There was a time in our lives where Mackenzie and I were considering moving from Denver to a different part of the United States. We made multiple “threats” to our parents about moving in order to further schooling in North Carolina or Georgia. They did not want us to move. We had this attitude of youngness; exploring, adventuring, traveling and wanting to live life. We were only 19 when we got married. We couldn’t even rent a car or spend the night at some hotels. We continued exploring options and having necessary conversations that goes into moving. However, there was one question we weren’t asking ourselves. “What if we hated it when we got there?”
God had different plans though. In 2017, we believed that God was calling us to become country mice. Mackenzie and I had made the decision to move back to Burlington, CO instead of North Carolina or Georgia. We had no real plans! All the details that should be thought through; like housing, jobs and continued education, didn’t matter.
What we have learned since moving back to Burlington is that God was using all of the struggles we had in our “dry bone valley” while living in Denver. As newlyweds, we were just trying to learn how to love each other and when it might not be the best time to ask, “what’s for dinner? Shouldn’t be too hard being newlyweds right?
God reminded us constantly, “I will supply every need of yours according to My riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” [see Philippians 4:19] We have learned to rely on the truths in Philippians 4:12-13 which says, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
However, it wasn’t a learning point where from then on, everything became rainbows and butterflies. No! Things continued being difficult, and things began to take shape in ways we could not yet see. God was working… even when it was difficult. How did we see such a change from, “Life is awful,” to, “My God was and is providing for us”? God allowed us to be knocked off our horse, and He was revealing His newness of life in and through our lives. When we take ourselves out of the equation, we can experience a sense of God telling us, “I told you so!” He wasn’t criticizing us, but in an abundant way, He was reminding us that we were never designed to function apart from Him. How were we designed? We were designed as a vessel; a vessel for God’s glory to be manifested through us, we have a brand new operating system. A system in which we are no longer the “Lord of our Ring”, meaning, experiences and decisions are filtered through the mind of Christ. [see 1 Corinthians 2:15-16] Not only that, it takes the pressure off our backs and allows us to live freely without being crushed by the waves of life. [see 2 Corinthians 4:7-11]
I don’t know where you are currently; Whether you are experiencing a spiritual drought and not knowing where to go, or whether everything seems to be working out right now. It’s agonizing, I know, I’ve been there. The benefit of Christ as our life is this; that we are able to rejoice (celebrate) in our sufferings knowing that it produces endurance in us to continue on. “Because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” [see Romans 5:3-5]
I watched a video earlier this week by a guy named Jocko Willink, a retired Navy Seal, who is speaking to a platoon. His conversation with these guys was entitled, “What if it Sucks?” He asks a soldier about the kinds of worse-case scenarios that happen on a military base. The soldier replies, “Foods not great, non-ideal sleeping conditions, maybe the shower trough is broken down, and all of that starts adding up. I’m just spit-balling.” Of course this is met with laughter because all of these guys have been with one another for quite some time and experiencing the same challenges together.
Jocko continues by saying, “whenever anything sucks, I like it.” He furthers his reasoning by saying, “it’s going to make me tougher, it’s going to give me a good story to tell. It’s going to toughen my mind.” This is true. We look at all the times in our lives where God had produced endurance within us to say no to the thing that hinders us from growth or moments where God had placed us in a position to let go of all of our resources to then trust Him to carry out all He has set out for us. Did we gnash our teeth when we said no? How about to trust Him? How about leaving behind all of the ways we once walked to see what God had in store for us? That’s a conversation that we all have to have with God.
When Jocko brings up the things the platoon faced together, it reminded me of the church; not a building you sit in for about an hour (or more) and wonder what you want to do for lunch. I am talking about people; the body of Christ. [see 1 Corinthians 12:12-26] and all of the sufferings we have faced and have been afflicted with. We have to know that there are many more sufferings that may and will take place, but what God continues to reveal to His people is the steadfastness of His love, and that in Him, we have a way to come together and lift one another up; where we can become a close-knit platoon of warriors.
Jocko says regarding the closeness of the platoon, “It’s going to bring us together as a group, do you know what military training is? Do you know how they form a bond in military groups? They make you do stuff that sucks. What’s bootcamp? It’s a suckfest!” He then goes through the different schools where special skills and specialties are learned in order for our troops to be prepared for combat and in other events like Airborne school, Special Forces School, etc. He then adds, “What’s the tightest group of military people? What makes a group of military people the tightest? Combat. Which sucks the worst of all, the worse your combat is, the tighter you get!”
Jocko was talking about military personnel, but it can also be applied in our lives seeing the victories overtime that our Lord Jesus Christ has walked us through. The closeness that comes from the combat and the victories of a victorious Savior can result in an abundance in our lives as brothers and sisters!
The truth is this, as believers in Jesus Christ, the burden is not ours to bear. The past isn’t ours to carry any longer. Furthermore, Christ’s life can do far more with our suffering and our celebrating, than we could ever imagine. Jesus’ name alone can destroy strongholds or lies that we believe about ourselves and others that are built on fortresses with 6 foot thick walls. Why do we find it so hard to trust Him with our life? Have you ever gotten lost on a road trip or needing to get somewhere? We tell ourselves or our wives, “I don’t need directions!” Anyone ever said this before? As men we get into a sense of, “I can do this on my own,” but how often does “doing on our own” end in exhaustion or frustration? What if, and go with me on this, but what if the reason we can’t see Him in the storm, is because we aren’t looking or giving Him a chance to show us?
You see, Christs’ life is always abundant. Even when the hardships and changes make us feel like we just can’t win. In Christ we do not need to let our circumstances rule over us. Rather, it reminds us of His glory and His power. Jocko finishes his speech with this, “So, when something sucks, good! It’s going to make me tougher, and it’s going to make all of us stronger. So bring it… cold showers only.” In other words, God is going to continue to make His richness known to us, so that we may know that He continues to hold us and keep us.
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory…” Ephesians 3:14-21