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6 God said that light should shine out of the darkness. He is the same one who shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in clay pots so that the awesome power belongs to God and doesn’t come from us. 8 We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we aren’t crushed. We are confused, but we aren’t depressed. 9 We are harassed, but we aren’t abandoned. We are knocked down, but we aren’t knocked out.
16 So we aren’t depressed. But even if our bodies are breaking down on the outside, the person that we are on the inside is being renewed every day. 17 Our temporary minor problems are producing an eternal stockpile of glory for us that is beyond all comparison. 18 We don’t focus on the things that can be seen but on the things that can’t be seen. The things that can be seen don’t last, but the things that can’t be seen are eternal.
Paul wrote 2 Corinthians to a group of Christians many of whose members had turned against him (in a church he himself had started!). It was a painful disappointment, on top of years of other struggles as he traveled and shared Jesus in the Roman world (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). Yet he trusted that, if he kept his inner spiritual focus on God’s eternal world, nothing in this world could crush or destroy him.
Lord God, some days all I can see are my failures, my setbacks, and my pain. On those days especially, I really need your grace to show me life as you see it, to show me your reality. Amen.
Life can be hard, right? I mean really, really hard. Certainly there are good and joyous times, and there are times when life is a little boring, when you’re floating along in the contentment of the mundane.
But then out of nowhere comes some event that shakes you to the core – a job loss, a diagnosis, a broken relationship, the death of a loved one, a bad choice catching up with you. You’re suddenly thrown into a dark hole, struggling to take the next step and dreaming of that boring, mundane life. Let’s face it. There are times when life can only be described as a word that I wouldn’t normally use in my vernacular, and that I most definitely would not use on a church website. Perhaps we shall say that one might describe times like these as wading through manure.
That’s what you feel like. When you’re at your lowest – when you’re scared, hurt, lost, or lonely. It is what it is. You can try to deny it or attempt to convince yourself that it isn’t as bad as it really is, though I would imagine that sugar-coating manure doesn’t make it any more appealing. Life is awful sometimes. It just is.
It’s interesting, when I look back on my faith journey, to reflect on the growing times, the times when I’ve felt the presence of God the most. It’s not the “mountain top” experience that first comes to mind. It’s not a great sermon, a catchy worship song, or a top-selling Christian book. These are all great. But the times that I’ve grown the most are when my life was at its lowest, when I’ve been hurt, lost, or scared. It’s the times when I’ve been on my knees, crying out to God through the tears, “God, I can’t do it on my own! I need you right now!”
Without fail, God has always shown up. He’s led me through, he’s helped me, and he’s held me gently in his mercy.
I believe that God aches with us and understands our pain. He doesn’t deny the manure. But the difference between our perspective and his is that he knows that manure makes good fertilizer. God doesn’t bring about suffering, but he recognizes that times of agony are often when our hearts are most open to cultivation. He can see the beauty from the growth to come, knowing that there is a splendor of grace that can only be experienced from the need to lean deeply into your Savior. An aching heart is fertile soil.
There are times when we will be tossed into the pangs of life, thrown right into manure. There is no escaping it. The only thing we can do is recognize the fertility of our souls, taking advantage of the manure we find ourselves in. When we hurt, we hold tight to our Redeemer. We cry out in our struggles and grasp firmly to our faith. While pain is not enjoyable, it is also never the end. God will redeem our suffering. We will eventually experience the beauty he brings, seeing new life spring up out of the darkness.
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