Being faithful is a messy thing indeed

I originally wrote this post three months after having my son, and two and a half years before coming to Christ.

In that time, my life has changed dramatically. I had this post hidden for awhile; but for the sake of seeing the change of perspective that comes with time and growth, I thought it would be worth sharing it again.

I was told today that the things I’ve used for years in building the groundwork for my identity are misguided. These purposes I’ve had and decisions I’ve made are attempts to create a kingdom for myself, to raise up the value of my own doings, to prioritize the things that I deem most important in my life, and to ignore the road that was given and planned for me from the time before I was born; that is, unless I am doing each and every one of those things, in a way that reflects a life -that we as humans can comprehend- the God of the bible hoped for us to lead.

I may be paraphrasing to a degree, but essentially in summary of what I was told, if what I’m doing, thinking, saying, (fill in the verb), doesn’t fit into the box of my life that directs me to where I’m going and doing, than it needs to be taken out of the box promptly. The difficult part of this easy-to-say task is that the box needs to contain things that 100% reflect Jesus and the infinitely (hard to comprehend) goodness that he is. The problem is, I’m 100% human. I’m 100% a mess, One-hundo P stressed, 10/10 anxiety ridden, check all the boxes worried about the idea of not being in complete control of my life and the things that surround me. Fear of giving up control and putting forth that amount of faith, to something that supposedly created me, is a constant and overwhelming struggle. The thought of being able to lead my life in the same ways I already am, but with the knowledge that if I’m doing it in a way that reflects infinite love, compassion, gentleness (oh, the fruits of the spirit), kindness, goodness, self-control, etc, if I’m doing it in that way, then no matter how often I might make a mistake, no matter how difficult life will get, it should in theory, all work out for me just fine on a God-level scale.

The problem is, when I think I’ve got it. When a small task needs to be done and I think to myself, I don’t need God’s help with this one. When Rachel and I realize that her time on maternity leave is coming to an end because of bills that are stacking up, and I think to myself, “if only we had planned for a kid”, or “if I work 20 more hours a week, maybe she won’t have to get a job”, or thinking about quitting my life of coffee shop work even though I really enjoy it. I generally always think I’ll be able to take care of whatever the issue is, because I have to, because I can’t rely on anyone else to see how pressing these things are, because I’m the man of the house (I don’t actually want that 50-year-old stereotypical role, the cards have just fallen in that directions at this point in our lives), because sometimes -more often that not- I don’t think God is all that interested in helping me out, because I am a screw up; in my eyes at least.

My dilemma becomes most prevalent in these moments. I am offered a promise of many things that seem unobtainable in this earthly world we live in. The promise offers me many things: peace, being allowed to relinquish all my fears of failure, not needing to be afraid of embarrassing myself, not needing to hold myself accountable for other peoples actions. This promise also allows me to not need concern myself with more global issues: climate change, “concentration camps”, questions about the LGBTQ community in relation to the church denomination I grew up in, the lies of the political realm, and anything that might create anxiety for me in my life.

The promise is hard for me to grasp. After talking to some young adults that heard the same message, their viewpoint was so matter-of-factly about the idea of giving your concerns up, that it made me want to laugh out of frustration. How can I just stop worrying and know that if I keep Jesus in my mind, in my heart, and at the forefront of why I do every action I do in a day, my life will work out in the way my creator has destined for it to? Is there still free will if I’m giving my will up to him?

Thinking about these questions always brings to mind the parable of the three men and their talents (money). I always feel like I’m the 2nd man; in that I’m too afraid to do anything with the gift I am given. I’m too afraid of doing the wrong thing and therefore I do no thing. I simply go through each day trying to maintain a neutral force when I know full well that my mind and my heart do feel strongly about things, they try to urge me into action and I never act.

That could just be my 8.5/10 level anxiety speaking though. I’m just not sure. Really, I’m never sure. Fake it until you make it, right?

Peace? My mind and my heart toy with the idea. They roll it around in their hands. They listen to the word. The think about the feathery light feeling that accompanies the word. The lungs-full weightlessness. The tingling in the arms and back of the neck. The thought of being able to relinquish control to a greater power, to be comforted by the fact that the right path for this life could only be found by doing such a thing, it makes me laugh. The laugh is one of those that have a lot of skepticism, and a lot of hurt, and a lot of doubt behind it.

