Our house is upside down at the moment. The lounge is echoey with bare walls and a minimum of furniture (we’ve taken the minimalist look to a new level!), the bedroom furniture is all bunched together in the middle of the room, requiring Adrian and me to go through all manner of gymnastics just to get into bed at night, and there is stuff all over the study that doesn’t belong there. As for the spare room, it’s become a storage box for all the stuff that is usually in the lounge, bedroom and study…. The kitchen hasn’t escaped unscathed with its constant smell of white spirits and array of paint tins, brushes and rollers. Even the shower in the bathroom is joining in by working haphazardly. All our spare time is spent on painting or preparing to paint, looking at colours, carpets and curtains, and endless trips to B&Q, Homebase and Ikea.
Consequently, life is exhausting and somewhat stressful in the Johnson household. At times, I look around at all the work that still needs to be done and am in danger of being completely overwhelmed. Deep breaths are needed.
It will be good when all these rooms are finished and home is back to being home. But we have to go through the mess and upheaval before we can sit back and enjoy the results.
It’s the same when God comes in and turns your life upside down. At first you think, ‘I can do this, yes I trust You Lord,’ while merrily trundling along in your own strength. And then He adds in something else to the mix, and then that thing goes wrong. Before you know it, life feels overwhelming and you begin to wonder just how it could all go so wrong. It’s not pleasant, it’s not easy and it’s downright hard when it happens.
At various times, God has – without notice or my prior consent – stepped in and caused apparent chaos in my life. The first major upheaval came along in my late teens when my dad was ill with heart problems, in and out of hospital. Eventually he was told he needed a heart transplant, for which the likely wait would be two and a half years. But the doctors only gave him two years to live. At that point, I decided I’d had enough of God messing things up in my life. If that was how He was going to manage things, fine, I was going to take over. I could do a much better job. While my mum and dad quietly accepted the diagnosis and committed themselves and the situation to God, I rebelled in my heart. They had inner peace that kept them sane in the months waiting for a heart to become available, and during the long nights when my dad struggled to breathe and my mum secretly wondered if she would wake up in the morning a widow. I, on the other hand, had nothing but stress and fear. I was terrified of losing my dad and I was stressed because I was completely helpless. This was not one of those situations of knowing the right people to get things done. There was nothing I could do – apart from pray, and there was no way I was going to do that! Subsequently, my parents’ prayers were answered and my dad got his new heart (albeit it on the third time after two false alarms). They both pulled through. I collapsed a few months later, having learned the hard way that God loves me way too much to allow me to just cut Him out of my life without a second thought. He brought me to a complete standstill so that I could say, ‘sorry’ and get right with Him again. Through that I’ve learned that no matter how tough life is, keep the communication lines open between you and God. Cutting Him off is the very worst thing you can do.
Why does God allow these hard times to happen? I believe there are two main answers. If you don’t know God personally, then He may be using difficult circumstances to get your attention. He loves you and wants you to enjoy a relationship with Him. That’s why Jesus died on the cross, to make it possible. So if you don’t know God right now but you are going through a hard time, why not consider finding out more about Him? He might be trying to get your attention.
If you are a Christian, then you could well be going through hardship so that He can refine you. The best way I’ve learned to deal with difficulties and heartache is to ask God to take you right through the bottom of it and help you to learn all that He wants you to know. I’m not sure it makes it any easier to go through the problem, but you will become a richer Christian for it – rich in an intimacy and knowledge of God that you would otherwise not have the opportunity to know. I’ve practiced this through a painful broken relationship and through ill health that cost me my job and my independence. But through both of these difficulties, I’ve absolutely gained. Knowing Jesus intimately is the best thing that can ever happen.
My house is upside down while we redecorate. We’re not enjoying all the upheaval and mess but it will be worth it when it’s finished.
Maybe life is upside down for you. Is God trying to get your attention? Respond to Him and make this momentary affliction worth while.