Lost in the Forest: How to Deal with Your Life
Blinded and barefoot you stand amongst the looming trees of the thick and ominous forest. Hopelessness invades as you struggle with feeling stuck, lost, and alone…
This is what life can feel like when trials and tribulations come; when joy turns to grief or sorrow; when contentment turns to sadness and longing. There is nowhere to turn and no one to turn to. You stumble amongst the branches and twigs at your feet as you try to feel your way out of the chaotic darkness.
So how did you get here and what do you do now? How do you turn blindness into sight and clear away the maze of trees to find the field of joy and the clear path to a happy life?
Most won’t like the answer, because if you are a believer – a follower of the One True God, then the answer truly will be – YOU WONT. Not on this earth, in this life, you won’t. Look up any verses about suffering and you will be met with a barrage of choices to pick from. God did not shy away from telling us that our lives would be hard and filled with grief and anguish at times. 2 Timothy 3:1 says, “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.”
Regardless of your thoughts on the timing of the tribulation or of millennialism, we have been living in the “last days” since Christ ascended to His Heavenly Father. Let’s face it, there is a reason that Paul continually told us to run the race with endurance and finish well. To be ready; find the path set before us and persevere till the end. Life is hard! If it wasn’t, Christ would not have, during His earthly ministry, continually talked about being there for us, to love us and guide us. Matt. 28:20, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.”
So why are we so surprised when our life is not going right or we find ourselves in, what seems like, a hopeless mess? 1 Peter 4:12, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.”
Our response is not of surprise or shock or discontentment. But of rejoicing, blessing and honor. Again, verse upon verse showing to “consider it all joy”; “rejoice in the Lord always”; “hope in the Lord always”; “standing firm in the faith”; “glory in our sufferings” – just to name a few.
And yet, here we are – suicides are abounding among us; we are jumping from counselor to counselor and drug to drug – trying to figure out why we are not happy. Why we cannot find “joy for the moment” or contentment with our circumstances. We blame external choices, people, environments, etc., when all along God says the answer is truly simple: trust, obey, love, and rejoice.
So, why can’t we?
Let me share with you reasons I have come across in my own life as to the “why?”.
The skillful art of comparison – even more so now with social media the way it is, this lovely art of comparing oneself to another is at an all-time high. The even crazier thing is, we are comparing ourselves to fake versions of others. And even, if not completely fake, why do we “covet thy neighbor”? Why do we look at what everyone else has and become so discontented with our own lot? Our narcistic society has grown to a point where we covet all things we do not have, even if they are not actually attainable. We express our groanings to God that HE MESSED UP because we don’t look like…, don’t have…, don’t want to contend with…, need, want, etc. etc. etc. Yet, God never promised any of it to us. In fact, He called us blessed if we were the lowly, the downtrodden, the oppressed, the suffering. We have let society redefine our “happy place” and our worth. We have let the sin of our wants and desires lead us to hate God and despise our lives. But, the funny thing is – this life isn’t for you! It has never truly been about you or what you think you need or want.
Next would be the art of self-love – of course this is really the root of it all. The funny thing is, how do we say it is self-love, when we feel like hopeless pieces of dirt? Yet, if we get down to the root of the feelings, it truly is all about a “poor me” attitude, is it not? We tell ourselves that we deserve something better than what we have. We deserve to be happy, healthy, loved and content – after all it is the “American Way,” right? But tell me, where does it say that? I think the number one reason people like to change God’s Word is because they want to be able to tell themselves they deserve what makes them happy. We are like little children who always want our way, regardless of if it is right for us or not. My son wants to eat a bag of Doritos every day, but obviously that wouldn’t be the smartest choice. He may think I don’t love him because I don’t allow him that pleasure, but I am doing it for his own good. He may think, “if you love me you will want me happy, and Doritos make me happy.” Well yes, my dearest, but that will also kill you. We literally love ourselves to death. Even those, like myself, who struggle with being introverted due to what society would call a “low self-esteem,” all comes from a fear of not being loved or accepted. Why should I be in the first place? Am I not the lowest of all sinners? We set standards for our lives that will convey to ourselves that we mean something. When in all reality, all we truly deserve is an eternity in Hell. But crazy enough, we DO mean something. So, why is it not ENOUGH for us to KNOW we mean EVERYTHING to our Lord and our Savior; that HIS DEATH on the cross for our gain of eternal life with Him is the one and ONLY thing we will EVER need; the only thing that will define who we are and our value!? I am preaching to myself here – believe me!
