The house search continues…
As every week comes and goes and every lead on a house appears and falls through, the stress of finding a place come August 4th builds. And for some of my future housemates who need a place by this coming Monday, the stress is even greater. It’s an easy response to the stress and disappointment of failing to sign a lease to say “let go and let God,” “trust God and it will work out,” or the like. Yet these things fall short, probably because they are simple maxims that don’t take into account the complexity of faith coupled with responsibility. When things are completely out of our control, we can look at a situation rationally and say “worrying won’t help me, and I can’t do anything to change this, so I’m going to seek God’s peace and fight the temptation to dwell on the stress and anxiety.” When dealing with a situation that is ultimately out of our control, yet functionally dependent upon our own effort, another layer of stress builds. While I have no excuse to be anxious, I can’t stop asking myself if there’s more I could be doing. Is this not working out because God has something better for us, or it is because I am not working hard enough or smart enough? Is this a test from God to sanctify me or am I reaping what I’m sowing?
Perhaps these things aren’t mutually exclusive, either. I turned down a housing opportunity three weeks ago because I wasn’t confident that the landlord would be fair or trustworthy and I figured we had time to find another home. But now I question that decision–truly “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” So maybe I’m reaping what I’m sowing. Yet, one of my housemates and I have been working very hard and very long on pursuing seemingly every option, only to see them fall through. So perhaps God’s hand is in this after all.
Am I worried that I won’t have a roof over my head come August 4th? Not a chance. But my idea of how my first month in Charlotte would ideally work out is being severely tested.
An outsider can look at all of this and offer several ideas as to what God is doing:
1. You haven’t gotten anything because God has got a better living situation for you. This is a very encouraging thought. And perhaps it is true, but it doesn’t have to be. God doesn’t have to give me a good living situation; in fact, by not having an ideal living situation I may learn as Paul had to learn to be content in plenty and in want, to give thanks in all things, and in the process learn that I can do all the things God has called me to do through His strength even in the most difficult of living situations.
2. God is waiting until the last moment to provide a house so that you can learn to trust Him and know that you didn’t get this with your own strength but through His grace. Again, perhaps this is true; but God doesn’t have to wait this long for me to acknowledge that the house is a gift of His grace. Landing a house three weeks ago would just as much be a gift of God than landing a house three days before the move. It’s all grace and it teaches me to rely on Him either way. Of course, He knows my heart better than I do–so maybe it is a test to build trust.
3. Welcome to the real world. Things don’t work out the way you want them to; this will help you get used to it. Yep, that’s true. But I’ve been living in the real world since birth. I’ve learned from an early age that things don’t work out the way I want. And throughout life there will always be things that continue to remind that “what is crooked cannot be made straight.” So while this situation is an example of how frustrating life can be (especially dealing with inconsiderate landlords), I don’t think I need a stressful housing situation to learn it: I already have learned it. Further, we never get used to the crookedness of the world no matter how rough our life is, and we shouldn’t. Once we get comfortable with the results of the fall we are very far indeed from the healthy longing for God to make the crooked straight and redeem a broken world. But that’s an idea for another day.
While all of the suggestions above may be valid reasons for why God is making this difficult, I want to take a different tact. Instead of trying to speculate why God is doing this in order for me not to “miss the lesson He’s trying to teach me,” I want to focus on what I know He has been doing and what He has been teaching me right in front of my face.
God has clearly shown me two things I wouldn’t have seen if this process hadn’t been so difficult:
1. I am very, very loved. We all have stressful and difficult situations in our lives, and most of us want to try to overcome them in private. We want to fix them by ourselves and tell people afterward about how we overcame them. But I’ve decided to let others join me in the midst of this stressful situation, and I haven’t regretted it. While it’s scary to be vulnerable and admit weakness and anxiety, it also provides a wonderful opportunity to let other people love you and encourage you.
After two Facebook statuses and a few blog posts about this housing situation, I have received some very loving responses. I’ve seen people praying for me and asking me how things have been going, truly caring about where I end up. I’ve had several friends send messages to all their friends in Charlotte to see if they have any leads on houses. People I don’t even know have been calling me about housing leads! I’ve had a couple ask their Sunday School class if anyone has furniture they’d like to donate to me. I’ve had people offer to let me live with them for free in Charlotte until I find a place. I have seen people’s generosity, encouragement, and compassion so clearly. And this leads me to the second thing God has shown me so clearly in the midst of this:
2. The family of God is the strongest network of people in the world. It’s incredible to see how people I don’t even know or friends I have only met a few times have spent their time, energy, and money to help me find a home or furnish a home. They’re not helping me because I’m someone special. They’re helping me because I am part of their family. They love me because Christ loves me and they love Him. It’s a network built on the perfect love of Christ, and I am seeing first-hand how powerful this can be. What a blessing.
Sometimes when life is difficult, we try to speculate about what God may be doing in order to make ourselves feel better. We assume that there must be a blessing in disguise, most likely in the near future, that will come of this difficult situation. And sometimes there is. But what if it turns out that these blessings aren’t in disguise at all? What if these blessings are right in front of our face? Instead of speculating about the reasons for life’s difficultly in order to justify the pain, what if we instead asked God to open our eyes to what He may be doing right now, right here, in the midst of our difficulty? He may just show us how He is blessing us in the midst of the complexity of this crooked world.
These blessings don’t explain why God brings difficulty into our lives; they don’t justify pain or brokenness; and they may not alleviate the pain. Yet they are beautiful blessings nonetheless because they aren’t simple fixes or explanations; they are real, they are meaningful, and they won’t let us down.
And if you risk being honest with others about your anxieties and struggles, you may find the great blessing of knowing you are loved, and that no matter what happens, you always will be…