Beauty in difficulty

*This piece is an act of faith tinged with experience.

So you find yourself in the circumstantial doghouse of life. You’re in a proverbial prison and you can’t get out. You’re stuck and stuck fast – nothing’s moving, nothing’s changing, like Joseph was in Genesis – and you can’t see it ever changing. You might be there because it’s your fault or it might not be your fault at all but the questions you’re asking God are: Why? What on earth am I doing here? Where are you?  Why did you let this happen?

So what do you do? What is going on? First of all, my circumstances don’t indicate the degree to which God loves me or enjoys me. That is actually a profound truth if it touches the heart. The truth is: He loves me and that doesn’t change like my circumstances do even though my human mind assumes that an all-powerful God must not like me much if He’s allowed my circumstances to be less than what I would like.

So, Joel, it’s easy to write that and I even believe it in my head but it doesn’t bring much comfort in the middle of a storm. True! So let’s look deeper.

There’s a beautiful, girly song that I listen to sometimes called Beautiful for me. The second verse, the reason I like the song, goes like this, “If it’s true that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder I want my life and what’s inside to give Him something to behold. I want a heart that’s captivating, I want to hear my Father saying, “Has anybody told you, you’re beautiful?”

To understand how God is using the storm we need to see things from His perspective, to see how He sees. Did you know that He wants to share His beauty with you? He wants you to be beautiful like His Son is (Romans 8:29; Isaiah 61:3). He wants you to be a testimony of His beauty to angels and demons forever (Ephesians 3:10).

Do you know what one of the most beautiful things in the universe is? It’s the life of one who overcomes with love and life still burning in their hearts. That is the basis of every story ever written. That is the basis of every movie. If a movie or a book moves your heart I guarantee you that it includes some element of a character overcoming insurmountable odds with love and life burning bright at the end. Why is that so beautiful to us? It’s because it’s Jesus’ story and it’s our story.

The climax of the Song of Solomon involves the bride from whom Jesus has withdrawn and left in difficulty crying out, “Jesus is beautiful and I still love Him and I know His leadership is perfect!” (Song of Songs 5:10).

She can make this cry because she has caught a glimpse of what Jesus is doing in her heart in secret (Song of Songs 4:12-15). In this passage Jesus reveals the truth that, in the midst of suffering, He plants a beautiful garden in the hearts of those who love Him. It’s a secret garden because in the midst of the storm we have trouble seeing it. It’s a garden of fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – Galatians 5:22) that will last forever. If we get sick, that garden will still be beautiful. When we grow old, that garden will still be beautiful. When we die, that garden will go on. There is something about difficulty that stretches our hearts open for Jesus to do this work. It’s why in Psalm 4:1 (look at the Hebrew not at the English translation) David doesn’t write, “You have relieved me in my distress.” He actually writes, “You have enlarged me in my distress.” David doesn’t ask God to take him out of difficulty, he asks for a larger, more beautiful heart. (Hebrews 12:1-11 also captures this truth.)

So my prayer today is that you and I would catch a glimpse of what is truly beautiful. God loves us so much that He’s giving us the gift of eternal beauty. It’s this truth and a little revelation to see what God’s doing inside us that will provide the strength to overcome unpleasant circumstances. I want to see how He’s doing that in my heart. I want to see how He’s doing it in yours. I want to value what is eternal not only temporary. So today if you find yourself in the circumstantial doghouse ask the Lord: Lord open my eyes to see where you’re already working in this situation and how you’re using this situation to form eternal beauty inside of me.

For this light, momentary affliction is achieving for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. – 2 Corinthians 4:17

J. Ratcliffe

2 thoughts on “Beauty in difficulty

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  1. I think the thing he’s doing in mine is…did you ever read Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning? Because that’s what it feels like He’s doing to me. “Trust Me. Trust that you’re accepted. Trust that my power can redeem you from your mis-steps, your screw-ups, your brokenness. Trust Me, amidst the clamour of self-pity and the temptation to go back to self-loathing – trust that I AM who I say I am. Your Saviour.” That’s basically what it feels like at this point in time. Not circumstantially difficult, not really. Just…wrestling with the gospel of grace.

    Liked by 1 person

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