It’s no secret that sometimes life is just plain hard. No one contests that. It’s not a matter of if our lives are going to encounter hardship, trial, and pain, but rather a matter of when. It’s not far down the road either. Talk to just about anyone for long enough and you’ll start to peel back the layers that reveal a hurting, tired heart. None of us are immune to it.
When hardship and tragedy do strike the center of human life, the first question to be tossed heavenward is almost always “Why?”. Why me? Why her? Why this? Why now? Why? As humans, we can feel the wrongness of a situation down to our very soul. Injustice stings, but pain gets to the heart of things. If I weren’t a Christian, I suppose I would be throwing this question to anyone or anything who could offer me an answer. As it is, I knew exactly who to go to with the big “Why” question, and as usual, it turned into a very different lesson than I thought it would. The funny thing is, the more you talk to God about why your experiencing pain, the more He slowly turns your thoughts to what to do about it.
Pain is often a nonnegotiable occurrence; your reaction to it never is. When the “Why me?” question becomes “what now?” How do you proceed? How as a Christian, are you supposed to move forward. What do you even do? This is a place where Christianity can get uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable.
Why? Because it’s easier to stay down when you’re hurt. It’s easier to lie there and believe you can’t get up. Every time I’ve been knocked down by life I’ve wanted nothing more than to say “Well! Gave that my best shot. I’m just gonna stay here forever if that’s cool with everyone.” This is the point where it would be nice to have a comforting Bible verse, one that says you can stay down. I want a verse that says “Of course you can stay down, Avalon! What’s more, Jesus is bringing over some ice cream! You just stay put and don’t lift a finger!”. Instead, I find verses like James 1: 2-4 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Has anyone ever laid out on their back from pain ever felt steadfast at the same time? Never. If you want it, you have to respond to the trial. So as a Christian, do you stay where you are? Or do you move towards steadfastness? Do you let Christianity get uncomfortable? And what does steadfastness even look like?
I used to imagine being steadfast as standing like some brick wall, totally strong, totally rigid, and definitely not going anywhere. I thought it was about keeping your feet and refusing to let anything take you down no matter how hard it tried until everyone around you wanted to know how you did it. In my experience, though, it’s never been keeping my feet, but getting back up after I’ve been blasted to the ground. Just like James said, it’s in the moments when I’m wheezing on the ground, longing for a break and some ice cream, that I need steadfastness the most. Yay.
I won’t lie, the last couple of weeks, I’ve been there again. Wheezing a little bit, wishing I could call a time out, wondering when the orange slices are going to get passed out. I know I’m not alone there either. What’s more, I from past experience just what steadfastness can bring about. So I say to you, wherever you are in pain, even if it’s flat out, sprawled on your back, bleeding, and with the wind knocked out of you, you have strength inside you. Strength that other people need to see.
Because someday down the road, someone in your life might find themselves in the same position, and they’re going to look to examples in their past for how to react now. In your moment of pain now, you have the opportunity to be that example. It will be a thousand times harder to get back up than choosing to stay where you are. Make no mistake. But if you want to spur people on to conquering something, the best way is to show them that it can be done.
So be steadfast in whatever capacity you can. Maybe it’s not charging full steam ahead. Don’t ignore the pain entirely. That won’t do anyone any good. But maybe it’s not letting the pain have the last say.
Roll over and push yourself to your knees, but be steadfast. Run, walk, or stumble forward, but be steadfast. Throw another punch with your broken hands, but be steadfast. Wheeze and clutch at your side in pain, but be steadfast. Wipe the blood from your eyes, but be steadfast. Cry, but be steadfast. Stand on shaking, trembling legs, but be steadfast.
Be steadfast, and know that just because being a Christian may be uncomfortable doesn’t mean it is without hope. Because steadfastness comes from somewhere and it comes in waves when you know who to look to. Being steadfast is not just a gift to other people watching your struggle. It’s a gift from God to you, a little whisper in your ear that the pain you are experiencing is not without purpose and it will never, never be greater than his love for you. For all the “why”s I experience in times of hardship, I know for certain now that steadfastness has nothing to do with my strength and everything to do with God’s love. He doesn’t abandon us in the good times, and he certainly won’t abandon us in the bad.
Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Be steadfast. Be steadfast. Be steadfast.
Let’s find some joy,