This week I should have been out of state at an intensive writing academy. I gave that up to fulfill a work contract, full of insane deadlines. Then, a week ago, I had unexpected surgery. Despite being worried about it its urgency, having a few days off with a legitimate reason to not do any work sounded almost like a vacation. I didn’t realize the extent to which work had depleted me since August.
But surgery didn’t go quite as expected. And I learned the hard way that I was allergic to opioid pain medications. Yet, despite the pain, today I felt I could restart working, at least a few hours per day.
One hitch: I found the work—and my contract—had been given to someone else, leaving me about two months’ worth of living expenses in the hole. I also got an email with polite verbiage hinting I likely would not get work from the company again. Ever.
The “why” of those circumstances doesn’t matter. What does matter is it’s the latest in a long, unbroken string of work-related events this year. Each has left me wondering whether I had lost my touch, my servant heart, or was at odds with God about something.
Maybe it’s not any of those things.
That doesn’t lessen the loss or the hurt. That doesn’t make the financial uncertainty any easier to bear.
Lessons from Samson
Yesterday I watched Sight & Sound’s production of Samson. Two-thirds of the way through the show, Samson wearied of being Israel’s judge for twenty years. He bemoaned never getting to do or be what he wanted in life. Discouraged, distraught, and isolated, Samson decided it didn’t matter whether he kept his Nazirite vows. (That’s when Delilah entered the picture.)
Os Hillman describes that kind of isolation chamber as an uncomfortable place where God does a deeper work in you. To do so, He usually removes many things from your life and you can’t seem to change anything.
Half my friends are retired and are enjoying long vacations while I struggle to make ends meet and pay off medical debt. What’s the point? How does that glorify God? That’s the discouraged-Samson part of my brain talking.
I’ll likely never know this side of heaven how extended times of trouble can glorify God. All I know is that He promises it’s not the end of my story. Or yours.
God’s seasons for us
I do know this:
- We can’t choose the season God puts us in.
- Whether it’s a season of fighting the enemy or resting in His strength, whether it’s a season of Him pruning us or us gleaning from Him … is up to Him.
- We can’t force our way through the season. It lasts as long as God allows.
- We can’t control the season’s outcome, either. God’s purposes can’t be thwarted.
- A difficult season requires more than grit to “stay on the horse.” It requires trusting God more than ever before—even when silence meets our prayers.
- A season of hardship is a high-risk time for falling into sin because the enemy will work overtime to erode our resolve.
- But God does not run out of grace if we mess up.
- It’s tough to pray “God, what are You teaching me through this?”
But my reticence to do so tells me I’m more selfish than I’d care to admit. I need to pray so I don’t waste this season.
In Sight & Sound’s production, Samson’s mother says, “The Lord doesn’t want to take things from us but for us to give them to Him in worship.” Hmm. Counterintuitive but indispensable in the midst of pain and loss. He is worthy of worship all the time, not just when we feel good about how life is going. May I suggest praying God’s promises back to Him and bookending them with praise?
Father, when I face difficulties, I want to lean away from You—as if that could distance me from my pain. But I need to lean into You instead. Sometimes I don’t want to. I’m afraid something worse will happen than what I’m already dealing with. Please replace that flinch reflex with holy expectation of what You’re doing behind the scenes on my behalf. Show Yourself strong in my weakness. Make Yourself manifest in my life. Lift my head so I may continue to serve You regardless. I want to hear You say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Amen.
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