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Bittersweet.

Look! Two posts less than a month apart! Boy, am I with it or what? (Though I’m ignoring the groceries that need to be put int he cupboard, the dishes that need to be done, the laundry that needs to be folded, the supper that needs to be made, AND the library books that need to be returned to write this . . . so maybe I’m not “with it” at all. Ahem.)

A friend who blogs* recently wrote a post describing her current life. God has blessed her in many ways, and somewhere in her writing she said, “I’m in love with my life and with the God who gave it to me.”

I don’t know why that stuck out to me the way it did, but that phrase has been nagging at me since I read it. Because, some days, I am not in love with my life. In fact, reading about the specific blessings God has given to this friend, I caught myself thinking, “Of course you love your life! You have everything you could want!” Jealousy hissed, and superiority smirked. “Why does she get things so easily?” said Jealousy. “You’re certainly more spiritual, since your life is more difficult,” said Superiority.

But these old enemies are wrong. I don’t actually know all the circumstances and trials this sweet woman faces–just like I won’t share every detail of the difficult things I might face here. But even in times of smoothness and tranquility, having the right attitude does not come easily; we are tempted to still long after more, or look at our blessings as being earned and deserved. And certainly, undergoing one specific trial doesn’t automatically boost our levels of spirituality. We remember the stories of the saints who faced bitter and difficult times–but there are many, many saints to whom God has given a sunnier path. Abraham had every material possession imaginable, didn’t he? Yet he was a righteous man.

So I squelched the voices that wanted to drag me down into a bitter, sinful swamp, and I thanked God for the blessings He bestowed on this woman. He is truly good all the time to all His children.

And yet . . .

I am not in love with my life. The thought kept nagging.

Did this mean that I do not love the God who has assigned this path to me? Is such a  thought a symptom of a faithless heart and a discontented spirit? Or is possible that God leads us through seasons where we can cling to Him in love and in trust, recognizing that the circumstances surrounding us are less than lovable?

Certainly those affected by the recent fires and floods and hurricanes and earthquakes do not love what God has done–but they can still love God Himself.

Certainly the apostle Paul did not love being in prison–but he saw and rejoiced at the good God brought from it.

Certainly Horatio Spafford did not love the circumstances that led to the penning of his timeless hymn–but he recognized that underneath the sorrows, it was well with his soul.

I do not compare myself to the victims of Harvey, or to believers persecuted for their faith, or to those who have lost the people dearest to their hearts. I see and give thanks for the thousands of beautiful things God has graciously given me: peace with Him. A wonderful husband. A nice home. Forgiveness every day. Provision for Logan’s school bill. Friends to laugh with. A cat (yes, this is an undeserved blessing of God–she makes the evenings when Logan’s away a little less lonely!). Peace and joy. Flowers in my windowsill. A good night’s sleep. A car with working air conditioner. Yarn to crochet with, a piano to play, warm blankets to snuggle under, a recipe for low-carb waffles . . . The list of things–both trivial and eternally significant–could go on forever.

But somehow, at the same time, I realize that there are situations that I wish were different. They do not need to be listed–that would too easily turn to complaining, which is not the point of this post–but they exist, and I imagine you, too, can think of at least a few things that you would change if you could. These are the things we take to God in prayer, the things that too often lead to grouchiness instead of gratitude, the things we must choose to find joy in.

I felt this conundrum for a while. If I really love God, does that mean I must be excited when bad things happen to the people I love? If I am really thankful, does that mean I must be filled with gladness when things don’t go as I wish they would?

Can I be thankful and sad at the same time?

I think that the answer to that last question is yes. When Jesus prayed all night in the garden, agonizing over the suffering He would endure, “I love my life!” were not the words on His lips. “Your will be done,” He prayed–but only after He said “Please take this cup away from me.”

Compared to the pain Jesus suffered, of course my little burdens shrink to inconsequential specks of nothingness. And compared to the burdens many others undergo, the things that grieve me seem light. But this does not mean I  must force a smile and grit through it, preaching “It’s not that bad!!” to myself day in and day out.

No.

God accepts my sorrow and He comforts me on the days when I hurt. He reminds me of the blessings He has bestowed on me and does not let me forget His unfailing love. He allows me to grieve, and at the same time, gives me peace to say Your will be done. I do not have to explain away or ignore the bad things in life to accept the fact that God is good–somehow, in a way I do not yet understand, He is teaching me to temper sadness with contentment and thankfulness with earnest prayer.

Some days are bittersweet–and in those days, God is still good. May He be praised.

*Dear friend who inspired this post: I am truly, truly glad for the way God has blessed you, and I am truly, truly glad your life is lovable right now. I know you’re heading into ministry, and you will face your share of difficult and painful days, so I’m thankful that God has given you this season of gladness first. May He continue to bless you and keep you close to Him!

 

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