I’ve always loved old houses. But what I love most, especially when I drive down Maine’s winding back roads, is glimpsing a dilapidated old house that someone is lovingly restoring back to life. Often in life, when we encounter something hard, we view it as bad. Or when something is easy, we view it as good. But most often in life, I find that hard and good are not antonyms.
My family’s house isn’t all that old. But when we bought it, it was quite dilapidated. After three years, I thought we’d have it all fixed up – windows replaced, garage rebuilt, land cleared and planted with fruit trees and flowering gardens. After three years, however, we are just getting started. The work – and the waiting – have been hard. But as a result, each success is all the more satisfying, like planting apple trees (a gift from a dear friend) this past Mother’s Day. Next? Strawberries!
What is more difficult is when life’s hard experiences are not of our choosing – like an unexpected illness, financial difficulties or seeing someone we love make harmful choices. But even these are opportunities for good when we allow God to carry us through them. “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials,” the author of Romans writes (5:3-5 NLT), “for we know that they help us to develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment.”
The writer does not say “if we run into problems and trials” but “when” we run into them. Problems and trials are part of life. How we deal with them determines their effect on us. Do we see our trials as opportunities to develop endurance, character and hope? Our do we see them as obstacles to avoid?
Most days, I’d rather avoid them. But the good news is that even when we go through difficulties, we don’t have to go through them alone. Just like my husband calls his father or a friend for help when he gets stuck on a certain problem with our house and doesn’t know how to fix it, we can call on our heavenly Father for help when we get stuck. We just have to call on the right source. “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty,” so begins Psalm 91, a beautiful passage of hope for those going through difficulty.
Imagine, God himself being our shelter. Not a house that needs repair and restoration, but an everlasting dwelling place within which we are repaired and restored. Facing a problem or trial today? How about turning to God and inviting him into your situation with you. Then, with the Psalmist, we can say, “He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.”
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. The Best Birthday, the third book in her Lantern Hill Farm children’s picture-book series, is available now.