It’s weird to say that we are living in the year 2020. It is one of those years that science fiction told us that we should be driving flying cars and living on other planets by now. Though here I sit still living in my hometown and driving an old van through the streets of it. It doesn’t feel very “science fictiony” . Although I am not flying through town on my hoverboard, my life has changed significantly over the years. On New Years Eve I sat parked in my driveway in that old gold van and scrolled through Instagram watching the photos pop up that friends were posting of their last decade. My friends were posting their highlights of the last 10 years and most of them included marriages, children, careers and new homes. This is the typical progression of an American, so it wasn’t surprising in the least, but it caused me some great reflection on my past decade.
Some photos of me at the beginning of the decade. 1) saying goodbye to mexico before moving to Texas, 2) my engagement night 3) Wedding day
As I watched the photos of growing families and read the stories of how God has blessed my friends with great marriages, careers and homes, I felt the old twinge of comparison start to creep its’ way in. And as the famous Theodore Roosevelt’s quote says “Comparison is the thief of joy”. He was certainly not wrong in my New Year’s Eve social media scrolling session. The comparison game was strong and my joy was quickly fading. I saw what seemed like friends’ lives being built up and setting down deep roots. When I looked back at my past decade it consisted of breaking down and uprooting. Being that I am in my early thirties, the last 10 years is when I grew up for real and officially launched into adulthood. My decade started with great promise and expectation moving to a new city, starting a new ministry job and getting married. The beginning of this decade started out like many of my friends. Yet a few years in, tragedy hit and life changed. Along with that came great loss and trauma that I was forced to navigate through for the first time. I had been knocked down, but I got up again (Shout out to the classic lyrics of that great song by Chumbawumba). Through the heartache the light always shone through and I was able to move forward and begin building something new. We had a new home, a new ministry and my family began growing. Yet it was only a few years later when more trauma rushed in and uprooted life once again. It was a decade of getting knocked down, picking up the pieces, getting back up just to be hit again even harder. AS I sat in the driver’s seat of my van this New Years Eve, engine turned off and scrolling, tears flooded my eyes as I began to mourn all the things I have lost. I thought about all the things that didn’t grow bigger and stronger. I don’t have a stronger marriage, a more stable financial situation, or my own home. I don’t have a flourishing career and my home isn’t filled with the 3 or 4 children I had dreamed of. Was this decade a complete waste? As my thoughts spiraled down with my tears and my joy was fleeing, I heard a still small voice whisper in my ear and into my soul. Gently, yet boldly with truth, he reminded me that although I don’t have any of those external markings of professional or personal success, I have more. His voice was kind and familiar. It’s as though I could hear him saying “I haven’t grown all of that, but I have grown you. You don’t have all of that, but you have me.” What a refreshing reminder for my soul.
American culture emphasizes success in worldly ways; money, careers, possessions, family. Christian culture sometimes follows quickly behind. We can look at all the good things in our lives and call them blessings by God. Our dream home or dream vacation can be labeled a blessing. I guess it depends on your definition of blessing. Is a blessing a good gift that you are thankful for? Is it God’s favor and protection on you or is it getting your way just as you hoped? I have often landed on the latter definition. However, here’s what I have discovered over the last decade: God’s favor and blessing often is poured out through suffering because that’s where we find him. His blessings and favor often don’t look like anything we hashtag on Instagram, it can be, but often not. Yes all good gifts do come from our Father above and it is never wrong to praise him for these beautiful blessings that come from his hand. But remember we can find him in the heartbreak and sorrow. We learn that it is our dependence on him, not our independence, that brings us life and freedom. When we learn how much we need HIm, we find the joy he has to offer in His presence and that’s where I want to stay. And I don’t know about you but I tend to stay there more when I am hurting.
The apostle Paul wrote in Phillippians 3:8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (ESV). I have by no means gotten to the height of spiritual maturity where I can proclaim this as boldly as Paul did. Yet after this past decade, I can read that verse and know it deep down in my soul that this is truth. I know Christ is the all I truly need in this world. I know everything else is garbage compared to Him. I know it. I have learned it. I just have to walk in it every day which is not an easy task.
On the first Sunday of the new year our church sang the worship song “Jesus is Better”. If you are unfamiliar with the song, here are a few lines.
in all my sorrows, Jesus is better
make my heart believe
In all my victories, Jesus is better
make my heart believe
Than any comfort, Jesus is better
I love this song for so many reasons, but one reason is the way it doesn’t differentiate between the sorrows or the victories. See, It doesn’t matter if you are in a season of suffering or a season of rejoicing, Jesus is better than all of it. He is better than anything the world throws our way, both good and bad. Let us not get caught up in WHAT we do or do not have, but focus on WHO we have at all times, in any season, no matter the circumstances. He is the greatest blessing. Make my heart believe….