How Do We Face The Struggles Of Life?

Today didn’t go as planned. Not even close.

Our dog Puzzle didn’t eat a bite on Sunday. I woke up today (Monday) to find two large pools of diarrhea in the family room and a cowering dog in the kitchen. I called the vet. They had an opening in one hour. For the next forty-five minutes I scrubbed and scoured the cesspools in our carpet.

When I coaxed Puzzle to the car, I discovered a flat tire. I pumped it up and sped to the vet. I had missed the “window” and sat for an hour amidst yapping dogs and a shivering Puzzle. (He’s fine; he just ate something bad.)

I dropped Puzzle off at home, and I limped to the tire store. They said it would take twenty minutes. An hour and twenty minutes later they said a nail and punctured the sidewall and I needed a new tire. But it wasn’t in stock. I’d have to come back.

I rushed to Panera’s for a lunch appointment, but my friend didn’t show up. He texted, saying that he had a toothache and was dashing to the dentist for an emergency visit.

I hurried home only to discover that my website was down. Apparently there had been a “massive DDoS attack on GoDaddy.com” (whatever that means) which affected thousands of sites. Including mine.

While talking with technical support, my wife came home with a kidney stone episode, so I ended the call and ran out to buy her some painkillers.

By mid afternoon my friend had a pain in the mouth, my wife had a pain in the side, and my day had been a pain in the ____ (fill in the blank).

And isn’t that typical?

Events often ignore our plans. A child is sick; the dishwasher overflows; a client is upset; the cat runs away; we trip over a toy; we are rear-ended at a stoplight.

I took some time to pray (and to still my frustrated heart). What was going on? I see bumper stickers that read, “Diarrhea Happens” (or words to that affect). Is that all this was? Just the normal result of living in a broken world?

Then a friend emailed me this poem by John Newton (author of Amazing Grace). It ends with these words,

These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set you free;
And break your schemes of earthly joy,
That you may find your all in Me.  (“These Inward Trials”)

God “employs” these trials for a purpose. To purify our hearts. God didn’t create the brokenness of the world, but he arranges it to create in us something glorious. He takes the raw material of everyday events, to mold us into, “gods and goddesses … which, if you saw today, you would be strongly tempted to worship” (C. S. Lewis).

Because we are in a battle

We battle for family, friends and ourselves. But most of our battles seem dinky. We miss the warfare because of the very smallness of our daily battles. They aren’t mere irritations; they are firefights. They aren’t simple hassles; they are combat.

Our daily struggle doesn’t seem epic. They’re hardly Jonah’s whale or David’s Goliath.

In daily life, it’s not massive whales that take us out; it’s the day-to-day guppies of long lines. It’s not hulking giants that we fight; it’s dogs with diarrhea.

In the past, I’ve thought of our daily skirmishes as training for epic battles. While partly true, it’s misleading. Daily irritations are epic battles—epic battles for our hearts.

Yes, the world is broken; a friend talks about us behind our back. Unfortunately, we too contribute to the brokenness. God designed us to be, “completely humble, gentle, patient, and bearing with one another in love” (Eph. 4:1–2).

Instead, we’re impatient, irritable, harsh, resigned, self-centered, and fearful.

In this epic battle, God is reclaiming our hearts. He is “employing” the brokenness of the world to create new, living, vibrant men and women. The battle is not simply to survive daily trials; the battle is to create men and women who triumph through them.

But what about dreadful trials?

It’s not always sick dogs. What about hearing you have cancer? What about losing our children to car accidents or drug overdoses? What do we do with real horrors?

I wish I had words of wisdom or comfort. I don’t. But I know this. God didn’t sit idly on the sidelines; occasionally glancing at the horrors of the broken world, occasionally texting advice through a prophet. He joined our battle. “Emmanuel” means God with us.

When Jesus became man, he fully entered into our brokenness. He experienced hunger, thirst, messed up schedules, broken people, and disappointments. We’ve had no earthy irritation that he didn’t experience. He entered into our daily battle with brokenness.

And then he faced one more battle. He faced the ultimate battle that we could never bear. When he battled the Goliath of eternal death, he didn’t pull out his slingshot; he bowed his head and took the blow. When he faced the whale of the depths of Sheol, he allowed himself to be swallowed whole, and to feel the fire of hell. In our place.

I don’t have an answer for the evil horrors we sometimes face. But I know this. It can’t be that he’s abandoned us. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us. It can’t be that he fails to hear our cries.

His cry of dereliction from the cross means this: it’s a cry of a Love that faced our ultimate horror; it’s a cry of a Love that says he will never abandon us; it’s a cry of a Love that fought our ultimate battle.

