I don’t know about you guys, but I tend to define my life through the lens of progress. I’ve mentioned this before, but I am a type-A personality and I am all about the goals, the five-year plans, the drive, and the potential that I’m “wasting”.
Am I where I want to be right now? Am I where I should be at my age right now? If not, how can I get there? Is this what I envisioned for myself career wise? Am I happy? Wait, is this what God is REALLY calling me to? Am I successful? What if….
The list goes on and on, and it wasn’t until recently that I learned (or maybe the truth just finally broke through) that life is not measured by how well we perform or our present and past circumstances.
What really makes life worth living isn’t the amount of things we achieve, have yet to achieve, what we have and what we don’t, but rather, it’s the pleasure of serving our all-mighty and sovereign God.
Several Sundays ago my pastor was doing a sermon on Joseph, a man who had been sold into slavery by his own brothers who despite the trials he faced, rose to power in one of the most influential empires in the world.
“The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had.” (Genesis 39:2–4)
However, when Pharaoh’s wife started to lust after him and tried to tempt him. Joseph faithfully resisted her advances only to be ripped from his position of power and wealth because of the lies she spread about him. This landed him in prison for a sin he didn’t commit.
“But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. . . . And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.” (Genesis 39:21–23)
Joseph’s story, no matter how dark it got, was hope-filled because the Lord was with him not because of the things he had or the things he lost.
Are you currently living the life you always wanted for yourself?
Did you think you’d be where you are right now a few years ago? What about your job? Is it what you want? Is it your dream job? Do you feel like you are wasting your talents? Do you daydream about doing something else with your life?
Do you wish you were living somewhere else?
I wouldn’t have imagined the life I am living for myself, and in fact, I can still remember how I thought my life would unfold and it did not include chronic illness, and I can’t even tell you how many times I told God, “I really don’t want to live this life, Lord.”
We can all come up with ways our lives and circumstances could be better, but the greater reality is that if you love and serve Jesus, He is writing a better story for you than you could ever write for yourself.
The “better” here being this one truth: that God is the best and most satisfying thing you will ever have in life, therefore a successful and fulfilled life is not measured by the things we achieve, gain, or experience, but how close we are able to get with God through faith.
However, this does not mean that we are excluded from the pain, suffering, temptation, and rejection--but God is faithful. He makes no mistakes, no decisions that He regrets, and He never messes up when it comes to choosing good for you. That ‘good’ just might look a little different than what you imagine it to be.
Everything that you are walking through right now, no matter if it’s expected, wanted, painful, pleasing, or hard, is a part of God’s plan to draw you closer to Him.
Someone asked me once if I could go back and change the past, would I eliminate chronic pain and illness. I thought honestly about it before telling them, “No.”
They were very surprised with my answer and while yes, I wish I didn’t have to live with chronic pain, I’ve learned more than I ever would have without it and I found treasures hidden in darkness that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 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.” (Philippians 4:11–13)
Paul wrote these few verses while sitting in a prison, chained to a wall, and waiting for his death. There is no reason to write such hope-filled words if you are an outsider looking in, but if you are a Christian you know the full story and the faith and contentment that Paul had in Jesus.
He placed his faith and the worth of his life into the hands of One who made it all possible, and knew where his true strength came from.
“When we have little and have lost much, Christ comes and reveals himself as more valuable than what we have lost. And when we have much and are overflowing in abundance, Christ comes and he shows that he is far superior to everything we have.” – John Piper
Today, I encourage you to stop trying to re-write, re-invent, and re-plot your story, and instead embrace it for all that it is, and learn to love the life you perhaps never wanted because you are living it with and for God.
Make Him the greatest treasure, ambition, and view everything that happens to you through the lens of: What is God trying to teach me through this and how can I draw closer to Him?