…but tragedy, even in everyday life, can be a form of valuable restructuring. It is painful and in some ways destructive, but it also puts things in a new order. — Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul, p. 101 (Harper Perennial, 1992)
Let me get this out. I feel like I’m swimming. I don’t know anything. I don’t know what to do next. On my knees. I’m frustrated, disappointed, mad at myself – for letting it get this far. I’m trying to remember that You are sovereign and nothing is too hard for You. You can redeem anything and You can make all things new. I trust You. No matter what it feels like. No matter what it looks like.
That was an entry from my journal last winter when I was in a pit of depression. Just the semester before, I was on top of the world. As the lead instructor for an important course in my field, I flourished. I connected well with my students, and they brought a willingness to share and take risks in the classroom that built a strong sense of community. I finally felt confident in meetings with my advisor, confidence that led to me receiving more in-depth guidance that ever before. I presented my dissertation ideas to my department and received glowing praise from students and faculty alike. I was feeling good and on my way. Perhaps you can relate to such a mountain-top experience in your career as a scholar?
Yet it seemed that with the changing of the natural seasons from fall to winter, there was a shift in the my spirit as well. Each day, I seemed to find more things going “wrong” in my life and feeling incompetent in every endeavor. What used to work didn’t anymore. My mind, once a prized possession, felt like mush. Even non-academic pursuits were unfulfilling.
God showed me I was going in the wrong direction with my scholarly work, seeking what was easiest instead of the narrow way of God’s plan.[i] I didn’t trust that He will enable us to do anything He calls us to do.[ii]
How do we know we have learned from our trials? As Thomas Moore indicates, restructuring is the result. And the sharp sting of tragedy often changes us … temporarily. But after the heat of emotions have cooled, it is easy to settle in the mold of old habits. This is why we must be intentional about instituting “post-pit practices” – new ways of living life that sustain the lessons learned at our lowest points. One such practice for me involves reflecting on how God has moved in my life by reading past journal entries.
We must remember that Jesus came to give us abundant life![iii] Not just-barely-getting-by, surviving, mediocre life. And He loves us so much that He will use what it takes to restructure our lives to reflect His abundance.
Tragedy is a part of life in this imperfect world. Let us take advantage of the gift of life transformation available in our trials.
- Reflect on a tragedy in your life, big or small. Does God want to bring a new order to your life as a result of that tragedy?
- What post-pit practices can you institute in your life to ensure that the new order is sustained?
God, thank You for using tragedy to strip us down to hope centered in You. Show us where we fall short from living abundantly. We repent of living apart from You. Let us not try to get out of problems prematurely, but let patience have her perfect work. Thank You for the breaking that leads to restructuring. Allow our tragedies to transform us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.