Surely it’s not that easy.

What if, though? I’m not normally one to cherry-pick bible verses, but there are a couple that present and offer the promise I’ve been talking about:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. …

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Not that completely resigning yourself to the fact that there is a higher power taking care of you is easy, far from it in fact. It is just that the next step seems to be even more difficult, for me at least.

The part about making sure everything you do fits into the 100% about Jesus box, surely that is impossible. Surely no one but Jesus himself has been able to do that. Who knows, you know?

All I know is that when I begin to open my heart to the idea of infinite goodness being able to fill it, to the idea of not obsessing over the things I truly can’t control or affect, and to the idea that I am enough, I start to feel giddy. The back of my neck starts to loosen. I want to go tell people how I’m feeling so maybe they can see how this release is affecting me. I want to share it. I want to share it so bad that when I feel like I’m not doing that, I begin to grow sad. I begin to feel like I failed with bringing this feeling to other people. I start to feel like I did all at the very beginning of this.

And this is when I feel like I’m back at square one. I do wish there was a mental checkpoint where if I lose the progress I had, I could start over, but there’s not. Feeling like I have to trudge through all of that uncertainty and confusion again sounds like too much, and it takes weeks or months until another talk or act convinces me to try again. To try taking everything out of my box that isn’t 100% Jesus and replacing it with him, feels like an overwhelmingly large task. At the same time though, it feels like the right task. The glimpses of it I’ve seen and felt feel more worth it than a number of things I’ve put vastly larger amounts of time and energy into. I want to think I’m ready for it to, I want to think I’m ready to accept something that will ease the difficulty, and grow the joy of my life, if I just accept it.

This whole idea reminds me largely of C.S. Lewis’ book, The Great Divorce. It has been quite a few years since I read this novel, but it left a larger and longer-lasting impression on me than many other books I’ve read in my life. The gist of the novel is that we are always able to be in union with the Lord, but, we have to be willing to accept that our wills are based on earthly desires. We must be able to let go and move beyond those earthly desires to be in a heavenly place with him, on earth or in heaven.

It is an odd situation I find myself in, being able to move back and forth between these ideas so quickly. It feels like a fractured duality. On one side: I’m frustrated with religion, I refuse to give up the idea that I can handle everything on my own, I question whether or not there is truly a God, and a Devil, a heaven, and a hell, I question the purpose of life as well. Then I feel like I’m waking up, and I suddenly know that there is a God, love is the answer to many of life’s problems and grand questions (not 42), religion is flawed in many ways but a good vehicle for the belief and worship of God, and I can fully give up my life in the pursuit of him, and everything will be more than okay, life will begin to be more as it should, more as it was created to be.

I just have to commit and make that choice, and I hope that I decide soon, because, in reality, I am tired of trying to force my way through the world. It’s exhausting, and if there’s a better way of going about it, I’m all in.


New Update Available

My phone died today.

Well, that might be an exaggeration. I guess I should say that the ability to use all the normal functions on my phone died today.

I’ve been having issues over the last few months with sending group texts; couple this with having a charging port that hardly works, and a broken speaker that leads me to not being able to hear most notifications that my phone would normally alert me to, my phone is really on the decline. I can live with the charging port and the unseen notifications, that’s fine.

Sometimes the messages go through. Sometimes the messages take hours to send. Rarely they’ll go through all together. I figured out a trick with the long group texts where if I screenshot the message, then send it as a picture it will go through. Regardless of what does and doesn’t work, and needless to say, this is not how it should be happening. What’s causing me far more annoyance and difficulty is the messages not sending. Over the last few days, the problem has somehow managed to get worse. The messages now look like they successfully sent on my end (says the checkmark next to the text), but the recipient will never have gotten them, and this is only on some of the messages that I send. If my phone is going to have a problem, the least it could do is to be consistent. This whole problem is frustrating, awkward, and inconvenient.

I know, there’s many solutions to this problem: buy a new phone, seek tech support, or even just call people individually. I’m stubborn though and refuse to spend money on a new phone unless it’s shooting sparks out of the cracked screen (forgot to mention that).

I even tried a factory reset of my phone today in hopes that it might resolve all the issues. Unfortunately I don’t think it really did anything other than create the annoyance of having to resubmit all my passwords and login credentials to apps or websites I frequent.

