Have you ever played with a glow stick? You know, the ones that kids love. You pull them out of the package, and they are rather plain, ordinary.
You bend the stick. You hear it break inside. You begin to shake it up. As you break it and shake it, it begins to glow, to shine brightly.
Its ordinary existence suddenly becomes extraordinary. It begins to glow in bright, neon colors. The darkness is pierced by the bright light it releases.
All because it was broken, shook up.
Although your former state was ordinary, your future will be extraordinary. Job 8:7
Isn’t that how we are? We go about living our lives, ordinary as they may be. Until one day, something happens. Unemployment. Financial crisis. Death of a spouse. Adultery. Divorce. Death of a child. Infertility.
Suddenly, we find ourselves broken. Our lives are shattered. Dreams are devastated. Life as we know it is destroyed. We are helpless, hopeless. We find ourselves empty, alone.
But, as Christians, we must believe that brokenness is not the end. We must remember that the central tenet of our faith is resurrection, God’s ability to raise us from the dead…whatever death it might be. We must cling to the hope that God works all things for our good (Romans 8:28). We must believe that he has a purpose in our pain, that he is working something in us that we simply cannot yet see or understand.
We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies….That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, 16-18
Despite all the stuff this world throws at us, God will never leave us nor forsake us. On the contrary, it’s often when everything is stripped away that we begin to understand just how much he loves us, just how faithful he is to carry us through. It’s when we have nothing that we realize we have everything in him.
For me personally, this life that I have today far exceeds anything I knew before I was broken! Having walked through the pain, the loneliness, the isolation… Having lost everything of worldly value… Having experienced human betrayal and pain beyond your wildest imagination… It has all become the greatest gift I could have ever received.
How you might ask?
First and foremost I now have a faith that has been tested. I watch today as my kids struggle with various aspects of their faith…and I rejoice (James 1)! I know that it is only through having our faith tested, only by walking through the doubts and confusion that our faith becomes solidified as our own. Is it easy? Absolutely not! But to have your faith tested and to see it come through the fire refined, pure, mature is one of the greatest gifts one could ever receive on this earth.
God can also use the trials of this world to make us more compassionate, to give us a heart for those around us. For me personally, I always thought that divorce was avoidable if you only followed God. I had little compassion on those who had walked the path of divorce. I felt they were a disgrace, forever disqualified from any type of ministry. I’m so thankful for a God who doesn’t discard us as quickly and easily as we humans do! My heart has grown so much more compassionate toward people. I see them as children of God, desperately in need of the hope of our Savior. I see those who have been torn down by this life, those who just need someone to believe in them, to walk them through the dark days.
And my ministry. I love ministry. I am a minister at heart. My whole life has been about serving God, sharing his love. I had an amazing ministry as pastor’s wife, a ministry of sharing, supporting, encouraging. But through the brokenness of this life, God has given me a new ministry that far surpasses anything I could have ever hoped or imagined (Ephesians 3:20-21)!
But, how do we get from that place of brokenness to a place of extraordinary beauty? When God allows us to be broken, shook up, how do we allow the pain to shape us into his image? How do we allow our brokenness to let us shine like a bright glow stick in a dark room?
Scripture tells us very clearly:
So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:18
We don’t look at the troubles…the unemployment, the hurt, the pain, the crisis. Those things are temporary, seasons that will pass. Looking at the problems, the storms, swirling around us only increases our anxiety and fear.
Instead, we must fix our gaze on those things that cannot be seen, those things that will last forever.
What are those things that we can focus on? The power of our God, the God of the Impossible, the God who is bigger than all of our problems. The gifts that he gives us: courage, strength, perseverance. His presence, the presence that comforts us, guides us, leads us into eternity. His word, the word that gives us supernatural direction, that he enlightens as we open it and seek his face. His promises, promises that all things work for our good, that he will never leave us nor forsake us. The work that he is doing in us, the way he is maturing us and perfecting us. The work that he will do through us, after he has done his work in us.
Too often, we are short-sighted, only seeing the troubles in front of us. We fail to look well into the future, to see the results of enduring the struggle. We see only the problems, and we miss the hand of the one walking through the storm with us. We spend more time focusing on getting out of our circumstances than resting in the one who controls the winds and the waves swirling around us. We spend our time worrying about our problems instead of praying, expecting the peace and goodness of God.
This world can be cruel, hard, painful. But, as Christians, we don’t have to settle for just enduring. Instead, we can look to the One who controls our circumstances, who uses them for our good. We can trust that if he allows us to be broken and shook up, he has a purpose—a purpose that will leave our lives shining brightly for all the world to see.
We can look forward to a time when we will reap the rewards for enduring and exchange our ordinary life for an extraordinary one.