If you’re like me, you can pinpoint all the hardest moments of your life. These are the moments that strip us down and force the raw pieces of ourselves to rise to the surface. In my life, these times are marked by seasons of change. Seasons when the dependent variable vanishes, and I’m left with new, uncharted territory.
The beginning of college. My first years of teaching. The journey through medical school. The birth of babies. A move across the country. Residency. The unpredictability of toddlers. Mornings when you realize you’re out of coffee.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my responses to these moments when life strips me down to the nitty-gritty. I’m certainly not trying to make a case that my life is harder than anyone else’s (We’ve got a lot of good things going for us here. My espresso machine, for instance, came through with the win on this coffee-less morning.). But, it seems an unavoidable fact that each season of life comes with its own various challenges. And, the more of them I come up against, the more resolved I am to face them well.A few months ago, I was dialoguing with a friend about prayer, and she sent me this clip of a Francis Chan sermon from like 8 years ago. It starts with a song, but Chan’s commentary at the end is what has been on repeat in my brain for the last month. Here’s what he had to say:
When we pray, we’re always praying, “God change things” rather than, “God change me.” We want God to change the circumstances and take away all this pain, all these trials, all these hardships rather than God’s plan which is, “No, I want to put some of these things in your life and you need to be praying for yourself that you would grow through these things.”
You see, whenever we have decisions to make, we want God to make it easy, [so we] say, “God why don’t you close all the doors and just leave one open?” [Instead we should say], “God, why don’t you make me incredibly wise, so I know how to make a good decision?”
When trials come, we say, “God, why don’t you change them? Why don’t you fix the situation and take away all the pain? [Instead we should say], “God why don’t you use this time to grow perseverance in me?” […]
Yes, there are times when God changes the situation, but so often, more than anything, God wants us to change and we should be praying for these circumstances that God allows in our lives as opportunities for us to grow in our character and our person.
I can’t get this tiny shift in perspective out of my head.
I know my tendency is to pray for the hard things to end. For ease and consistency and predictability. That bedtime battles will be replaced by compliance or that sibling fights will turn into happy conversations. But what if instead I prayed for patience? Or compassion? Or wisdom to parent my kids the best that I can?
I can’t always change my situation, but I can always change the way I respond to it. This, I am finding, is making all the difference. The realization that I was never promised ease or comfort and the reminder that, if I will let Him, God will use the hard things I face to sharpen me into a better version of myself. It’s not easy to shift perspective in the moment, but it is always worth it when I do.
Now, excuse me while I go attend to the screaming toddlers in the other room. Please send coffee.