When I was younger (not that I am old or anything), I used to see life’s struggles as a detriment to my life. The old “woe is me” would kick in and I would sit in self pity trying to figure out what terrible thing I had done to deserve such hardship, or why God had decided to turn his back on me at that moment. Back then, struggling and walking through challenges in my life was nothing more than an inconvenience. And when I was stuck in this mindset I was merely surviving, not living.
It has been within recent months, and really recent weeks, that I have reached a powerful place in my relationship with Christ and my understanding of who He is. One day in my time of prayer and devotion I found myself asking God why, if He loved me and wanted the best for me, would He then allow me to struggle and sometimes really suffer. In my narrow mind, the way God was supposed to show His love for me was by ensuring that my life ran as smoothly as possible.
Fast forward to later that same day. I was getting ready for bed and spent a final moment in prayer with God before I let my head hit the pillow. And then I fell asleep. And I had a dream. The dream was as follows:
A baby, roughly 10-12 months old is learning to walk. The father models for the baby how to walk across the room and then encourages the child to come to him. The baby, with a smile on her face, pulls herself up and begins to take some wobbly steps. Three to be exact, and then she falls. The father verbally encourages her to try again and dangles her favorite toy in front of him to serve as motivation for her. She gets up again, and with another smile she takes some more wobbly steps. This time it was five before she falls again. She looks at her father and the toy. She reaches her arms out towards the toy and grunts. She wants the toy. Why won’t her dad just give it to her? That would be the easiest thing to do. But he doesn’t. He again encourages her with his words and continues dangling the toy before her. She starts to crawl to him, something she knows how to do very well. But her father moves even farther back as she crawls and tells her, “No, No. You have to walk to me. I know you can do it! Come on Sweetie!” She seems to sit thinking for a minute about whether it is worth the effort to try to get the toy. But she gets up again. No smile this time. This time she is really focusing. Looking down at her feet and the floor and then back at her father and the toy. She takes three steps, then five, then a full 20 steps before she reaches the toy. She has done it. She walked. She reached her father. She got the toy.
And then I woke up.
And just as clearly as if a person was whispering in my ear God revealed the following to me:
“It would have been easier for the baby if the father simply gave her the toy. It would have been easier for the baby if the father allowed her to crawl to him, as she was comfortable doing so. But the father was trying to teach her how to walk. Had he allowed her to remain comfortable were she was (crawling) or had simply given her the toy, she would not have grown and mastered the critical milestone of walking. And though it was more difficult for the baby in that moment to walk, the father knew that once she mastered the skill, walking would take her places crawling never could. You are the baby. I am your Father.”
And that is what you call a revelation.
Just like that it became so very clear to me. God doesn’t allow challenges in my life because He doesn’t love me. He doesn’t let me struggle because He is punishing me. Uncomfortable situations don’t arise because He has turned His back on me. God uses those tough, uncomfortable situations to teach me valuable lessons. He is trying to force me out of my comfort zone so I can grow to and go to a new level in Him.
In my dream, once the baby literally stepped out of her comfort zone she did three things:
- She walked
- She reached her father
- She got the toy
In my continued seeking of God, I drew these conclusions about those three things.
- She walked- She learned something new that was going to take her greater distances and eventually with greater ease than crawling ever could. In that moment walking was likely the hardest thing she had done to that point. And at certain points during her journey she expressed frustration at being challenged by her father. But in the end she got what he was trying to teach her and her life would be better because of it. God operates the same way by using challenges to teach us lessons that will take us farther and higher in life. In those moments, things seem unbearable and unfair and painful. But on the other side of that pain is joy, and understanding, and peace.
- She reached her father- Ultimately, God’s main goal is always to have a deeper relationship with us. This means He sometimes has to create or allow situations that will draw us closer to Him. The father in my dream created the situation that eventually ended with the baby reaching him. God too will often orchestrate things in a way that ends with us being closer to Him and having a better understanding of who He is and how He operates.
- She got the toy– Let’s just be real. The baby in my dream wanted the toy. It was her drive, her motivation, her desire. And when she made the choice to listen to her father’s encouragement and follow his model, she was able to walk and obtain what she wanted. I truly believe God wants us to have the desires of our heart too, but it requires obedience and faith. And at times God will delay our receiving of that desire until we listen and obey, just as the father in my dream continued to move that toy away from the baby until she walked. But once she trusted him and followed his voice of encouragement she was able to get it in the end. And if we can learn to trust God fully and listen to him entirely, we too will find ourselves walking in the blessing He has for us.
In actuality the hardships we face are not evidence of God’s absence, but reminders of his presence. Only a God who loves us and knows what we are capable of would challenge us in such a way. And He knows that we can because He fashioned us and formed us in His own image. He conquered death, and as those formed in His likeness, we too can conquer the hardships that come our way.
Just like the father in my dream, God is there for us all the time. The father in my dream didn’t encourage the baby to walk and then leave the room. He was watching over her. Encouraging her. Reminding her of what she was capable of. Showing her the prize that waited for her at the end. And that is exactly what God does for us. We just have to listen and observe all the ways and people he uses to do that.