I am currently reading Larry Crabb’s Shattered Dreams. He has quite a few quotable quotes. Among my favorites are, “Without trials, only spoiled brats would enter heaven. And that would turn heaven into hell.” Also, “Life is not an opportunity for things to go well so we can feel good. Life is an opportunity for us to be forgiven for requiring God to make us feel good and for turning from Him when He doesn’t.” I’ve had to realize recently that although God can and does regularly provide for us, sometimes He doesn’t. And that doesn’t mean we are outside of His will or asking for stuff we don’t need. Sometimes we just need Him more. When Daniel first got this job, I have to admit, I was most excited about getting our own place. I was so excited to finally decorate our home and have pets. Well, we can paint, but it is taking a lot more time and energy than I have right now. And we have pets, but I’m not sure they are worth all the unwanted pests that come from living in the country. We have had to repair so many things since we moved in that things like curtains and a couch seem like distant luxuries from another world. But God still provides! Since we have been here, someone gave us a stove and a new hot water heater. A family just gave us a swing set. Right now, our biggest need is a new vehicle. We’ve had to replace 3 tires in the last week, and it still needs to be realigned. (Did I mention a good friend picked us up when we were stranded and paid for 2 of those tires?) And then there is the whole “smoking engine” and the fuel pump . . .
I wanted to go all these places this summer. I made a huge list of all these Colorado locations from my childhood and we have yet to go to any of them. Every time we even try to go to my parents’ house, we end up sitting by the side of the road because our car won’t start. But most of the time, my kids are pretty content playing in the yard. It’s me who wants to be entertained constantly. When we went to Omaha, I gave them the option of going to the Omaha Zoo, or going back to Scottsbluff and seeing their friends, and of course, they picked their friends. I was humbled. And then I think of my friends in Africa who make $400 a month and are expecting a baby. Or our friends in Chadron who recently lost their 6 year old son. And I know life could be a lot worse.
But I don’t just want to say, “What if this is as good as it gets?” and resign myself to it. This isn’t as good as it gets! God has promised us a lot better, right? He has promised that “all things will work together for good to those who love Him.” So we have this hope that even if things are hard now, they will get better, right? Unfortunately, not always in this life. I think of the famous Hebrews faith chapter where all these saints were commended for their faith even though they “didn’t receive what was promised,” and I think that maybe God doesn’t owe us a rainbow or a silver lining. Maybe the storms make us long for the day when the Son will never set. And even though we expect to find a quiet hope and peace and inner joy, sometimes we won’t even feel that. Sometimes we will just feel alone, sick, broke, and depressed. But that will make us want even more to be filled with Christ. I guess I always believed that real Christians, the strong and brave and good ones, never lost hope. I always heard that trials were just to make us closer to God, so after suffering them we would be rewarded with some warm fuzzy feeling that far surpassed anything this life could offer. And then we could tell people, “I’m completely broke, my car doesn’t run, my kids are brats, and I just found out I have cancer, but I’m still happy. Isn’t God good?” But sometimes, I gotta agree with Larry, “I prefer things going well to becoming more like Jesus.” Sometimes I just want my car to work, my basement not to flood, the mice and grasshoppers to go away, and there still be money left over to go to Waterworld. Sometimes I am pretty pathetically shallow. I like it when God answers my prayers the way I want. When He doesn’t, I feel like I am being punished. Maybe I need to change my perspective a little. I need to believe God wants more for me than to have nice things. And when I don’t believe that, I need to want to believe it so badly I am willing to go through whatever it takes to get there. Only then will this life have any meaning at all. “Shattered dreams subject us to a pain that weakens our stubborn grip on life as we want it and stirs our appetite for the thrill of God’s Presence.”