A repeated prayer has filled my quiet moments and sometimes my less than quiet moments, “God, where are you and why are things so hard?” Sometimes it isn’t even voiced, rather it echoes through the silence that holds the space which longs for answers.
God is able to do the miraculous, move mountains, calm storms. He equips the small with giant slaying skills. He empowers feet to walk on water. He parts seas and holds the sun still. So why isn’t life simpler, smoother, more predictable?
The struggles and challenges capture my attention; upon my surroundings, my heart focuses. I wrestle to create a life that is neat and tidy, but never accomplish my intended goal. Each day brings its own worries. My frustration builds and again I ask, “Why can’t I have it that way, God?”
The truth is that I don’t want to be uncomfortable. I don’t want to worry or feel anxious. I don’t want to feel out of control and afraid. If only life were easier I wouldn’t have to trust, I wouldn’t have to grow.
And there it is. I want God to make life simpler, smoother and predictable to avoid spiritual growing pains. My heart is really uttering, “Please God, please, order my days so I can trust in their security and provision and not yours.” Then I wonder why I can’t have it that way. The outward struggles shine light on the inner condition. And it is my heart God wishes to tend.
When our outer circumstances seem unchanged by our heartfelt petitions, our focus must move inward. I am reminded of the words of Elisabeth Elliot, “I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done.”
James swiftly gets to this point. After a brief introduction, he cuts to the quick with, “Count it all joy, my brother, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4).
We don’t use the word “steadfastness” today. However, it simply means to be firmly fixed in a place. It is a condition of being rooted or grounded, even unwavering. When steadfastness is cultivated, regardless of the outer storm, our soul abides in a state that is simple, smooth, and predictable – secure and steady.
So, when we ask, “Why can’t we have it that way, God?” He has already responded that we can. But to find it we must yield to the testing of our faith, allow it to do its work, then turn our eyes inward. The security we long for is found in steadfastness, the unwavering surety, that challenges produce if we stop running from them and begin thanking God for the potential they can produce within us.
We cannot sanitize the life we live from struggles. But, we can allow struggles to cultivate a life well lived and a soul well tended. As our eyes shift inward to our deepening steadfastness, we must count it all joy and know he hears; he answers.