The next step would be to reset my sim card information…blah…technical details…blah blah….boring things….what’s the point of all this moaning about how hard my life is because of my phone’s slow descent into madness?

I would agree with someone that may be reading this and thinking, why should I care? Except I don’t agree, because to me this feels like a very real problem with potentially bad side effects. For some reason, I feel wildly isolated and disconnected from not only the people I’ve sent these (unread?) messages to, but also in some way disconnected from the whole world. Even though I still have access to virtually everything I did before this malfunction, for some reason the lack of 100% functionality makes me feel this way.

Why is my phone causing me so much uneasiness and discontentment? Why, as someone that has had a spiritual experience with God, do I not feel these same kinds of things when I’m not talking to or sourcing myself from God? Should I feel guilty because I don’t feel the same way? Should I feel unsure of how strong my faith actually is? I don’t think the answer to either of those questions is yes. I think it actually presents an opportunity for growing in my faith, and reprioritizing what is actually important to me in my daily life.

God is not flashy. God is not noisy. God doesn’t send push notifications. God is not a cell phone. God’s far more.

God desires relationship and intimacy with us, but is also respectful of our free will and allows us the time and power of choice to come into that relationship of our on volition. Similar in many ways to the what I think of when I think of a parental relationship: with my four year old I’ve learned that no matter how hard I push, he just doesn’t share the same interests in hobbies and entertainment that I do. I don’t push it onto him, but I do harbor a hope that he’ll eventually take the same enjoyment that it from I do. God sits and waits for us, and hopes we’ll join him.

God is up at 6:00 am hoping we’ll join him for early morning coffee; instead we often choose to sleep in. God is in our passenger seat as we speed to work because we took too long to throw our lunch into a container; instead we choose to continue speeding as we tightly grip the steering wheel we’re hunched over. God walks in tandem with us as we mow the lawn, and instead of talking to him over the din of blades cutting grass, we turn up the sound of our newest podcast, to drown out the noise of the mower and God’s voice.

The possibility for connection is always right there and yet I choose to remain unaware. And because of the times I choose to remain unaware in those small moments, the moments slowly amount to a stagnation of relationship and the drying up of hearing his voice.

How do I develop and fear losing my ability to talk with God and have relationship with him, in the same way that I fear and am caused anxiety by a piece of technology not working correctly? Or how can I learn from the ways my daily life flows and functions around my phone?

My first thought is to remember the good times in talking to God, just like I remember how when I initially got my phone the ease and consistency of it working as it was supposed to.

A recurring theme in the book of Genesis is forgetfulness. God and the ways he has been faithful to his children and how he has come through for them in their times of hardship. For example, after the flood, Noah plants a vineyard and eventually finds himself in a drunken stupor. In my opinion, he most likely did this to avoid the trauma of the events of the flood. He chose the easy way out, the comforting way out, rather than maintain relationship with the God that warned him of, and protected him throughout the course of the flood. Regardless of whether or not the flood story is a word for word account, or some creative liberties were taken to create a more interested parable, the theme of remain close to what has been good and faithful to you rather than trying to make your own way, or believing that what has been good will not continue to be good is a goal to remember. When we enter into darkness, we must remember that our vision still works, and that the sun (in this case, hope) will always rise again. If you keep the conversation flowing between you and God, you’re now walking through the darkness with a flaming torch that provides you light, heat, and the ability to create fire. You now have a source of protection and peace until the sun does rise again; in fact, the source of protection and peace. If you stop talking to God during the darkness, your fire goes out.

My second thought is recognizing and reacting to the symptoms of not talking to God.

My life is significantly more difficult when I begin following my own path and believing my choices are the best ones for my life. It’s as though I’m malfunctioning, responding slowly, freezing up, and I need a reset; just like a cell phone when it needs to be updated or it’s becoming obsolete. When I reset though, thankfully I have a stored backup (just like my phone). My backup comes in the form of something I heard referred to as “pillars of faith” that is referred to in the old testament: in the book of Joshua, God tasks Joshua with having the twelve tribes of Israel collect twelve stones to acts as stones of remembrance for the future children of the tribes; when the future sons and daughters would ask what they meant, they would be able to be reminded of when the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground, just as God had created a path through the Red Sea for the Israelites in captivity. When I find myself in situations of needing to remember, to “back-up” or “reset” my life, I remember my own stones of remembrance, or pillars of faith as I often call them. I use these to “restore” my own settings and be returned to my fully and correctly functioning state without any bugs or errors.

