Recently I was talking to my mom about the trials people go through in their everyday lives. One of my mom’s best friends is currently fighting a fierce battle with cancer, and the chances of her flesh claiming the victory are rapidly fading. Yet, this strong woman is so incredibly faithful and her Spirit is filled with more joy than ever. This blows my mind, and also serves as a huge encouragement and inspiration to me. She undoubtedly holds the steadfast belief that Jesus has already claimed the victory.
I was talking to my mom about this dear family friend as well as some other rough patches taking place in the lives of friends and loved ones, and I began to think about my own life… and also every person I’d ever known… or heard of… ever. I hate to be a Debby Downer here, but human suffering… It’s inevitable. It’s inevitable that living in a broken world is going to result in broken situations. Every human on earth has that tough time, goes through hell, or walks in the valley of the shadow of death a time or two. I’m not downsizing these situations by any means, I’m just saying they are in fact, indefinitely inevitable. And so I’ve been looking into some scripture recently that encapsulates the meaning of these trials. Specifically, I Peter 2, 2 Timothy, and the story of Job and his crazy and unfortunate whacked-out life. But as I’ve dived into the depths of the topic of human suffering, the truth has been loudly reiterated and made increasingly apparent to me that we all go through trials for a distinct, God ordained reason. These trials are not only inevitable but completely necessary if you allow them to be. Allowing them to be necessary requires you to view them from God’s perspective. An example of this is being able to see yourself as the gold that must go through the fire in order to be purified like in 1 Peter 2. In addition to the fact that we all go through things and there is beautifully intricate planning in all of it, a believed abstraction that came to me was how all of our trials look totally different. Just as you and I are uniquely and wonderfully created, so are our trials. They are incomparable. We are all irrefutably broken and no one has a perfect life, even those who may seem or act like it. But don’t go comparing your situation to others, because this will do no good to a single soul.
As this train of thought kept on making its way, I actually began to put the biggest trial(s) of a person’s life into two pretty distinct categories:
Category 1: Perhaps you were born into the world seemingly innocent, but then “fate” (we’ll just call it that) took its toll and brought upon you some pretty unfortunate circumstances without you having any say in the matter whatsoever. You were left feeling like a helpless victim. You may have been left feeling shameful, hurt and angry, so you take it out on the world around you, on God, or yourself.
Category 2: Or perhaps you had a wonderful childhood with no negative memories, a loving and stable family, and maybe even the circumstances of your adolescent years weren’t too shabby either. So essentially you seemingly brought some sort of storm upon yourself through a poor decision or giving into temptation. Your life was at some point or is currently harboring the consequences, and you are filled with shame, regret, and reoccurring feelings inadequacy to those around you.
Now before you criticize my statement and ponder my ponder, I want to say this was really only my initial thought. And then I began to realize these categories mesh together like the chocolate and vanilla of a Neapolitan ice cream cone on a hot day. But there is still truth in the initial defining difference. Person A who had no say in the trials they were thrown into may feel like a helpless victim. While Person B may struggle with an insane amount of guilt for decisions they made. And so I am not saying every person falls into precisely one or the other, but rather it’s more of a scale which could be tilted to one side or the other. Either way, we are left feeling shameful of who we are and our story, which is exactly what the devil wants. But you don’t have to feel this way because our stories don’t end at that scale.
No matter which category you fall into, or where you are on the line, it does not actually matter. Because the grace of Jesus extends in either direction, to any length, no matter what. All that matters is the no matter what. He has promised grace upon grace, which means there is and always will be enough to cover any amount of shame you’ve ever felt from things that you’ve done or what’s been done to you. For me personally, my story has left me feeling like more of a victim– the Category 1 if you will. It has taken me years to realize and accept that I am no longer a victim when the grace and love of Jesus covers me. This means I am no longer a victim, but rather a victor! Jesus has won the battle and God sees us through the lens of His perfect son. The God of the Universe sees us as His victors. How beautiful. We are victorious. Every story He’s written, including your life, ends the same. It might not seem like it, but in the end you will see that there is an astounding victory that has already taken place. Because in reality, it’s not our story (it never was!), it’s God’s. There is nothing we can do to change that. So if you are going through the valley right now, the greatest advice I can give you is to trust Him. Let go of the fear, worry, anger, shame, doubt or whatever it is you’re holding onto. Have faith and trust in the Lord. Your life is in the hands of the Maker of Heaven.
And so now I just want to close with one of my favorite verses of all time: Johns 16:33.
It 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.”