It’s funny how life works. Like a mosaic, we often can’t see the full picture until we get enough distance on it. I have a friend who is working on a book proposal right now. She is preparing to write a book about how God helps her in her daily life. I happen to know the story of her life very well and have been a witness to many of the twists and turns in her beautiful journey. Because I know her story, she has invited me to help her look over the proposal and make suggestions. She is also getting coached through this process by a successful published author and speaker, which is an amazing opportunity for her. It is a very exciting time in her life, full of hope and optimism – a dream coming true really.
But her life wasn’t always in this expectant place. In fact, most of her life has been one challenge after another with disappointment and heartache intermingled. There have been successes and high points. She has had commendations and recognition for her work and the love of friends in her life, but the overarching themes that rest in her tender human heart have more to do with rejection and loneliness than anything else.
She has battled cancer. She has endured failure. She has survived unemployment. She has suffered loss. And most painful to her is the fact that she has never married. Of all the women I know, she has the greatest heart for homemaking. She is a gourmet cook and a wonderful decorator. She has longed to make a home to share with someone, but to date, that dream has not come true. She has faced endless challenges that would make you want to quit, but she has allowed Goodness to guide her at every turn even though nothing made sense.
We have spent many hours together as friends, holding these disappointments in our hands – mulling them over and looking at them from different angles. We have shed countless tears together and often wondered what the purpose was in trial after trial. It has been difficult not to lose heart – very difficult, and sometimes – together or separately, we did. There are times when life just seems too much and the darkness wants to suffocate the light. Just like with a campfire, the flame must have oxygen to survive. So we would sit together and talk, and in doing so – blow a little on the embers.
The human spirit is truly astounding. It can cling to life and hope with a determination that does not match reason. We want to live. We want to have meaning and purpose. We want to be a benefit to others. And we will fight to survive in spite of debilitating hardship and profound loss. Through much of the journey, nothing seems to make any sense at all. Our heart desires one thing and life deals another. Our goals are deeply set and the course changes. Our plans are shuffled like a deck of cards. Life is indeed a mystery.
As we sit and work together on her book, a deeper theme is beginning to emerge from my friend’s story. One that was not visible along the difficult way. As we dissect and arrange the pieces of her story, it becomes very clear that each one of her challenges fits exactly into the greater message she wants to share. The details of her life are laid out in a way that was clearly not by chance. The message she feels she is to bring to the world has been built – example by example, in the hardship and struggles of her life. It is as if every challenge, doubt, fear and frustration was put in place to allow her to have everything she would need to write this book. The order of things is perfect. It feels like divine order to me.
Here is the simple Goodness in this message. When you are facing insurmountable difficulty in your life – times when nothing is making sense at all, file away the lessons you are learning. Hold them like precious pastels in the artist’s hands. Someday your canvas will be revealed and you will see the divine order of things. You will be able to paint a masterpiece, shape an epic story, and tell a traveler’s tale. The twists and turns of your life have purpose. Just as we see so clearly in nature – there is order, purpose and symmetry to life. But these are not always visible along the way. The butterfly, once caterpillar, cannot see the beautiful symmetry and exquisite detail of her wings – but they allow her to fly. Life is a mystery and Goodness, a guide. Hold fast through the hard times – there is purpose in them.
What do you do to survive the tough times in life? Consider this story...