It's been almost twenty years since I embarked upon entering college. I only vaguely remember placement tests and financial aid applications. I have blurry memories of roaming the school bookstore looking for just the right texts -- and having my jaws hit the floor at the price of those textbooks. I have slightly more vivid memories of the expectation of a new year (and that could be because I've had the same expectations with both teaching in public school and home schooling).
This past week... I returned to a college campus. Not as a student this time but on a mission to help someone else become a student. An incredibly bright, bubbly girl has come into my life and family this summer. She is a recent high school graduate and has found herself in need of a little help in her endeavor to be a college student. Her hope was to begin school in January at our local community college.
So last Monday, we loaded up and headed to campus to see what it would take to get her enrolled for the winter semester. But while we were there, God started opening doors that we didn't expect to get opened. Within about 10 minutes of being on campus, she had a student I.D. number. Then we went to financial aid and found out that we could easily get her the financial aid that she needed. We realized that her dream of becoming a college student didn't have to wait until January. She could do it NOW! Within a couple of hours, we drove off of the campus with her printed class schedule, textbooks, and the coveted student I.D. -- which got posted to Facebook before we even made it out of the parking lot.
During our adventure, (and it was an adventure for we drove on campus not knowing where any of the buildings were, any of the people we needed to see, and without much direction or planning) we stopped for lunch where we started talking about the whirlwind of a day that we had had. We were just amazed at how quickly things fell in place. We were amazed at how easy it was to accomplish each item on the official registration checklist. We were amazed that we were amazed because we knew, of course, who had directed each step of our way.
Life has not been easy for my sweet friend. She has learned the meaning and the importance of having God as her refuge and her strength. As we ate lunch, we talked of her plans to become a social worker and her hope and desire to be able to help children who have endured bad situations. It occurred to me as we talked that perhaps all of the travails that she has endured are because God has an incredible plan for her. In years to come as she sits with children who come from who knows what kind of situations, she will have an empathy and understanding of their feelings. She will be able to help them because she has not lived a life eating out of the proverbial silver spoon. And I told her that there are babies who haven't even been born yet who will have the opportunity for a better life because of what she will be able to offer them.
I have often heard people ask, "How can a loving God let bad things happen?" I've talked with people who have lost a child or are homeless or have an addiction or are alone who don't see how there can possibly be a God who loves them because they have been dealt a bad hand. I've been asked, "What's the purpose of suffering?"
There's the old saying "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" (which I detest by the way because, really, sometimes I just don't think I need to be any stronger) that many people cling to as their buoy during life's storms. And that's fine. But there's a deeper truth to our struggles on earth as well. First, we must remember that there is no Scripture in the Bible that says, 'Thou shalt have an easy life." or "everything will be a bed of roses." As as a matter of fact, we are told that we will face difficulty in this life. That's one reason why so many Christians anxiously await the day that Jesus will come back for His people.
Secondly, if life were indeed a bed of roses, when would we find a need to have God be our refuge and strength? He would just be this really cool Creator sitting in heaven waiting for a day that He could bring us up to live with Him. But would we ever turn to Him if we didn't need Him? Would we ever stop to see how His plan makes everything fit together in the end? Would we ever realize how much we need His wisdom which He has gifted to us through the Bible? Or would we just float through life thinking that we can handle life on our own?
I think what I've grasped anew this week is that the struggles we go through in this life can do one of two things for us. We can let them tear us down and beat us up or we can use our ordeals as an opportunity to praise God for allowing us to rely on Him and as a stepping stone to reach out and help others in similar situations.
What are you going to let your next struggle do for you?
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." James 1:2-3