As a young husband and father of two, holding down two jobs and taking extra work, life was hard.
But no one is supposed to say that, especially in faith circles.
To some, admitting life is hard implies God is not enough for me, that my faith is small, that I’m ungrateful.
Some say life is filled with blessings if we say and do the “right” things. I call this “fake-it culture.” Good reader, I can tell you with confidence, I was wearing myself out doing the “right” things—and it caught up with me.
I was 32 and directing a multi-state, multi-faceted youth program that was making huge impacts. My staff was talented. My children were doing well. My wife and I had the makings of the American Dream.
Until depression hit.
I’d managed to hold off the dark feelings for years, but a launching event finally pushed me toward the truth: I was not doing well. In my quest to achieve and do and say the right things, I’d put my faith in the hollow belief that nothing bad happens when people follow the right formula. How wrong I was.
I had fallen victim to fake-it culture.
It took a few months, good friends, and wise older folks to guide me through some dark nights. Eventually, I came to know who I was and whose I was. I understood that life was hard, but God was going to help me through. Faking died. Depression yielded.
In western Washington, where I’m from, it rains. A lot. When I was younger and framing houses, the only ones who griped were the Southern California boys—good framers but lousy attitudes. They were miserable and went back to sunny skies. The rest of us joked and whistled our way through the slop. It is Washington. It is supposed to rain.
Just like the rain, problems will come. God doesn’t promise our journeys will be easy, but He does promise He’ll always be with us.
“When suffering strikes, remember that I am sovereign and that I can bring good out of everything. Do not try to run from pain or hide from problems. Instead, accept adversity in My Name, offering it up to Me for My purposes. Thus your suffering gains meaning and draws you closer to Me. Joy emerges from the ashes of adversity through your trust and thankfulness.”
Jesus Calling, October 14
As you reach for a “new you” in the new year, remember that no matter how many “right” things you try to do, sometimes you’ll come up short. You will have hard days. People and traditions come and go. Our lives change constantly, whether we like it or not.
The good news is we don’t have to let those setbacks keep us down. We can overcome the hard days. And the pain we feel is not in vain.
“All suffering has meaning in My kingdom. Pain and problems are opportunities to demonstrate your trust in Me.”
Jesus Calling, October 14
No matter what our lives hold, we can trust God will use everything, our opportunities and our problems, for good. It may be hard to see now. God may not begin to transform your pain tomorrow, or even next month. But He will bring you out of darkness if you trust Him to use you for His purposes.
He gave me hope on my darkest days. And He can do the same for you.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
– John 16:33
Mark holds a Masters in Global Urban Leadership with a focus on Theology. Currently he is Pastor at Cornerstone Church in Atoka, OK and travels with his wife, singer Susie McEntire, for joint speaking engagements and concerts. A veteran speaker and leadership advisor, Mark can be booked for events through EatonLeadership.org. He is a father to 3 children, and grandfather to 8. He is also a contributing writer for Rodeo News.