distressed, that you weren’t sure you could take it? And in that moment, have you ever had anyone you’re confiding in tell you to just stop worrying?
Was your first thought in that moment less than kind?
Yeah, I get it.
The message from Scripture is to rejoice in all things. Be grateful in all things, even in suffering. When we read that sentiment amid adversity, it feels disappointing.
There’s a nuance here that’s elusive at first. Let's look a little deeper. Click here for resources to help you engage the Scriptures and have a richer Bible study experience. The statements about rejoicing in all things and being grateful in all things come from Paul, whose context for these passages is conversations about faith and the Law. Ultimately, we cannot save and redeem ourselves through our actions and obedience. It's simply not possible for us to do it. We cannot behave our way into heaven.
It’s down deep underneath our ego, our education, our accomplishments, our logic, our constructs of how the world should be. That’s why it’s difficult for us. We look within ourselves in these moments, but get as far as our own strength and go no further. God’s Spirit dwells at our core and the more of ourselves we pile on, the more difficult it is to access that Spirit when we need to.
Often, we dig only deeply enough to our own wisdom and experience. When life gets too much and we have tried everything we know, we ultimately stand before God with nothing.
We can only move forward by and with God’s grace. That is when things change for us. That is the moment we gain access to the Spirit that dwells within us.
Like Elijah, who was desperately afraid and alone and searched for God everywhere - in the wind, in the mountain's shaking, in the fire's roaring - ultimately encountered the Living God in silence when he became still. We, too, will encounter the Living God when we lay aside our own devices and acknowledge our own hopelessness and powerlessness.
This is the faith that Paul describes. Human development experts tell us we are usually in our thirties before we have access to this level of faith development. Our twenties are characterized by outgrowing the faith of our childhood and running away from God and chasing our own demons. Ultimately, the troubles and suffering that took us away brings us back. And we know and trust that at our very core, God dwells. Cutting through the many layers of ourselves to access that Presence gets easier as we go.
That’s the place from which Paul speaks. Living this life is to suffer. We all will suffer. Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character produces hope. We are never to be embarrassed by our hope, because we know God is at our core.
Given this knowledge, we can lean into our faith when we don’t feel it. That’s the nuance.
Let me give you an example. If you are married, there are moments you dislike your spouse. However, you still love him or her. The knowledge of that love guides your actions in the moments when you don't feel amicable.
Another example, if you have kids, there are moments when you dislike them. However, you still love them. The knowledge of that love guides your actions in those difficult moments.
In times of suffering and adversity, we may not feel gratitude. We may not feel joy. However, the knowledge of God living at our very core transcends that moment, and that knowledge guides our actions.
When you find yourself in a moment and you can’t see or feel the wisdom, truth, joy, hope and abundance; let your knowing guide your actions. Faith trusts that there's more to the story than what we can see in the moment. Often, what feels like an ending is actually a beginning. We can't see that at the moment, only in retrospect.
Lean into your faith and knowing.
Develop spiritual practiced that help you engage with God within.
Live with hope.
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Hi, my name is Melissa Ebken, and I'm so glad you found your way here.
I am at home in the difficult spaces of peoples’ lives, willing to listen and to support those who work to grow themselves. I am a trained coach and have consulted with churches in conflict. Not your stereotypical minister, I embrace the Gospel with joy and laughter as I seek to help those around me grow in faith and understanding, always striving to leave people better than they came. An agent of wholeness, I create a safe space for people, especially those who have been marginalized, where they can understand how ridiculously loved and valued they are by God/Higher Power/Spirit, and to experience the difference that makes in life.
I started the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast to share the stories of people who have faced life's most difficult challenges, to inspire you to lean into and overcome your own. It's helpful to know that you're not alone in your struggles and to see how others have navigated similar circumstances. You can listen to it here.
Here's what I can do for and with you.