My third thought is how I should respond to God in a more devoted and reliant manner than my phone.

When Apple releases a big firmware update, or even a new phone model iteration, people flock to the stores en masse. People anticipate, review and immerse themselves in the newness of the things; you could even say people rejoice over it. As technology has gained more and more ground over the years and planned obsolescence has become an increasingly used technique of these companies, so few people are happy with their old phone or software. Even though there is usually some kind of sacrifice to acquire this newness, be it the monetary sacrifice of a purchase, or the sacrifice of time in waiting for a download, people still clamor to this new thing because it’s different, better, and more capable. Are people (and I myself) really so pacified and shallow that the desire for “better” stops at wanting a better phone, a better car, a better home? Why should I not desire to upgrade myself as a person? I’m not talking about Neuralink (big pass on that), I’m talking about who I am supposed to be as a person, the identity I was created for but maybe haven’t embraced yet, or have only embraced in part. If I were to seek this upgrade, in the same way that our old phone or firmware get replaced by the newer, cooler, better thing, we should replace our old selves with new. We must be careful though not to try and craft our own firmware version, or some kind of Frankenstein of old phone parts into what may look like a cell phone. There is a trustworthy developer that we should go to, that knows know what they’re doing. If we try to attempt our own upgrades, we may just end up creating more bugs that are too numerous to crush and to resilient to kill. Plus, the manufacturer has top of the line updates and security features that will keep us up to date if we just remember to install them.

The last reason that I can think of (for this list at least) is how in the same way our phones charge to have any functionality at all, we must also charge up to be able to have functionality and serve in the same ways we’re meant to. I’m not referring to the process of sleep, or consuming calories for energy, or even a quick espresso to make myself believe that I’m less tired, I’m referring to installing a whole new battery, a secondary battery that allows more power draw and capabilities than you ever had with just one. Abiding, dwelling, being present with, meditating, or my personal favorite “walking with God in the cool of the evening”, these are all ways of filling our spiritual and most powerful battery. I’ve seen it daily in my life when I am purposefully present with God that my day goes better. The same can be said for my wife and those in my life that follow Christ. The best thing about him is that he is a perpetual motion machine, he is infinite energy, just waiting for us to plug in so that we never have to be charged back up. We don’t receive the energy if we’re not plugged in though, and that’s why spending time with him in his word, in conversation, and in walking out his ways is so important. That’s what charges us with his love and truth.


The Fertility of Destruction

One of the most frequently asked, and basic (though fair and understandable) questions regarding Christianity is this: “If God loves humanity and creation so much, why does God allow for such incomprehensible suffering?”

Suffering is a prevalent theme in life. It is as much a guarantee (most times a requirement) as breathing is from the moment you are born. If someone gave you one minute to think of five examples of suffering in the bible, I’m confident you would come up with at least twice that many. I’d have the same level of confidence if I asked you to come up with five examples for your own life.

When I think of the word suffering in regards to the word (the Bible), immediately, three examples come to mind: the beginning of suffering when Adam and Eve must leave the garden; the story of God’s favored servant, Job; and the humble sacrifice of Christ in the last days of his life.

Suffering is so often seen with negative connotations that we forget the potential hidden behind it. I should be clear that I am not speaking as some kind of a masochist: I do not seek, enjoy, or desire that others experience pain of any sort. As I see it, the goodness or silver lining of pain is not one that resides on the surface of the thing; the goodness of suffering is compacted under layers and layers of complexity, like a diamond. Also, along with many things in life, the blessing of suffering may not appear until long after you were alive with the hopes that you would see the comfort and peace of leaving the suffering behind. Humans are finite, limited, and virtually blind as far as the incomprehensible perspective that is required to understand the inner workings of the world and all that goes on in it. Simply, I believe we often don’t have the ability to appreciate the gift of suffering when we do experience it; in the same kind of way a child throws a fit when they are stopped from eating the sweet that will cause an excruciating stomach ache. The pleasure of a sugar rush and the taken-for-granted absence of pain may make the child think the sweet is a good idea, but the parent knows that withholding the sweet will be better for the child in the long term. Suffering may seem unpleasant to us now, but if we can endure it and take strength from God and his kingdom, it will save us from the darkness that lurks hungrily on the other side of the room of suffering.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
James 1: 2-4

The following is 95% opinion, and 5% understanding gleaned from reading and attempting to discern the bible. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I have recently gained some peace from coming to terms with this question from the following thoughts and scriptures. This is not a peer reviewed journal, and this is not the end-all-be-all in regards to the topic.; as I said, this is mostly my personal opinion and experience.

