Have you ever lived through a difficult period in life? Or, maybe you’re going through one right now. Odds are, at one point or another, we all will travel through a ‘dark night of the soul’.
Maybe it will be…
that your career isn’t working out in the way you anticipated,
that you’ve recently lost your job,
that a relationship you hoped would end up being long-term (like forever) quickly dissolved,
that the church you thought would be your home turf for a while ended in disappointment,
that a friend let you down when you needed them most,
that a serious disease has left you in physical distress,
The list goes on and on.
How will you cope? How will you make it through to the other side? How will we make sense of the difficult episode?
Framing Our Experiences and Finding Significance
Sometimes things won’t make sense. No matter how much we read, pray and discuss with others. I’m learning that there are moments in life when things just happen. There is a randomness; an arbitrariness associated with certain experiences that leave give them no inherent value whatsoever. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but sometimes it is.
Yet, what should we do with those moments that seem to have redemptive possibilities? How can we work through those episodes?
First, do not view specific challenges and setbacks in isolation, as we are so often inclined to do.
When we do this, it is nearly impossible to find any degree of meaning. When I see ‘this’ problem as an isolated event, detached from my past and future, I will almost always lose perspective, run the risk of becoming discouraged and want to give up. We’ve all been there. However, there is a better way.
Rather than removing the incident from the remainder of your life, place it in a more balanced perspective.
Frame your present circumstances in the larger context of your whole life. By locating the present in the framework of your past and future, things can begin to make sense.
When we isolate an experience it can lose credibility and purpose. However, when we place that same experience in the larger framework of our whole life, a picture can begin to take shape and we can begin to see things more clearly. Sometimes we need to step back a little in order to gain a more informed understanding.
Paul once wrote “that he (God) who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6b).
What does this mean? No matter what it is you’re currently going through, God isn’t finished with yet!
This doesn’t mean that God is the cause of what your traveling through, but He is with you as you go through it and is able to bring redemptive value even from it in a way that only He can.
Ask yourself these questions —
How does this problem fit into the larger framework of my life?
Is this setback really a setback after all? Or, is it possible that what I’m going through could actually prove to be part of a much larger framework?
That is, can God use even ‘this’ to mold, shape and prepare me for those things He has in mind for me to do in the future?
Remember, not everything will fit into this paradigm as some things are simply meaningless. However, my experience has been that by placing individual concerns and problems within the larger framework of life, those same experiences can take on a significance that I could not see before.
What seemed at first to be a pointless detail when left in isolation, can now begin to make sense (at least a little bit more). What was first interpreted to be a meaningless detour, can now begin to feel like part of a larger plan.
I don’t know what it is that you’re currently traveling through, but if you ask God to help you to begin to see things from within a larger context…through the lens of your whole life and His goals for you, the bigger picture may become a little clearer. Things may begin to take shape and your vision may refocus.
Meaning and hope may begin to spring from within those circumstances that you had previously interpreted as pointless. Life and peace may unfold from those places that caused you grief and pain. And, you may begin to live once again.
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1: 18,19).