Thanks to responses on Instagram, I have decided to share mini sermons at the beginning of each week. Recently, I have felt the calling to make strides in being candid about my faith more on Tailored Mane. After seeing so many friends struggling, even battling depression myself in the last month, I wrote my first mini sermon on the season of struggle. Remember, you are never alone. Speak out and talk with people you trust. Gain a community of even a few that are earnestly invested in your well being. You are loved, even when you feel unloveable. You are stronger than you think.
Life is filled with different seasons, some include struggle. It’s a natural part of life. As believers, what does struggle mean amongst the Goodness of God?
The foundational belief of every major mono-theistic religion is that God is Good. And this is true. So, why does evil exist if our God is so good? My best answers are these: Where there is good, there must be evil lurking. Where there is free choice, there will be mistakes.
God is the ultimate Good and He allows some things to “happen” to us, not for our demise, but for our growth. In a world that is a mixture of Devine goodness, deep darkness, and choice, there will always be a blend of everything, all at once, all the time. We cannot escape it and we cannot push what happens around us or to us as blame unto people or God. The negatives in our lives are the following: our choices affecting ourselves, someone else’s actions affecting us, or just lack of perspective. And yes, in the rare instances it could be insidious acts, but we would be have to be doing great goodness to receive that kind of attention. What do we do then in order to get through a season of struggle?
There is no first step, as the start is two in one: responsibility and perspective. We live in a world that is making the conscious shift to self care. This is something that should be celebrated. The practice of loving and caring for ourselves is a positive and necessary first step toward dealing with struggle. If we are able to allow ourselves to be full and secure while life is uncertain, we are better able to give constantly, not only to ourselves, but also others, which is therapeutic in itself. By being actively responsible for our maintenance and happiness, we set a foundation to build from when a new season emerges.
In that same breath, we also have to edit our flaws and approach our actions with responsibility. As good as we can be to ourselves, the environment that we create around us is also our choice and is just as much apart of self-care as healthy eating, meditation, exercise, etc. We cannot live out an attitude of “I don’t care what you think or how you feel because its contrary to how I feel” as this will only brew toxicity in the people that surround us. We must be sensitive to the reality of everyone having opinions and beliefs because we are comprised of unique events and responses that shape their perspectives. True self-care oozes in the form of love with an infectious quality. If we are living just for ourselves, there is apart of our heart or fear in the way of learning to be venerable and care for others. If we love ourselves and give love freely, that same care and love will come back to us in the form of community, or people we can rely on when life gets tough. And within community, we must be aware that it is also our responsibility to ensure that we are surrounded by people whom authentically care for our wellbeing and growth.
Christ is our strength in making all of this happen. The inability to be vulnerable prevents us from not only caring for ourselves or allowing meaningful relationships into our lives, but it also prevents God from allowing any chance of us getting there. Humans desire to fit in and they also desire to survive. When we have been harmed, let down, abused, cheated, etc. we instinctively separate ourselves from others, even God, in order to prevent ourselves from getting hurt again. However, in the spirit of the reality that God truly wants whats best for us, when are courageous and we turn our eyes on God to help us to love ourselves, others, and Him again, He will answer with an abundance of care.
At the same time, while we are choosing to care for ourselves by allowing God in and loving those around us, breeding authentic compassion and community, we must also address the perspective we have for the struggle we experience. Gratitude is the most powerful tool in our arsenal against struggle. When a human is truly in a state of gratitude, they cannot experience any other emotion. Gratitude is the deepest, most earnest form of thankfulness possible. Struggle breeds sadness, depression, anger, jealousy, comparison, doubt, anxiety, but gratitude silences all of that and calls on joy and hope. Instead of focusing on what we think should be happening or what we wish wouldn’t be, choosing to be grateful and acknowledging how things could always be worse, is a start. God is ever present, even when we feel alone and He is always good even when things feel like they are crashing down around us. God uses the struggles we are reactive to four our good, for something beneficial to our future. He does not cause them, rather we get ourselves there or evil actions of others infringe on our happiness. God is there to use all things for our good and our benefit. Whether we are in a period of chaos or in a state of limbo for the future, He is present and caring for us deeply. This season isn’t calling on us to focus on what has yet to become ours or what once happened, rather it is a calling to grow from the past, into the future, now.
Romans 12:2 says: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Perspective shifting to love and gratitude is something that takes time and practice. However, by understanding that struggle is a stepping stone to testifying and understanding the depth of God’s love, we are changed, healed, and equipped with tools to move forward in deeper faith and trust. Instead of viewing this season as a damnation, focus on the truth of what God is trying to do with this situation: grow you, prepare you, and strengthen you for the future.
In Psalms 23, David speaks of just this journey:
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
This passage speaks to struggle more clearly than all others. This is where our minds should be amongst chaos and uncertainty. It’s the truth that God will have us wait until the time is right, comfort us on the journey and guide our steps to His kingdom. And this is said not in pride of His glorification, but rather because our greatest fulfillment is living up to our purpose as His child. We all play significant, critical roles in the body of Christ. This entails having things be difficult because we move against the grain of what society tells us is right, but He is there to protect us, bless us, and be with us, regardless of how we feel, even if we are angry at Him or hopeless. Focus on this season, not what has happened or what should be happening, this will only keep you trapped in this time of struggle. Mistakes are in the past and others will happen in the future. Take this time to let go and prepare yourself to learn how to move forward. With time we will be healed from our pasts and given the tools to achieve success in the future! Have faith.