The writing below examines and addresses one small facet of an incredibly complicated multilayered topic; according to my own, very limited, experience and knowledge.

The particular question is this: what is God’s purpose in allowing suffering? The answer I have chosen at this time in my life revolves around the idea of how we react to those circumstances. Though I’m sure there are many more, the choices of response to the suffering we experience I have (as of late) settled on are the following. First: we choose to fight the pain, writhe in the discomfort of suffering, curse the heavens at the of the unfairness of it, and eventually have some aspect of us die from it; or second: we choose to take on the suffering in the same way we train our muscles to become stronger, by straining and tearing the identities and beliefs of our old selves with suffering (exercise), in order that our old selves may die in the pursuit and growth of a new, stronger, and better self in God’s kingdom. There are obviously more options in regards to the responses you are allowed in the participation of suffering, but these are the choices I have settled on as of late and the ones I wanted to explore for the purpose of this essay.

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—
2 Corinthians, 4: 8-9

I was recently asked a series of questions that has created this curiosity and intrigue regarding destruction in it’s various forms and how it fits into the kingdom of God that I have somewhat recently found myself a participant of.

The questions (paraphrased) are as follows:

#1) How can God allow pain? For example, In his most seemingly blatant disregard for his children and what they may suffer, how can he allow a child to develop cancer and die?

35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”
Mark 5:35

#2) If my life seems to be relatively easy and free of harm as of now, it seems apparent that if I decide to follow God, me or my family will be punished as some sort of test, like in the story of Job. Why would I choose to possibly subject myself, my family, and my friends to that?

19 when a storm swept in from the desert. It blew the house down and killed them all. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.” 20 Then Job got up and tore his clothes in grief. He shaved his head and threw himself face downward on the ground. 21 He said, “I was born with nothing, and I will die with nothing. The Lord gave, and now he has taken away. May his name be praised!”
Job 1:19-21

#3) Is God a good God, or is he an unhinged, inconsistent, and vengeful God? As if he were an alcoholic father?

23 By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24 Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land.
Genesis 19: 23-26

The other day, as I was dwelling on these questions, I had a picture come into my mind: in it was a beautiful plain and in the far distance, a volcano. The plain was lush, full of thriving greenery, teeming with wildlife, and it had plenty of sustenance for any living creature there; not to mention ample shelter from the rain, snow, or sun. This plain is perfect, an Eden of sorts, tucked away and undisturbed by the bothers of the world.

But after a short time, the volcano explodes; it destroys the ecosystem and rains a thick layer of ash over everything I had seen. Soon, what I had envisioned becomes a wasteland caked with gray mud.

The destruction remains for years and years. What was once beautiful is now no longer so, and in some ways no longer even in existence.

One thing about volcanic lands is that regardless of whether the affected area is covered by volcanic ash, or by a cooled lava field, eventually the field will turn into a fertile land that brings rise to a great abundance of new life. It may (and probably will) take a longer time than we are around to witness, but new life always arises out of this destruction; often different life as well.

In our lives, when we are blessed and fortunate to receive and live in a fertile plain, one day a volcano may erupt and it may cause the destruction of everything we know. It could come in the form of a death in the family, financial ruin, crippling illness, even the wavering of your spiritual faith from a known or unknown source. The difference I see between the potential of fertile land in nature, and the potential fertile land (financial well-being, healthy family, full faith) in our lives is that nature doesn’t question whether or not it is supposed to return to its prior state (that of greenery, life, fertility), it simply does because that is it’s purpose. To grow, be bountiful, and flourish. It knows its instructions from its creator.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. 3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. 4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
-Psalm 19:1-4, NIV

We as humans often let that destructive reset be the final say. We cannot comprehend that type of complexity with the simplicity that nature does; of returning to our prior beautiful lives, even though things may (and probably are) now very different. We often do not believe that it is possible, we often believe that we have been to scarred too greatly to even be recognized anymore.

