Monday, June 10, 2013

Just One Step Despite The Struggle

"Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it."
Proverbs 13:11
This is such an odd verse to start out with considering what I am about to talk about; never the less, this is where I must begin. I was reading my devotion this morning on the subject of hope which took me to Proverbs 13 where verse 11 happen to catch my eye. The breakdown of this verse is very simple, that which is easily obtained is most often easily let go of, while that which we are forced to work hard for we tend to treat more responsibly. As a child I wanted everything I saw and would get mad when I could not have it. Money meant nothing to a five year old boy with no job. Turning sixteen however and wanting a car required me to go and find a job. After working my tail off for minimum wage and gaining a deeper comprehension of a hard day’s work, what I bought required a much bigger thought process than, "I want that!"
Now I am standing in a different situation, but the principle behind this proverb seems to be able to be applied here also. If you do not know me, I have spent the last 3 years fighting cancer. I am currently in remission, but I have to deal with the aftermath of having had a bone marrow transplant. This has caused a lot of my plans and dreams to change or shatter all together as I have spoken of in previous post. It can be very difficult at times to know how great of a God I serve, a God I know is all powerful and with no effort could restore my body. The question of "why am I still going through this?" consistently crosses my mind. Often times it teems with bitterness and resentment! I mean seriously, what the crap God! But then I look at the flip side of having had to walk this journey out little by little, step by step. I see the good that has come from being forced to remain in this circumstance. Sure I want and would love to be able to wake up tomorrow with all this behind me, but I am (though with great struggle) also joyful to be able to wake up tomorrow and take one more step on this path as little by little my victory is slowing drawing near. A victory that being forced so hard to fight for, I cannot imagine I would ever so easily let go of.
When you are in the midst of your own struggle, to read this seems stupid and dumb. It makes you want to say, "That’s great for you, but you don't know me and what I'm going through." You are right I do not! But here is what I do know. I know what it is like to walk in to my room and sit on my bed and cry until there is nothing left. I know what it feels like to look at tomorrow with no hope of anything better waiting there for me. I know what it is like to want to quit and give up. I know what it is like to sink so desperately low that everything just feels numb and dead inside. I know what it is like to hurt so deeply physically and emotionally that death looks like relief and salvation. I know what it is like to hear someone say "God has a plan for all this" and just want to scream, yell and hit them in the face. I know the anger and the bitterness that has filled my heart as other people's dreams come to life and prosper around me. We are not all walking through the same things, but many of us are feeling the same consequences of the struggle we are in.
I battle these feelings to this day, more than I care to admit, but I press on one step at a time. I do not know how long I will struggle down this road and if it ends in healing or in death. I can worry about whether I will ever make it through all this until I end up making myself sick (and many times I have done just that) but this serves no good purpose! Whether I must walk ten more feet or a thousand more miles, I must first take this next step. That is what is so amazing about having faith in God. Faith does not require me to gather up the strength to finish this journey; faith only requires that I find that little bit of strength to take one step, just one single step. Psalms 37:23 says the steps of a righteous man are ordered by God. Each step you take in overcoming your current circumstance is a step God is ordering, a step God is blessing, a step God is using to get you closer. Isaiah 43:2 shows that God is not always going to teleport us to the other side of the journey; but that if we trust Him, He will protect us as we walk through our struggles. Even though each step we take is hard, nothing changes the simple fact that the second step down this road can never be reached until the first one is taken.

It is a crazy way of thinking, focusing on just one step or one moment at a time when circumstances can be so huge. I am by no means an artsy person, but I can appreciate the talent and skill of being able to take a piece of stone or a few colors and create such beautiful masterpieces that are showcased all over the world. Works of art that are so inspiring and beautiful that people travel thousands of miles and pay money and wait in lines just to be able to look at Michelangelo's David or Di Vinci's Mona Lisa or Van Gogh's Starry Night or Alexandros' Venus de Milo. Despite the intricate and delicate process in creating these masterpieces, they all started the same way: just a single brush stroke or chisel and then another and another. Stroke after stroke, chisel after chisel, beauty began to emerge until finally the artist stepped back and saw that the work was complete. Little by little wealth is built, little by little beauty is created, and little by little life changes and struggles do end!
I told you earlier I got so mad at someone when they would tell me, "God has a plan for all this." Well now let me give you that same opportunity to hate me and want to hit me in the face. I have seen the good has been brought out in other people as I have walked this  struggle out. The only reason I can stand here now is because of the people that surrounded me, prayed over me, encouraged me and reminded me I still have purpose and meaning despite everything cancer has taken. How insane that without even trying to do anything other than survive, I was helping to strengthen and grow the very people who are helping encourage and strengthen me. I was in no way trying to do anything for them. I looked at my life in those dark moments as being insignificant and pointless; and yet all the while, God was using what I thought to be a mundane meaningless life to help encourage people to hang on and take one more step through their own struggles.
See, it is not that we win the war, it is that we fight the battle! It does not even matter at the end of the day if I have stumbled again as long as I get back up! That is what changes the world, that is what pulls others up out of darkness. Do not fool yourself into believing people do not see or know your struggle, hurting people recognize hurting people. And when they see you hurt and fall, it shows them they are not alone in the struggle! And when they see you get up despite the pain and take one more step, it shows them that it is not impossible! And when they see you get back up again and again and again, it reminds them that what they are fighting to overcome is worth it! And when you look up and reach back out to God, it shows them they have not fallen beyond the reach of grace and redemption. Your struggle not only grows your faith but it gives hope to others to go on! You are not alone! Jesus himself asked God for another way before being arrested and beaten and crucified. The road ahead of him in the garden was going to be long and painful, but Jesus knew that with each step His Father was creating something so beautiful that 2000 years later, it is still changing the world!
Remember, just because we aren't all dealing with the same problems, we still share a lot of the same feelings they create. I do not need financial advice from someone who has won the lottery; I need it from someone who has built a life upon principals and experience. It is the same thing with dealing with my heartbreak and sorrow. When someone can see you have went or are going through all the hurt and trails and tribulations they are going through, your testimony carries so much more depth and power. Socrates advised mankind to "Employ your time in improving yourself by other men's writing so that you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for." Life is happening all around us; sometimes it is good and beautiful and sometimes it sucks with every breath we take! But life is also moving forward little by little, step by step in your life and the lives of people all around you. So today begin to change your outlook. Do not become overwhelmed by how far you may think this road is, but seek and trust God to give you that little bit of strength so that you may once again take just one more step. Little by little this battle will end and a lasting victory will be obtained!