Learning to Love the Good But Hard Life - Encouragement for Today - February 12, 2020

Katherine WolfFebruary 12, 2020

Learning to Love the Good But Hard Life
KATHERINE WOLF

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“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.” James 1:2 (MSG)

No matter what chaos the day holds, my family can count on one constant: our bedtime routine.

To clarify, I don’t mean precious hours of bonding over bath time, book reading, teeth brushing and storytelling. We have two young boys, so hygiene and calm often go by the wayside, and at the end of most full days, we can barely manage wrestling them into their pajamas and tossing them in bed.

Yet, over the years, we have wired their brains and ours to expect every night to end with us praying together as a family, one by one. Though our boys have experienced challenges and been exposed to hard stories, they often revert to the prayer that lies just below the surface of most every human heart: “Dear God, thank You for giving me a GOOD day today. Please help me to have a GOOD day tomorrow.”

If the “good/good” prayer happens to be recited on a given night, we usually then pray over them: “And God, no matter what kind of day today was, or what kind of day tomorrow might be, give us courage to keep showing up, because we know You are with us, God, and You always give us everything we need.”

For good measure, we may throw in this final charge as they drift off: “James and John, God made you to do the HARD things in the GOOD story He is writing for your lives.”

Honestly, we’re giving that charge to our own hearts, too.

The Bible writer James says, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way” (James 1:2-4).

This way of viewing our hardships feels so unnatural, if not impossible. How could we view our suffering, our unmet expectations, our losses as a gift? Most anyone who has lived a little bit of life knows that storms come with the territory. It’s an unavoidable reality in this world. So, if we cannot change it or even pray it away, what can we do?

Well, for a start, we can redefine how we view goodness.

The “good life” isn’t one that lacks hardship, but rather, one that requires it. As James teaches, we will be incomplete and immature if we don’t go through challenges. And that truth doesn’t have to make us afraid.

So much of our mental energy is spent fearing what might happen in the future or staying stuck in shame and regret for what has happened in the past. What if we chose to view our inevitable hardships as the path to experience the goodness of God even more powerfully? As the avenue to our healing? As the truly abundant life?

The good and the hard things in life aren’t mutually exclusive. We hold them in bittersweet tension together because the good/hard life offers a depth to our experience with God and our compassion with others that we can’t get any other way.

This redefining leads to our refining. It won’t happen overnight. And it won’t happen unless we open our hands, releasing control over what we thought our life should be in order to receive God more fully.

In this process, we can find gratitude and even joy because we know a new kind of perseverance, character and hope will be ours.

Dear God, give us courage to fully live the good/hard life with joy. We pray to be found faithful in the midst of whatever hurts You allow in our lives. May our most longed-for healing be the healing of our souls. Fill us so fully with Your Spirit and Your hope that it overflows from us into the world. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Romans 5:3b-5a, “… we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame …” (NIV)

2 Corinthians 4:8-9, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (NIV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
Is it possible to embrace suffering as a privilege rather than a punishment? Katherine and Jay Wolf’s latest book, SUFFER STRONG: How to Survive Anything by Redefining Everything, offers universal lessons on thriving in lives we never imagined living. Vulnerable, practical and surprisingly funny, join Katherine and her husband, Jay, as they disrupt the myth that joy can only be found in a pain-free life.

CONNECT:
Be encouraged as Katherine seeks to “redeem the internet” on her beloved Instagram profile (@hopeheals), or even better: Come get a hug in person at a live speaking event!

Enter to WIN your very own copy of SUFFER STRONG by Katherine and Jay Wolf. To celebrate this book, their publisher will give away 5 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here. {We’ll randomly select 5 winners and then notify each one in the comments section by Monday, February 17, 2020.}

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What fear is preventing you from living more open-handedly? When has a specific struggle led you to greater spiritual maturity? We’d love to hear your stories in our comments section!

© 2020 by Katherine Wolfe. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Zondervan, a division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

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