Our Amazing Life
Submitted by Jennifer Power
For the first 16 months on the job, my desk has been pretty bleak. My husband laughs when I get compliments about how organized I am, because he has lived with me for more than 11 years. He knows my house (and car) keeping habits do not reflect organization. I recently had to move my cubicle in the staff office to another spot, and it was a bit of a daunting task. The amount of junk I had thrown into empty drawers or under my desk and the pile of “important” papers which stood inches deep on my desk had passed being “out of hand.”
I knew I needed to get it under control, and the move was the perfect opportunity. Sure, it would have been easier to just move over my chaotic “piles” especially as the children’s Christmas worship service was just a few days away, but I was both stubborn and smart enough to know I needed to take this chance to get my stuff under control.
After I moved my cubicle, my husband must have noticed my now “clean” office space was still incomplete because for Christmas he got me a lovely picture frame (which now holds photos of my adorable family) and a metal sign. I am a fairly no-nonsense, no-frills individual. I don’t wear a lot of accessories – most days my wedding rings are it. The accessories I do occasionally wear are all items given to me as gifts. I only purchase shoes if I have clothing I cannot wear in a particular season with the shoes I have. Other than at Christmastime (and even then it is quite simple), I do not do a lot of decorating.
I like to focus on tasks I deem important and let other tasks (such as cleaning and organizing) slide – there almost always seems to be something more important to do than clean, accessorize, or decorate. This is not to say I do not appreciate cleanliness, a well-accessorized outfit, or a beautifully decorated home – it has just never been high on my priority list. However, due to my husband’s thoughtfulness, I now have some extra personal touches on my desk.
Lately, my feelings have been pretty unreliable. Throughout our entire life together, my husband has been even-keeled, and I have been up and down. I feel joy, sorrow, and emptiness acutely and move from one emotion to another more often than I desire. Sometimes it seems my emotions betray me and make little sense. I can feel sorrow when I think I should feel joy and feel a sense of purpose and hope when circumstances are dark. This is not abnormal for me in the least, but generally, the joy I feel in being with Christ in the day-to-day overshadows despair and emptiness. The deepness of my love for God and His love for me is typically the main driving force of my being even as it is peppered with trials.
Now and then, however, I seem to enter states where the reverse seems true. The dryness, sorrow, despair, and pain threaten to overshadow the joy which seems to have lost its radiance. I seek the joy of the Lord and struggle to grasp it. As I can look to no outside circumstances as the cause, if I am not careful, I will quickly look for reasons to blame myself. What did I do (or not do), I wonder, to bring about this shadow which seems to loom overhead? I never have to look long to find plenty of reasons to accuse myself. The list grows long and the despair grows deep.
Thankfully, this is never the end of the story. I love how C.S. Lewis discusses the troughs of a Christian’s life in Chapter 8 of the Screwtape Letters (a correspondence between two demons, in which God is the Enemy). I have turned to the wisdom of Lewis often when I am in times of emptiness. The whole letter is worth reading, but one portion in particular often returns to my mind:
“Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”
I know God is moving in my life, and some of the greatest evidence attesting to this fact is found in my trough times. Little by little, in the times when life just seems to hurt and feel a bit meaningless, I find myself more and more obedient to Him. I find myself more and more, seeking Him in the midst of the emptiness. My understanding that trials are temporary and God is eternal, grows with each period of difficulty. My assurance that He is there – despite my feelings – grows deeper even as the love I feel in my heart seems to weaken.
About ten days ago, I decided to memorize John 15:1-4.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the Gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch bears fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit, unless you remain in Me.”
These verses and the ones after it contain great treasures:
- God is in control.
- God wants me to stay with Him – even, and especially in the trough times.
- I am clean because of Him.
- I am to remain in Him, and He WILL remain in me – doesn’t matter if I feel it or not, it remains true.
- I will bear much fruit if I remain in Him (later, in verse 5).
- I am loved by Him, and He wants me to bring that kind of love to others (verse 9-17).
These facts are always true regardless of how I feel.
Yesterday, I confessed to my husband how much I had been lately struggling to feel the love of God, and how I had therefore been struggling with joy, praise, and thankfulness. I confessed how I had been striving to remember the root of my love for God and how the exercise has left me exhausted. I have wanted to go deep. I have wanted to dig up all the wonderful truths He has ever shown me and write them down for easy reference (something I still plan to do) but the time earlier this week I set aside for this task got taken up by something else, and I was left feeling more than a little discouraged.
My husband then challenged me in a simple way. In order to focus my attention on God’s love and goodness to me, he suggested I focus on the joys which are right in front of my face – the ones that are always easy to remember (such as my wonderful daughters, my amazing husband, a good job, a warm home, etc.). He told me that the metal sign he got me for Christmas which now sits on my desk is not just any old saying but one he took great time and care selecting specifically for me. It says:
“Because when you stop and look around…this life is pretty amazing!”
I am thankful today for this gentle and brilliant reminder.
Perhaps you need it too.