So, what do we do? How do we turn our pain into joy and our sorrow into contentment?
Lucky for us, God gave us instructions!!
First off – we put our trust and faith in HIM:
“Cast all of your cares on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
“Resist him, standing firm in the faith…” 1 Peter 5:9
“ and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…” Romans 5:3-8
“God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Cor. 10:13
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. …” Ps. 23:1-6
“And Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen.” Matt. 21:21
“He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” Matt. 14:29-31
I could go on and on and on. There are so many scripture verses about having faith and trust. I love the parable of the father of the demon possessed boy in Mark 9:23, “And Jesus said to him…All things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief.’” This is so powerful to me, because it shows the power of faith. We find ourselves caught in this trap of belief, but never giving it ALL over to Him. He wants it all. HE GAVE His all to us and He wants that reciprocated and He DESERVES that! But, we hold on to this life with such ferocity that we don’t see we are slowly drifting out of His care and into the arms of the world and the desires therein. Then we come before God demanding our own way. I love the song by Natalie Grant called King of the World, here are a few of the lyrics:
I tried to fit you in the walls inside my mind
I try to keep you safely in between the lines
I try to put you in the box that I’ve designed
I try to pull you down so we are eye to eye
When did I forget that you’ve always been the king of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world
How could I make you so small
When you’re the one who holds it all
When did I forget that you’ve always been the king of the world
Just a whisper of your voice can tame the seas
So who am I to try to take the lead
Still I run ahead and think I’m strong enough
When you’re the one who made me from the dust
Oh, you set it all in motion
Every single moment
You brought it all to me
And you’re holding on to me
How do we argue with this? It is like in Job – when he was wanting his audience with God so he could get an answer to his WHY and God came back and graciously answered, basically what Natalie is saying here – I AM THE KING OF THE WORLD. And yet, He is miraculously, lovingly and graciously on our side. He wants us to be loved and cared for. Christ is – at this very moment – “preparing a place” just for us! This life is but a vapor – let us not waste it on ourselves, but in faith and service to our God.
Secondly – we choose joy:
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4
“This is the day which the Lord has brought about; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11
“But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.” Psalm 5:11
Choosing joy isn’t easy. Many of us, in the midst of feeling like we are drowning, can’t even begin how to even contemplate how to be joyful. I would say to start with the absolute FACT that God loves you and is for you. He will NEVER turn away someone seeking Him. He has called you to Himself and will “never leave you nor forsake you.” Remember God’s Truths and memorize His Word. Truly, it is the power to defeat the Devil. If we remember who God is (read Knowledge of the Holy by Tozer!) and that He loves us, how can we not be joyful? When you lose heart of the Truths of God, read Romans 8. Remember that nothing can separate us from the Love of GOD! And be “confident of this, that He who began a good work in you, will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
God will never leave us alone out there blind and barefoot. He is reaching out His hand to guide you through the dark forest of tribulation to the meadow of joy. He is guarding you, loving you, sacrificing for you, giving you what you need (for the body does not live on bread alone!). You need to be faithful to accept His hand with joy and trusting. Obey Him and know Him and He will never let you down. Your joy will be complete in Him.
Now, that does not mean you will not have hard days, like I said before, Paul gives us a great account of the fact that we will need to endure. Christ tells us that if we love Him we will share in His sufferings. We don’t need to walk around with a smile on our face 24/7. It is not about that. It is about finding contentment in the path the CREATOR has set before you and is leading you through – without fear or doubt. We remember He has walked this road and will guide us through it – for His glory and our good. We bear one another’s burdens and grieve with each other (If we were more honest with each other and “bore” better, we wouldn’t have half the issues we do with contentment). But through it all, are joyful that God would “save a wretch like me.” That He would take a filthy rag and, not only make it clean, but then use it to bring brilliance to His name. What a remarkable truth that we, as sinners, can be redeemed through His blood for His namesake! We remember that we were never promised an easy life, but with that we know that the God of all, is with us; not against us. “We press on toward the goal,” toward the “upward calling” of our Lord. With Him by our side, His Word guiding us, and His body of believers supporting us.
“I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime” Eccl 3:12
“Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward. Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God. For he will not often consider the years of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart.” Eccl 5:18-20