Life is toil. Ecclesiastes tells us this clearly. Life under the sun is filled with work and trial; however, those of us who call upon the name of Jesus are promised hope and joy in the midst of this toil. Why then does it seem most days that we allow the toil to take its toll on our joy while we stumble balancing burdens no longer meant for our shoulders?
Within the last month or so, I’ve found myself taking stock of my life. Perhaps it’s the New Year, perhaps it’s my third daughter beginning to crawl, perhaps it’s just middle age – I’m not sure, but I’ve found my thoughts filled with wonder at where I’ve found myself. I’m going to share with you a confession of sorts – a list of struggles that I am currently facing. Most, if not all, of these have plagued me for as long as I remember – but if you stick with me to the end, I promise to leave you with celebration and not mourning.
- Finances – I struggle with a love of money. Not the greedy kind, but the kind where there is never enough of it. I am rarely content financially. In my earlier years, it led to theft at my retail job (which got me fired of course). Since that grievous incident, it mainly manifests as discontent. Just when I feel like we’re getting ahead, something sets us back significantly. I know this is mainly because I struggle to lay this burden at the feet of Grace, but that’s really why it’s on this list. This is likely the most insidious of all the struggles I face – it pervades every aspect of life. It robs me of my joy while, logically, squelching generosity.
- Socialness – I am not a social person. I love community, but a part of me loathes parties and gatherings. I’ve spoken much of this in past postings, so I won’t belabor the point here.
- Life Goals – I am a fickle goal-setter. In every season of life, I want to do something other than what I’m doing and, if I get to that, I bore of it and want to do something else. The latest Porterbrook class I’m taking goes through a series of questions to help you find your passion… it has been unbelievably difficult. I’ve worked on it for two days and still am not half-way through it. Why? I believe it’s because I allow my life to be defined by others rather than by Christ. I want to see what people expect of me and live up to that. My entire life is that skipping record.
- Hunger for Approval – Hand-in-hand with the above is my desire to be affirmed by those around me. I used to constantly seek it; thankfully, maturity has eased that behavior, but I do find myself still longing for it.
- Concern for Others – I hate to admit this… but I really have to work this up. Once it’s worked up, it’s real and I tend to stay concerned about that individual, but it takes concerted effort to do so. Once I’m invested, I find that I’m wholly invested… but it takes a while to get there.
- Inadequacy – I never feel that I’m quite up to any task that’s given to me. It’s always a series of faith-guided steps to move forward. This fuels my desire for affirmation.
I’m sure that at least some of you can identify with some or all of the list above. Life really is toil. Trials come at us from every direction. Many days we can feel that we’ve taken two steps forward only to end up worse off than we started.
As I’ve taken stock of my life this past month or so, a certain truth has reverberated through my mind and my heart. These are the happiest days of my life. No, really. I have never been more content, more joyful, more pleased, or more hopeful of the future than at any point in my past. So, being the analytical person that I am, I’ve had to try and dig out what causes this unparalleled joy. While it would be true to simply say, “Jesus, of course,” the statement does not adequately describe the “why.”
I’ve come to realize that in life, the small things matter far more than the large things. As I examine my life in Christ, I see the many things that bind me to Him: the gifts that He has given and continues to give me. I have come to recognize the gift of trial, the blessing of being humbled by His holiness, and the nurturing care brought by His chastisement. The Helper helps.
These are the blessings of my life:
- I am blessed to be counted among those whom Christ has called to be His own. Without Him, I am certain that my life would be shipwrecked on the isle of despair.
- October of this year will mark the 20th year that I’ve been married to my best friend and most cherished companion. She has shared every tumultuous season of life and has borne the brunt of my self-inflicted sufferings and has, by God’s grace, loved me through them and stuck by me without wavering. I love you Jana.
- I am the father of three amazing girls who are a constant source of joy and an ever-present reminder of my need to live IN Christ and not operate in my own strength. Through them, the Father teaches me more about patience, long-suffering, fatherly love, and my own sin than I could ever imagine. I am so thankful for this.
- I have been blessed with an amazing church community in Soma Austin. I am constantly challenged and drawn near to Christ in this body more so than in any other body of believers I’ve been a part of.
- I am the leader of a small group (called Soma Groups) and this small community within the community of Soma has become such life to me. They minister to me more than they could ever know. I almost feel guilty that I feel like I get more from them than I could ever give to them. I count the members of my SG amongst my closest friends in the world – truly my family.
- Within my SG, Jana and I have had the privilege of walking two couples through Pre-marital Discipleship and the joy of doing this has been truly inexpressible. Jana and I have both been humbled and awed by God’s grace through this process as He’s shared through us more wisdom than we could possibly know. Both of these couples have become such an integral part of our lives. Also, I’m blessed with the privilege of participating in both of their weddings on the platform for the first time in my life. It’s truly an honor to serve Christ in this way.
Searching for happiness has never brought me happiness. Serving Jesus in my frail and stumbling way has brought me joy unspeakable. These are truly the happiest days of my life. My struggles continue and my toil doesn’t end, but I look forward to the next trial knowing that truly, “all things work to good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” While looking forward to the Reckoning, I am thankful for the constant joy that He provides in this vale of tears. Maranatha!