A lot has changed since I heard my grandfather respond to the question I had asked years before, “How old are you, Pop-Pop?” My grandfather was born in the year 1900, so was not very difficult to do the math and figure out his age. I vividly recall when my grandfather select was 67 years old – 67 in 1967. He didn’t seem old to me but the numbers sounded really large! He was older than he seemed.
Many years have passed since then and now it is my turn – I will be 67 years old tomorrow. Along the way, I have learned the slogan: life is hard and then you die. (And variations to that same effect.) Most of us can testify to the truth of these words from our own experience. Life is full of struggles. Jesus said it more accurately: “In this world you will have trouble. But don’t be afraid I have overcome the world.”
I was recently asked how I keep focused as I struggle with the difficulties of living in this fallen world. I assume they asked me because they realize I get lots of practice struggling. I don’t pretend to have all the answers but by God’s grace, I am able to suggest some helpful insights from my own experience.
Throughout these struggles, the Holy Spirit has taught me that God has a good purpose in them, and that he is using them to make me more like Jesus. Two passages of Scripture have been helpful to me and encapsulated vital truths. The first is Philippians 1.6 and the other is Proverbs 3.5, 6.
Philippians 1.6 – “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
God is carrying out a good work in me. He is completing what he began and will continue completing it until it is finished – even though it takes until the return of Christ. God is at work… He is using his own unlimited resources, power and wisdom to make me like his Son. Romans 8.28 reinforces this: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
So it is a great comfort to know that God is in control accomplishing his good purpose for his people, including me. Not only is God in control, but he is also controlling and working everything for his own glory and the benefit of his people! Now this is extremely reassuring and encouraging to me. If you love God, this is also true for you!
The second passage has to do with my responsibilities as I face struggles. Most of us will agree that we feel like we have to do something as we face difficulties. Here is an excellent place to start.
Proverbs 3.5, 6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
Here I am commanded to trust in the Lord with all my heart. This goes well beyond optimism and merely believing that a benevolent God exists. I am called to fully rely and depend on him – to trust him with all that I am and in all that I do. Again, easier said than done.
Let me illustrate. As I write this I am struggling with my lack of patience. My dictation software acts as if it is demon possessed and cannot get more than 2 words as dictated – not as advertised on television. My grandchildren came home from school sending our dog into a frenzy, barking and carrying on, adding further confusion to my microphone… Judy received 3 phone calls and my microphone prefers to listen to her voice rather than mine. More problems with dictation software… Sometimes it’s really hard to recognize that God is in control and to respond according to this truth.
I’m very grateful that I have a Savior who lived a perfect life for me, atoned for my guilt and has given his righteousness to me. God is in control and I continue to struggle to act as if I know this.