It’s God’s cry of love for us, “that we may find our all in Him.”

Sam

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18 Responses to How Do We Face The Struggles Of Life?

  1. Guy says:

    Wise words. Sage counsel… That picture summed up my last week in a nutshell. Was about to hit my head on the wall myself. Thank you Sam. These are the epic battles we fight and it most certainly is for our hearts. Cheers,
    Guy

    • Hey Guy,

      Great to hear from you. I knew you’d understand our epic battles; not what is normally called epic, but the eternal struggle for our hearts.

      PS: The nice thing about this battle is we can turn to the end of the book. Guess what’s there: Victory.

  2. Good word. I spend too much time waiting for my battle to start instead of focusing on the battle at hand God has lain out for me.

  3. Lyle Regan says:

    It is amazing Sam how you touch right where I am at so many times with you words. As I face these galactic battles in our lives, I am more and more going to God in the midst and remembering that I am loved by the creator of all,.. and He wants the best for me. Great words my friend. Lyle

  4. I think the “trials” remind us how little control we have over our lives. But like you said, God is in control and God understands- Jesus faced the same stuff (sorta), and he is with us.

    • Perfect Number,

      I like where you’re going with this idea of how little “control” we have over our lives. We really don’t have such a thing. We can fake ourselves, deceive ourselves, for a time.

      But not for very long.

      Thanks,

      Sam

  5. Phi says:

    Have a nice day! There, that ought to help. Not!

    Jesus, help!!!

  6. Tkuchera says:

    Hi Sam,
    Seems you hit a nerve with hell. It’s actually a little encouraging to know you aren’t ignored by the opposing forces. I like what you said about Jesus being in it with us, after all it IS because of Him we are a target. When Satan can’t succeed any other way he tends to create chaos. But I love that you point out how God uses it to chisel us and keep us close. Oh for the Glory of being desperate!
    Tami

    • Hi Tami,

      I find it incredibly comforting that God actually takes the work of the evil one and turns it inside out, upside down.

      He did it with the cross. God took the evil’s greatest “victory” (killing the Son of God) and turned it into the greatest display of God’s love and care for us.

      I love your line, “Oh for the glory of God of being so desperate.” Yes indeed.

      Sam

  7. Ken Conklin says:

    Sam,
    This is a great post. Just started reading a book by jerry bridges…, the sovereignty of God. All the stuff w go thru day to day. I get so caught up in my own little world and then I think of all the souls I pass by daily that is going thru their stuff. There is so many compartments to my heart that God wants to speak into. At times it is overwhelming and oh so humbling. I have to watch that I don’t become to self centered in this world. I do want to share with you that I have been diagnosed recently with ALS (Lou Gehrig Disease). So much of what you shared today strikes a cord with me. Just learning to go deeper with this process and understanding.
    Ken

    • Ken,

      Thanks for your deeply personal sharing. And thanks for reminding me “of all the souls I pass by daily.” All who are going through so much, as are we.

      Please keep sharing all you are learning as you “go deeper with the process.” What God teaches you will bring life to us all.

      Thank you so much for being who God made you to be,

      Sam

  8. Jim says:

    Sam,

    It does take time out of our lives to remember we are in a battle.
    Particularly since we are rarely forwarned of what’s around the corner.

    Lately for me the scriptures I’m reading talk about reconciliation and though I don’t look for it, I find it presented to me in many forms.

    A broken heart doen’t always kill you but it can take you out for a period of time.

    I think all the battles we face can change us eternally and it’s sobering to realize we have the power to participate with others in that process.

    Thanks for your participation in the fray..

    • Hi Jim,

      I like the way you say, “It takes time out of our lives to remember we are in a battle.”

      Yes, I forget all the time. But, when I remember, God invites me to participate in the battle.

      But even better, as you say, God gives us the “power to participate with others in the process.” That’s a real honor, and a bit sobering.

      Thanks so much again for bringing your insight.

      Sam

  9. Rachelle says:

    It’s amazing how grumpy I can be when I’m a little hungry and tired. Happened just the other day. But the miracle of God’s work in us is that we can find trust, patience, self-discipline (or whatever else we need) in the midst of trials, big or small. The struggle, I think, is an encouraging sign that God’s Spirit is at work to remake us. Thanks for sharing your perspective and experiences.

    • Hi Rachelle,

      I agree, “the miracle of God’s work in us is that we can find trust, patience (etc) in the midst of trials.”

      I would also say that God uses the trials to form us into men and women of trust, patience (etc.). Somehow he takes these trials as polishing stones to bring a luster and sharpness to our lives that we wouldn’t have otherwise.

      The evil one wants the trials to destroy us; God uses them to perfect us.

      Thanks,

      Sam

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