Here we are approaching the end of July! It seems like just yesterday we were preparing for the beginning of summer, with the endless beach trips, barbecues and hikes through the great outdoors. Right when we adjust to the comfortable routine, we see August around the corner, and are reminded to begin planning our children’s return to school, and new work schedules and projects.
Personally, as I’ve been trekking through my second summer as a Youth Pastoral Intern for our church, I’ve been thinking about the transitions going on in my life. I’m sure many of you can relate. When we take a step back, we can see that even our seemingly stable lives reflect a deeper transition between grade levels in school, school and work, singleness and marriage, parent to empty-nester, etc. We all have abundant examples of uncertainty in our pasts and our futures. During these periods it is easy to become overwhelmed by focusing narrowly on alleviating the immediate roadblocks ahead. Here are some things God has been revealing to me regarding uncertain times:
Do not be afraid to experience your emotions
For me growing up, whenever tough times came, my parents told me to hide how I felt because showing emotions was for weak people. But what does the Lord say about this?
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4-5
There is a season for everything, so embrace all the positive and negative feelings during the transition period. Many of the Psalms of David reflected his emotional turmoil throughout the tougher periods in his life. God wants us to be honest with both ourselves and with Him about what we go through. Although He ultimately knows everything about us, He desires for us to have awareness over our emotions because emotions indicate the yearnings within our hearts.
When I was little, my uncle passed away. I was old enough to understand what it all meant, but I brushed it aside in order to think about more uplifting things. My mother’s advice to me to cast aside my internal battles was still a foundational belief I had. I didn’t think much of it for 5 years, until one day, all the feelings came out. Not just about my uncle, but about pent up friend and family issues as well. A healthier way to navigate tough transitional periods is to be aware and honest with ourselves in embracing the seasons God intends to confront and teach us with.
We are not alone
In scripture, as leadership of the Israelites transfers from Moses to Joshua, the Lord reassures Joshua by saying:
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
The Lord is with us. Not only that, but because he is with us, we do not have to fear. What is the scariest part about going through a transition period? For me it is often the sense of loss that comes with realizing that familiar people and places are gone; it is scary to know that many of the consistencies we enjoy are no more. But the most important consistency in all of our lives is that the Lord will be with us wherever we go. This is a personal God who conquered the same struggles, hardships and uncertainties that we go through. This is a father, friend, and brother who sees us and holds our hand through the trials.
Furthermore, he reveals himself through our church community and close friends! There is a reason why Paul writes so many letters to the church to exhort and encourage them through tough times. He calls for us to “carry each other’s burdens” and by doing this, “fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). This life was not made for us to go through our own trials and difficulties alone. Our church family is a mechanism God uses to reveal his love to us.
How many people around you know your deepest prayers? How many people do you pray for knowing their full circumstances? How often do you receive encouragement and offer to carry one another’s burdens? For a lot of us, the loving church community brought us to Christ in the first place. What a difference it makes to have brothers and sisters around us to pray and talk with. Let us not forget the importance of finding close family to share our struggles with.
The journey, not the destination (cheesy)
Lastly, the journey of difficulty, heartache, trouble, and uncertainty is the journey of life itself. Often times, God doesn’t show us the final destination, or the result of his plans. Moses wandered forty years in the desert and did not reach the promised land. But that is not the point. The encouraging fact is that the pressure on us to achieve a tangible result is off. It is about trying to honor God as much as we possibly can. It is about the heart behind the actions. Pastor Gabe always encourages me when I complain about the struggles of adulthood that “God is just as interested in the fruit being born in you as he is the fruit being done through you”.
With that in mind, the last piece of wisdom I was reminded of this summer was David’s training before battling Goliath. Before he engaged in the famous fight, he was known by few, and did not have high status in society. Even his family did not believe in his abilities. Yet he remained faithful, that by tending his sheep everyday, God would see his heart. So when we are confronted with situations with seemingly menial significance, we are to hold fast and stay faithful to the things God puts in front of us. As we go through our week I encourage all of us to remember the journey and remain faithful in the face of adversity.
God bless you!