• Amber Albee Swenson

It's not about life getting easier. It's about us getting stronger

I had coffee with a friend this week. (When I say “coffee” I mean we met at a place that sells coffee and has cushy booths, but neither of us drank coffee.)

I described life like this:

It’s like wave after wave of chaos coming at me with just enough time to catch a breath and wave to God and say, “Still alive” before the next wave crashes over me.

Can you relate? Some of the commotion is related to the age of my children, but much of it is not. Much of it is life.

Teenage rebellion adds to the stress of life, but had no bearing on the traffic accident I happened upon on my way to a speaking engagement.

The short-lived episode of having a missing child is somewhat new to me, but everyday in some part of the world a parent is dealing with a similar incident. Some of the outcomes are not nearly as great (a child who accidently rode the bus home on a day she was supposed to stay after school).

Cancer, cruelty, a shaky employment situation, health concerns, an aging parent, a child’s bad choice…all waves that catch us off guard and sometimes knock us off our feet.

I love the honesty of the Bible. It’s what brings me back to it’s pages day after day. In Jeremiah 12, we get to see raw emotion. Jeremiah said:

“You are always righteous, Lord, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice:

Why does the way of the wicked prosper?

Why do all the faithless live at ease?

You have planted them, and they have taken root; they grow and bear fruit. You are always on their lips but far from their hearts. Yet you know me, Lord; you see me and test my thoughts about you.”

Pretty tame so far, right? Hold on.

“Drag them off like sheep to be butchered! Set them apart for the day of slaughter!”

Maybe this shouldn’t bring a smile to my face, but it does. We’ve all been there, complaining about the easy road of an unbeliever while our road feels so burdened.

This is God’s response:

“If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?”

I’m guessing that wasn’t what Jeremiah was looking for. He wanted to see the wicked perish, or at the very least God might have said, “You know. It has been a little rough for you the last few months. How about six months of taking it easy?”

Instead Jeremiah was told to quit whining about easy stuff because life would get a lot harder. If you think this is rough, wait till you see what’s coming, Jeremiah.

I watched a video the other day of a man telling his mother the impact she had on his life. He said his mother taught him that the payoff of doing a job well was the opportunity to do more.

Sailing through life is not the goal, so why do we find it hard to believe when life isn’t easy?

Kingdom work is done on a spiritual battlefield. Sometimes the particulars of our life keep us out of the fight for a while. We’re hurt or called away for another role. But as soon as we’re able we’re called to go back to battle. We see the bullets and the bombs. We run to the side of wounded friends to pull them out of harm’s way, and they do the same for us. As we survive the small battles God brings us to bigger battlegrounds, where the fighting is fiercer and the consequences of losing more devastating.

At this point we could whine, “Why, God, why?” or shout, “Oh no! What should we do?” That’s what Elisha’s servant did when he saw they were surrounded.

But Elisha had weathered a few battles. He didn’t tremble or hyperventilate or find somewhere to hide.

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:16-17

It isn’t about relying on our own strength, because we wouldn’t last long. It’s about remembering how God got us through the last battle and realizing He’s our hope this time, too.

Then as we see another wave approaching we’re not ducking and we’re not complaining, we’re catching our breath, and saying, “I’m ready, Lord! Use me where you can.”

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