Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hard Stuff (Continued)

In my last post, I discussed hard stuff, how the most rewarding things are almost always the hardest things to achieve, and how God had really taught that to me over the last several weeks. Little did I know the lesson was not over at that point.

Our church called our new pastor this Sunday, and I'm very excited, because I believe he's about to put us on the path to growth and freshness and revival. But quite frankly, the vote wasn't by nearly the margin I would have hoped. What we learned Sunday is that despite our hard work over the last several months, we and our new pastor, still have work to do. But why should we have expected any different?

We studied the 8th chapter of Romans in Sunday School this week, and I meditated on it all Sunday afternoon, as we waited on our candidate to pray about and decide whether he would accept the call. I especially meditated on verse 18, where Paul writes, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (ESV) After that, Paul goes on to expound on how all of creation is corrupted by sin right now, but that redemption is coming one day, and it will be worth all of the trouble we had to deal with along the way. The joys of eternal life will far outweight the difficulties on the path to eternal life.

Isn't that how all of life is? The really good things are always the hardest things. The things that bring us the greatest joy are the most difficult things to achieve. Marriage brings great joy, but it also brings great difficulty. Raising children is one of the most joyful things we can do, but it's also one of the hardest. Whether it's finishing your education, or completing an important job, or making a big sale, the joy is often made better by the struggle it takes to make it happen. I know that is not the explicit point of Romans 8, but I think it's a good reminder that the best things, the most worthwhile things, are often the hardest things. If that's the case with the most joyful thing we can experience, eternal life with Jesus, why wouldn't it be the case with all of the other good things?

I'm convinced that having our new pastor is going to be one of those things that will bring us great joy. I believe that our church is going to see it's best days, and in five years, we're going to look back and say, "All that trouble is not worth comparing to the present joy we're experiencing." So I'm ready for an exciting, joyful, God-exalting, really, really, hard journey.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hard Stuff

I know it's been a while since I've posted, but I have good reasons. I'll maybe get more into those later, but tonight I'm reading C.S. Lewis, and as always, he's making me think.

Here's what he said in his book, "Reflection on the Psalms: "When we find a difficulty, we may always expect that a discovery awaits us."

I read that line tonight, in the middle of a particular reflection on the Psalm, and pretty much had to put the book down to think about that. In this passage, Lewis is talking about a difficult Psalm, a Psalm of cursing, and how we are supposed to interpret it in light of other Biblical teachings about loving our enemies. I'm not sure I completely agree with his conclusion on the matter, but that's not my point tonight. My point is, as I was reading the particular sentence above, it struck me that life is like that. All the worthwhile things are hard; all the things that present us with difficulties are generally things that, if we are patient with them and decide to work through them, will eventually turn into discoveries.

I will be completely honest here; I've been through a very difficult stretch over the last couple of months. It's been an especially challenging time in my marriage. We've had some pretty serious issues to work through over the last several weeks, and they've been really, really hard. I don't really want to get into what they were, but they have been some of the most diifcult of my life. Church has also been hard. We've been looking for a pastor, and I am on the search committee. We've had meeting after meeting, many going hours on end, searching and seeking God's will. That has been one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. Needless to say, the stress level has been great, in my home life and my church life.

I say all of that to say this: in both of those situations, the outcome has been well worth the difficulties they've posed. I can honestly say, despite everything we've dealt with over the last several weeks, that I am more in love with my wife than I've ever been, that our marriage is stronger than it's ever been, and that we've laid a foundation for going forward in our marriage that should benefit us for many years to come. I don't want to discount the difficulties, because they have been real and great and sometimes overwhelming. But learning to overcome those difficulties has been the very thing that has caused our marriage to grow into what it now is. Without the hard stuff, we wouldn't have made nearly the progress we've made.

At church, though the search for a new pastor has been difficult and time consuming and stressful, and at times just a hair thankless, it has been frutiful to say the very least. We as a search committee believe we have found God's man for our church, and we as a church will be voting on him this Sunday. (Please pray that the vote goes well.) There have been times when the process was incredibly difficult, especially after we announced our choice and the questions started flooding in. The stress level has been high, and the days have sometimes been difficult. But it's been worth all of the trouble; in fact, the difficulties make the reward of finding the right man even greater. I appreciate the difficulties, believe they were God-ordained, and am pleased that they have made me even more confident in our choice.

The difficulties have been great over the last few weeks; sometimes greater than I thought I could bear. But the discovery that have been on the other side of those difficulties have been sweet and beautiful and more than I could have imagined. So it appears Lewis was right on this point, as he has so often been before.