Life is hard. I wish I could say that it wasn't but that is just one truth that we must accepted. I wish that I could tell you that once you accept Christ and become God's child this would change, but I can't. I wish that there was a prayer that would make everything better, but there is not. It is in these moments of frustration and struggle that we, as Christians, pull out all our pretty, embroidered signs and framed verses meant to make everything better.
"I have come that you may have life and life abundantly." — John 10:10b
"For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." — Jeremiah 29:11
"Those who wait on the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." — Isaiah 40:31
Now, these verses are undeniably encouraging and uplifting; however, I caution that when separated from the rest of Scripture they can do damage to your faith and trust in God. Many people today have a very harmful false belief about being a Christian: "Once I am a Christian, life will be easy and 'abundant' in all good things." I am here to tell you that this is not the case. While, yes, there are wonderful and amazing gifts that come from being a follower of Jesus, it's not all roses and rainbows.
When I was young, I heard all these verses and thought all these things. I figured that if I followed God then my "blessing" would be an easy life. Boy was I wrong! I dreamed about what my life would be like when I was older. I loved, and thrived, in the game of volleyball and I just knew that I would play professionally. I dreamed that I would get married young, have a few kids, and live in a nice house with a few dogs in the big back yard. My family would travel and we would enjoy making the same memories that I did growing up, money would be no problem, and my family would be happy and healthy. This dream was shattered when I was just 16 years old, and set me on a path of rediscovering what an "abundant life" really means.
It all started with a volleyball. Yes, you read that right, a volleyball. It rolled under the net, I landed on it, and both my dreams and my body came crashing to the ground. In that split second, I lost a huge part of my dream forever. After my second surgery to reconstruct my knee, the doctor told me that I would never play competitive volleyball again. He didn't care that I was looking at an athletic scholarship, or that all of who "Desirae is" was wrapped in that game, he simply looked me in the eye and told me it was over. I was devastated. How is this "abundant life?" God why would you take away the one thing that made me, well me? How is this a plan "to prosper me and give me hope?" I thought I was supposed to "run and not get weary," but here I am barely able to walk. How could this be God's good and easy
plan for my life?
These questions only became more desperate over the next ten years. First came a diagnosis of an inoperable cyst in my brain, which they originally thought was cancer, and being told that I should get used to the excruciating migraines being a regular part of my life. With it came the regular MRIs and a brain biopsy to find out exactly what we were fighting. Shortly after this diagnosis came the "Bell's Palsy" or paralysis of one side of my face, a blood and autoimmune disorder diagnosis, a third knee surgery resulting in a blood clot that reached my lungs and nearly ended my life, a lung injury that requires a surgery once a year, broken ribs from a fall, and then another knee injury that left me unable to walk at all. I was told by a doctor that due to a severe case of PCOS, there was less than a 1% chance I would ever have my own children. Not to mention the bills that come with having so many medical issues.
While dealing with all the medical "crap," life still had to go on. I still went to school and graduated, then I was expected to go to work every day no matter how I was feeling, and it was still expected of me to show up to Church ever week. I was also dealing with the death of three grandparents, one of who was like a father to me, and other family and friends with whom I was close to. Here I was, way past the point of my life when I thought all my "dreams would come true," alone and no prospect of that changing any time soon, and not even able to have a family if God did bring me the right man. With each additional weight, I grew more are more resentful of God. How could this be His good and easy plan for my life? How could a "loving" God expect one person to go through so much pain and suffering?
My answer came in October 2015. I was sitting in my room after coming home from my fourth knee surgery just days before, and next to me sat my Bible. Being the dutiful Christian that I am, I made sure it was on the nightstand next to me so that all those people coming in and out of my room would know what a "good Christian" I was. I was so angry with God because, once again, I was laid up and "broken" and He didn't do a darn thing to stop it. I intended to throw my Bible across the room in that moment. Instead, I dropped it open and it landed on John 10:10. "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have abundantly." I can't tell you how many times I had read this verse, heard this verse, and quoted this verse, but this time it was different. The part that stuck with me was that it's the thief
that seeks to destroy my life, not God. God's plan is to bring me abundant life.
So here is what God showed me that day:
There are far more passages about life's struggles and hardships in the Bible than the "good and easy" times. They key is that each of those verses comes with a promise: Even though you have to go through trials, God is always there walking with you. I think that's the point. Trusting that God is with us and has our best in mind, no matter what happens, is the cornerstone of what I think is a true relationship with God. We must know, remember, and hold on to the truth of who God is: A God who desired an abundant life for each one of us, and who has a plan to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.
"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you [God] are with me" (Psalms 23:4).
"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
Hold on to God's Truth:
"He will wipe every tear from their eyes, there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain" (Revelations 21:4).
There is a very big difference between "easy" and "abundant." The definition of easy
is "requiring no great labor or effort," while the definition of abundant
is "present in great quantity, more than adequate, richly supplied." There is no such thing as an "easy life." For one to simply have life is not easy. I mean they call it "labor" for a reason. Mankind gave up "easy" when Eve ate the fruit, and in that moment I think God went to plan B. Man choose evil, and God choose to work that evil for good. (Romans 8:28). If everything in our life goes well, and there is no pain or suffering, then why do we need God? I claim that trials in life are the catalyst to your complete dependence on God and thus one of the most important parts of the time you spend on this earth.
Without pain, could you really appreciate joy, peace, comfort, rest, hope, the fullness of God's love or even fully know God? These are the things that He wants to richly supply
each of us with, and what I believe makes up an "abundant life."
President Theodore Roosevelt said is so well "Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty....I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well."
Since that day, life has not gotten any easier. I just recently had my fifth knee surgery, riddled with complications, and more medical bills than I know what to do with. I am still living with migraines, lung complications, and more visits to my various doctors than anyone person should have to deal with. What has changed? My attitude. My attitude towards God, my circumstances, and life in general. I now know, without a shadow of a doubt, that God loves me more than I could ever hope to understand, and he only wants what's best for me. I know that every moment of every day, no matter what I am facing, God is right there with me and will give me the strength to overcome whatever comes. I know that through each of the trails that I face, God is teaching me more about who He is and who I am in him. The trials are still hard, and I struggle every day, but as James says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4). My life is abundant, just as God promised.