Last week I made four trips to the doctor. One for me, one for a sick kid, and two for my other sick kid. I spent the week trying to ease muscle spasms in my neck, which have afflicted me for three weeks. I had several frustrating and discouraging social interactions. And I nearly cried over spilled milk–literally.
My husband and I both grew deeply and desperately weary of political campaigns. In our house we ran fans one day and the furnace the next, as the weather swung from 78 to 31 degrees. We had far too little time together, far too little sleep, and far too many bills to pay. We helped our kids navigate the drama-laced world of preteen girls, paid for car repairs we couldn’t afford, and fought another round in the annual battle to shut our 50-year-old rickety windows against the approaching Chicago winter. And at the end of the week, our to-do list was still way too long.
These are the complaints of a middle-class suburban American with a good life–petty by comparison to what others face. I talked to a friend whose husband lost her job, another friend who lost her own job, and yet another who asked me to pray for a little boy whose leukemia will keep him in chemo treatments for the next three years. And it gets worse–much worse. This is a world where teenage boys kidnap and kill little girls. Where women young and old are routinely beaten, maimed, and killed for the crime of being female. Where each year, 1.5 million children under 5 die of diseases that could have been prevented by routine vaccines.
It was one of those weeks that reminds me that living for my own comfort, peace of mind, and happiness is probably the best way to ensure I’ll never achieve them. We just don’t live in that kind of world.
Yet I did find comfort and plenty to enjoy. I spent time with people I love. I treasured the colors of another autumn. We found the money to pay our bills; we were warm enough; and three trips to the local pharmacy got us the medicines we needed to fight a case of strep, a sinus infection, and those pesky muscle spasms. I savored a homemade vegetable soup that nourished my body and tasted great. And I found some direction and meaning in my work.
In all these things, I saw grace. Straight from the heart of a God who overflows with it and designed a world that still demonstrates it to people, despite all we have done to destroy this place. A God who has been good to me and close to me and has given me the only really good reasons I have for plodding along my life’s path.
I know some people laugh at that. I know it’s not popular these days to believe you know something that’s true. I know some would scoff at a view that reflects so little faith in humanity and so much in a God my eyes have never seen. That sees every good thing as coming from the hand of a benevolent and personal God who actually loves every single one of us.
I know some other people think it’s fine to believe, as long as belief doesn’t take over your life and you don’t talk about it much. As long as you never, ever suggest that what you believe is actually true.
Here’s the deal: I don’t know any other way to live. I can and do respect others’ conflicting beliefs. But if I believe that what Christ said was true (and I do), and if his life and death on earth revealed his character, how could I not build my life around that belief? How could I love him with only a small portion of my heart? How could I possibly believe in him and simultaneously decide there’s some other point to my years on this planet?
We were never meant to live in a world like this one. It’s no wonder we feel such grief when faced with the mess we’ve made of it. No wonder we feel such pain when the consequences of our willfulness collide with our will. We spend our lives ignoring death’s hot breath on the back of our necks–and suddenly it strikes with a bite we never could have been ready for.
In a way I’m thankful for weeks like this, even though if I could, I’d design a world where they never happen. I take comfort in knowing that God once did design such a world–this one–and he will do it again. Such weeks tend to purify my faith, to awaken me from the stupor that comes from getting so comfortable in this world that I actually start to believe its distractions are the best I have to hope for. I’m with the apostle Paul, who declared, “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).
Does that mean giving up on finding the good in this world? Not at all–it means watching for it and thanking God for it. But it also means living with my eyes on what will last. Because if I lived without forever in view, I’m afraid I’d be shocked someday to discover that it was here all along.
© 2012 Amy Simpson.