“You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.”
-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Life comes to us shrouded in death.
I don’t mean death, like people dying. What I mean is that moment by moment, hour by hour, and day by day, uncertainty looms, darkness threatens, and the reality that everything is in decay sets in.
Despite what my opening statement says, this does not mean that I am only anticipating gloom and doom here on earth. But you don’t have to go much further than the weakness of your own heart to realize that death pervades this world.
Death of relationships. Death of comfort. Death of the newness of things. Death in the changing of things. Death of our youth. Death of time. And eventually, the death of human beings…of you and me.
Life comes to us shrouded in death.
I have a friend currently who is going through the valley of the shadow of death right now. His son is right now laying in a hospital bed, showing very little signs of improvement from some kind of a brain injury that is baffling everyone as to how it was caused. My friend’s son may die. Then again, he may survive and possibly have to be cared for for the rest of his life. We pray for a miracle and know that God is capable of completely healing his son, but if that doesn’t happen…a long term change is going to be this family’s new reality. Life will come, but it will be shrouded in death.
I work in the school system here in Murfreesboro, TN. Every day we deal with students who struggle because of behavior problems, learning disabilities, physical handicaps, and undesirable family circumstances. It is not always pleasant. There are lots of demands and legal constraints, and things and people we’d rather not have to deal with.
But the reality is that hope has to be poured into those who neither seem to want it nor are capable of receiving it. And so we continue to fight against the natural urge to pull back, to give up, or to remain apathetic. It is an uphill battle everyday, with (seemingly) only little victories along the way. We bring life when all that is around us is death.
I don’t know how to completely navigate through the undesirable circumstances of life. I’m not going to pretend that I’m some kind of expert on faith and moving forward when things don’t turn out like you want them to. But today I’d like to offer you three steps to take that will help you deal with the undesirable. Maybe we can all learn something new today.
- Embrace Uncertainty As A Friend. I don’t know about you, but I fear uncertainty. The unknown stresses me out. But the road we travel along here on earth is fraught with uncertainty and things that are completely out of our control. Walk with uncertainty as though it were your friend. It is the means by which you grow spiritually and it is the doorway to knowing and being in relationship with Jesus, the one who leads you through it all.
- Lift Your Eyes Above The Fray. Nothing is more debilitating than to be in a forest of confusion with no bearing. If you have ever seen “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” you will remember there was a point in the story where Bilbo Baggins and the company of 13 dwarves that were his traveling companions enter the Forest of Mirkwood. In the forest there was an enchantment that made any who enter it confused as to their whereabouts. At one point the confusion gets so bad that Bilbo wisely decides to climb one of the trees in the forest to get perspective. Once he pokes his head above the treeline he can see the sun shining, the blue sky above, the forest spread before him, and their destination in the distance. There is a reason that we should lift our eyes above the fray of the undesirable circumstances or people we find ourselves in the midst of. It is because we all need to see the mountain in the distance, cling to the hope that we long for, and remember why we are here doing what we are doing. Lift up your head weary traveler. There is more than what you see before you.
- Trudge Through In Freedom. The things that hold us back the most are the things that we allow to ensnare us. The material possessions we think that will make us happy and comfortable. The relationships that we think will bring contentment and personal gain. The circumstances we think we can arrange for ourselves that will bring us convenience and security. These are all good things that can become like taskmasters if we let them. Freedom is the calling of the human heart. It whispers to us in eternity past, present, and future. We long to be free of the things that tie us only to the comfort of the present moment. We know it won’t last. And we are afraid of what the future holds because we don’t really believe that God has our best interests at heart. But this is a lie that ensnares our souls and blindly leads us into darkness. Trudge through. Muddle through. Come alive. Your Freedom depends on it.
I hope these few steps provoke you to take action that is positive, life giving, and soul encouraging today. We all have to deal with the undesirable in some form or another everyday. Don’t quit loving and serving the people God has called you to. Don’t be afraid of becoming vulnerable and allowing others in. Putting up a guard for your heart is completely different than stonewalling everyone around you so no one can ever get close to you. At least a guard has the ability to move away from the door for a moment to let someone in. A stonewall has to be broken down.
Death is overcome by life.
Undesirability is overcome by an active life of faith.
Are these conversations helping you? What roadblocks are you struggling with overcoming right now in dealing with the undesirable? Is there anything you can do today to lift your eyes above the fray?