The thing is though, we were made to do just that. We were made to go through trials, we were made to become unrecognizable, we were made to learn how to be new creations; the first time I saw this was after finally being brought down to my knees because of mental health issues.

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Corinthians 5:17

I had been going through these mental health struggles for years (depression and anxiety being my number one enemies), but I was now convinced that I was so far gone that I would have to resort to some kind of experimental treatment to help me. To avoid an even longer story, I finally gave up and gave in to God. It was the thing people had told me to do for months if not years, but part of the difficulty came because it went against everything I understood about the world, and specifically about the American society I grew up in. We are supposed to strive, to suck it up when it gets hard, and to eventually succeed (maybe with failures, but the position I was in didn’t feel like I had that option); and if we don’t, then it can feel as though we’ve been designated as failures. When I finally did give in, or gave up to God (as is now a funny way of thinking about it), I felt like I had left my body and was now facing it as some kind of disembodied mind as I talked to myself, and asked “why did you let this go on for so long? Why didn’t you do it sooner? Why wouldn’t you let yourself be wrong, be humble, and accept help when it was offered to you?” When I finally come out of this revelatory ecstasy, I truly did not recognize the person I was; it was wonderful, but also equally scary.

One of the greatest things I’ve been able to recognize since my regeneration/salvation/accepting Jesus, is that humility, in its truest form, is a life-altering trait. In moments of clarity, when I’m living in that spiritual relationship, living in that kingdom of God on Earth, I catch glimpses of the humility that allowed Jesus to wash other’s feet; the humility that allowed Jesus to eat and commune with the downtrodden; and most importantly, the humility that allowed him the understanding and confidence to die for the uncountable number that he did. When I catch glimpses of this humility, I desire it so much that I would give anything to be in it always; but then the river of life sucks me back in. This is a daily battle.

What is my point in saying all this? That through dying to my old self, and seeing the importance of humility, I understand that I can’t possibly fathom the way the world turns and the pain and destruction that inhabits it. But I can understand that those things, while many are tragic beyond explanation, are opportunities. They are chances for us to turn the gray mud of post-destruction into fertile ground that will eventually bring much life

In my opinion, the Earth knows it’s place, it knows it’s creator. It has the same desire to partake of the kingdom that I do. There is of course, no “science” in that statement, but when you experience your first personal connection with God it first hand, it’s difficult to believe that the world wouldn’t know who its creator is.

We were made to try again after the unthinkable, we were given the strength, knowledge, and spirit of God that would allow us to push out the first budding leaf of greenery through an otherwise apparently barren land. We were given a way to return more bountifully and beautifully than before. The amazing things is that this is not a one time thing. The fertility that resides in the death and destruction of all that we know is God’s spirit in us. He is the reigniting of our lives and existence after tragedy and he is the ability to move forward in hope and joy without forgetting.

As humans, having the ability to change everything we know about ourselves, from old to new, is a gift we take for granted far too often.

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.”
Romans 6:6–7

What’s important, and also wildly difficult in the nature of being a human, is allowing that new growth to flourish rather than stifling it. If we do stifle the growth, than the destruction is fully realized; it becomes true. If you know anything about the stock market, it’s somewhat like having bought stocks that are now worth less than what you paid for them. If you sell them now, the loss is realized and you have lost money; but if you wait just a little bit longer, the stock will possibly rise and the gain can be realized. We must not give in when we’re at our lowest point because the rise of potential in our lives may be just around the corner.

When the volcano in your life erupts, will you till and water the fertile soil to allow for new growth, or will try to stifle it because what has happened and what you see leaves you hopeless? Know that life always arises from death in nature; so through the different “deaths” or “tribulations” we experience in life, we are given opportunities with God walking right next to us to reinvent and return to better versions of ourselves from these traumatic experiences. The experiences may change the flow of the river of our lives, but it’s solely up to us to determine if we dry the river up or if we redirect the river to keep it flowing, so the volcanic soil can grow into something more beautiful.

To live, and to grow from suffering, the mindset must be one of humility and hope.

I want to be as strong as the green life that sprouts from the earth in the field of gray. I want to be have the self-control, courage, and hope to push through the agony of suffering. I look at what is offered to me, and I pray that I will be strong enough to take it in the times I do experience suffering, because as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. When you see through the fire of suffering to the other side, it is not a surprise to feel joy knowing that you will soon be there with God’s help.