For four years we have labored past exhaustion to help build a church and our family simultaneously. We have shouted faith into the fearful places of our souls. We have picked up crosses and placed ourselves at the back of the line, carried worrisome burdens, lifted desperate prayers, and every day we have attempted the challenging task of living lives worthy of Jesus.
I suppose I am telling you all of this because I see the road evening out a bit ahead of us. The weight seems more manageable and I am full of gratitude and relief in deep soul places.
One of the mysterious parts of the Christian faith is that any chance to die to yourself can, and even should, be counted as joy in God's Kingdom. To be misunderstood can be a blessing in His economy. To be wounded by others brings us into a holy place when we choose to let grace and forgiveness be the salve that sets us free. To fast from nourishing our self-centered tendencies breaks the chains that keep us bound to worldliness.
None of this is easy, but in life there is no great joy to be found for the price of a ticket to a fair, a fizzy bottle of soda, or a ribbon to tie in your hair. Joy isn't cheap.
I don't know what other people believe about doing hard things, but I have come to cherish this one truth:
I know God better after the agony of the fight.
Call me dull, or tell me that's depressing, and I will understand. We all prefer for happy, bubbly thoughts to pass over us like a dozen rainbow balloons heading skyward.
But balloons pop and fall to the ground, and then we are left with what, I ask you? We are left just the way we were before the balloons soared, in a deserted fairground, with an empty bottle of pop, hoping that next year the fun will last a little longer.
Plowing fields and building walls, sweating through the heat, and pushing past the pain, it changes you and it changes the world. We are never sorry we have labored because all that humble, hard work makes way for a miracle when God shows up and rewards His children with His greatest gift: more of Himself.
The most beautiful part of our story is that we have only just begun.
For two days in the hill country, in an old stone cabin where breakfast comes in a little basket, we savored who He is, what He has done, and dreamed about what He may do next.
This week, the fight and the labor gear back up, and all around us I feel His pleasure and joy. Deep in my heart I savor who Christ is to the world, a sacrifice poured out over us like living water. I grit my teeth and set my hands to the plow.
Because all of this work is of great importance, it results in everlasting joy, and we will not shrink back.
"You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, 'In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.'
And, 'But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.' But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved."