Spring on the farm is busy...the last few days have been full of trips to the field helping and feeding my husband. The kids and I have been picking rock, Job (my husband) has been planting corn. The other day after I took him seed and helped fill the planter I watched as things didn't go right.
It can be easy to think farmers simply put seed in the equipment, drive across the field and the job is done. But rarely does that happen...especially in the first field of the season. Last year we had a new to us planter and probably entertained the thought...it will go better this year, but reality sets in when you realize you have to learn the ins and outs of the new planter. This year I had a similar thought thinking Job and his brother, Matt, had learned all the new stuff last year. That's true, but yet gauges need adjusting, equipment needs repair and sometimes things just don't work like they should.
Friend, whether you farm or not, could we tweak that last phrase a bit and apply it to your life? I know it applies mine! Things (be it literal things, plans or people) don't always work like they should. Sometimes it's my attitude that needs adjusting or plan that needs to change. Others it's my perspective that needs altering. But this recent day on the farm has reminded that it's not always easy. That "it" stands for so much more than farming.
We don't have to look far to realize life has hard times...this last week my cousin lost his 41 year old sister-in-law and neighbors said an earthly good-bye to their mom, friends are walking through illness and others are being treated for cancer, there's relationship struggles and conflict, financial problems and war in the world. My sister-in-law and her family remembered Grace's 21st birthday while she was in heaven. Hard stuff.
We'd love for these hard times to change, better yet disappear, but they don't. John 16:33 says, "I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart I have overcome the world." Jesus' words here speak to our reality...we will have trouble. Matthew 6:34b reiterates this point with this statement - "Tomorrow will have enough trouble of its own." Friends, it's a fact - this world, this life is not easy.
If you're able to read these words, I'm guessing you've lived long enough to know this for yourself, but what if we take things a step further and say, "Living a life of faith is not easy." Do you agree? Again if you've walked with Christ for awhile, I'm guessing you get it. But do you ever just wish it were easy? Are you surprised by hard times? Do they leave you wanting to quit? (Here's a prayer for when you do.) Do you expect them to disappear? I encourage you to stop for a minute and really think about this.
I'll admit last week I was surprised by a hard day...it wasn't hard with big, life-changing stuff, but instead the daily demands and constant needs caught me off guard. After putting my kids to bed I crawled in mine and seriously wondered if I was cut out for this job. I shed some tears, beat myself up and fought off feelings of guilt while Satan tried to shame; then finally did what I'd read about earlier in the day.
We had read Psalm 116 and I'd even encouraged a friend with verses 1 and 2 which say, "I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy. Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live." This verse came back to mind and I immediately knew what I needed to do. I pulled myself together, grabbed my Bible and opened my prayer journal. I shared my heart with my heavenly Father and His peace changed my perspective.
Truths I know, but needed to remember filled my heart and renewed my thinking. Though Jesus is my Lord and Savior sometimes I still live life on my own and rely on my strength instead of His. I not only recalled promises I need to cling to, but also recalled a teaching I must never forget.
James 1:2-4 says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
Friends, in just a few sentences there is much for us to learn. Our pastor came up with 4E's from this passage and they have been so helpful for me.
Expect - Embrace - Endure - Enjoy
I don't know about you, but I'm a planner and I like to look ahead, I'm not fond of surprises and don't appreciate being caught off guard. Since this is the case it's important to think about what I expect and as we already established one thing we can expect in this life is hard times. That doesn't mean I dread tomorrow or worry about what lies ahead, but it also means I let go of my fantasy and accept the fact that it's not always going to be easy. Remember it's not IF a trial comes, but when.
A relationship with Christ doesn't make the trials disappear any more than a different planter makes planting an easy job, knowing Jesus is with us and God has a perfect plan puts our pain in perspective. Rather than running from the hard stuff, may we learn to embrace knowing Jesus will meet us there and God is molding us as we walk through them.
Endure...what does that mean? A few Biblical definitions I found state - "to remain, to last, to bear up under pressure, to suffer patiently, to hold out, to continue to exist in the same manner." Not sure that is something you and I would willingly volunteer for, but it's something we must do and with God's help are able to do. Friends, when a child is hurt...they always need their parent - the same is true for us as believers...when we walk through trials we recognize our need for our Heavenly Father. Once we realize this need, we understand where our strength comes from and who alone provides the grace we need to walk the path we are on. These moments that are hard...they produce perseverance and as we press on we produce fruit. Sometimes that's growth in our faith and others it's the fruit others see as we rely on the Lord.
Enjoy - This last E has to be the hardest...it's hard to enjoy something that is difficult, causes pain and brings tears, but that is what Scripture commands. This isn't the happiness that comes easily, but instead the joy that lasts eternally. If we truly believe God has a reason for all things and is able to work them together for good, it's possible to enjoy the events that lead to this result. It's possible, but far from easy. I know there will be moments that are hard in the future, new trials are on the horizon, another planting season will come and chances are it won't be easy. I pray I can learn from this and remember the Truth I'm sharing today.
May we join Paul in saying what he said in Romans 5:3-5, "Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance character, and character hope, and hope does not disappoint because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
The next time life isn't easy I pray I remember this. The situation may not be of my choosing, but if God tells me to do it, I must obey. If it requires pain and suffering, I can remember Jesus walked through it as well and oh don't we say we want to be like Him? Since quitting isn't an option, the only choice is walking the road that God has put me on, and trusting Him while I do.
Farming is far from easy, so is marriage, parenting, faith and life. But God has us here for such a time as this and He has a purpose for all He brings us to. Join me in trusting Him today so He can produce a harvest tomorrow!
Finally a big "Yippee" to Michelle who won a copy of Mary DeMuth's book, "Worth Living" in my last post. Email me your mailing address at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll get it sent to you!