Before I even met my husband, I had decided in my head that future Mr. Wonderful and I were going to struggle the first few years of our lives together.  Through our “poverty” we’d find that love was all we needed to be happy.  We’d see God meet our needs when we didn’t know how they could be met, and in the end, look back on God’s faithfulness to us with a smile.  (Are you surprised that for many years, being a Disney princess was my dream job?)

A week after my wedding,  I suddenly brought myself to a halt in our apartment kitchen.  The enormous pile of freshly-opened wedding gifts in our living room was a jarring sight, and at my hip on the kitchen counter was a large pile of checks that had been all summed up by my math-loving husband, ready for a big ol’ bank deposit.

Don’t get me wrong–I LOVE gifts–but suddenly it hit me how extravagantly I was being treated.  From the tiny kitchen of our bare and bland apartment, I worshiped.

“Lord, thank you!  I hope you know I would love you even if I didn’t have a fantastic husband and I would be grateful even if I didn’t have this new stuff.  God, you don’t have to give me everything I want and need with this little effort from me.  I know that ultimately, struggle is good for my character.”

(I sound pretty holy, right?  Don’t worry….I start whistling a different tune very soon.)

I was so prepared for there to be difficult times in my marriage that I actually welcomed them.  {I know that’s kind of weird, but hang with me here…}  When I look back on my life, I see there is something extremely sweet that happens during struggle.  When hardship is the reality we find ourselves in, we experience a heightened awareness of being in need.  Now, we’re always in need–we have what we need each day because He allows it to be so–but on an average day, do we stop to think about these things God provides?  Times of crisis, hurting, and struggling remind us that is God is powerful.  They remind us to ask of Him, to thank Him, to lean on Him.

“So challenge me, Father.   Strengthen my faith in the ways you see fit, ” I prayed.  And oh my–this is a prayer God answers!

Flash forward a few months after my gratitude meltdown and my husband and I are sitting on the couch, staring at our budget book.  Perhaps I was blinded by love those first weeks of marriage, but I had truly forgotten that:

  • my car loan would have to be paid off
  • oh yeah, I had brought a nice chunk of college debt to our financial picture
  • ooops, I accidentally hit a parked car at TJ Maxx  (so much for trying to save money at a discount store!)
  • my tireless hours spent as our Family Shopper and Manager of the Family Estate were not bringing in any income  (I chose not to work outside the home right after our wedding to get us settled in)

Ben pointed his red pen at a few different numbers in the budget book, calmly explaining that we were living at a deficit each month.

“A what?”

“Stacy, we are spending more than we make each month.  See how this number is bigger than this one?”

“Ooooohh.”

I am not proud of or happy with the twisted knot in my stomach as I swallowed having to change the way we were doing things.  (Nooo!) 

Why on earth did I pray that silly prayer in the kitchen?  Why would I specifically ask for my life to be harder?!  (Nooo!)

And life since the deficit talk has looked different, and by different, I mean harder.  We hold ourselves back from purchases that may be great deals but don’t meet a pressing need.  We are seriously focused on paying off our debt, staying faithful in tithing to God’s work in the world, plus we have a house to save for.  If the grocery money allotment for February runs out, well, then it runs out!  We have to scrounge the back alleys of our kitchen cupboards and get creative for dinner.  {Hot dogs, anyone?}

Self-denial.  Delayed gratification.  Some days, those two things hurt more than I’d like to admit. And you know what?

I am grateful for the place we are at right now.
I am glad I prayed for my life to get harder!

We are relying on God to meet our needs {and He has!  for instance, I now am a nanny for families I completely love} and trusting him with our dreams.  I know some people go to the grocery store and buy everything they want, all fancy and organic and beautifully packaged.  We don’t.  I stand in Target and dialogue with myself saying, “But do I really need that?”  and then I flash back to the day Ben used the word “deficit” and I walk away from the beautiful, wonderful thing I so badly want in my red shopping cart.  :)  And this is ok!  We don’t have everything we want, and we’re still happy!

{Oh my gosh, my fairy tale as described in paragraph one is coming true!}  Being poor and finding happiness has a special way of reminding a person that fancy things don’t carry any eternally significant value.  People do.  Something sweet surfaces in struggle.

In the times of extravagant, undeserved blessings, I find it natural to thank God and profess my love, even to the point of telling Him he doesn’t have to give so much.  Haha–but in the times of sacrificing and being stretched, I find it natural to fight back with a childish “nooo!”  Of course, He has brilliantly given me the opportunity to prove I meant it when I said I would love Him even if life were harder.

I write this with humility, friends, because I don’t mean for a second to say that living on a budget is the ultimate sacrifice or trying experience.  My life could be much, much harder.

But instead of comparing who has it worst and best, will you be so bold as to see struggle as God’s outstretched hand, inviting you to draw nearer to Him for the comfort and love He promises to bring the poor, downcast, and broken-hearted?

The God of the Bible proves his faithfulness over and over and over again throughout the Scriptures, but what about our faithfulness?  Easy lives don’t require much faith {right?}, but difficult times are fertile ground for God, and us, to prove our love and devotion to each other.  I do not believe God enjoys seeing us in pain, but I firmly believe He enjoys refining us so we can serve Him and the human race with more holiness and wisdom and personal life experience to draw from. 

Do we unconditionally trust this God who gives grace and love without condition? The world may call us fools for the way we trust Him, but let’s foolishly forget the world and embrace whatever challenge, big or small, God is allowing us to face today.

♥  stacy

{lovely wedding day photo credits:  AO Photographers}

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16 Responses to sweetness in struggle

  • Christina Whan says:

    Dear Foolish,
    It is one thing to be able to write, and it is quite another to be able to share so much of yourself so your readers really get to know you. You’ve obviously been gifted with the ability to bless others by being open and sharing your faults/struggles in such a sweet and often humorous way. It definitely draws your readers in when you share part of yourself and we get to feel like we know you a little bit better. We get to see your love of God and what His Son has done for you. We get to see that you are just a regular woman who desires to be holy and to live for Him. You already know I love you my friend and now I get to read about you and what God is teaching you through your blog. I’m thrilled! Can’t wait to read more. I forwarded your blog onto a bunch of my friends. I can’t wait for them to get to know you too. Love, your former housemate

  • Strawbetty Shortpants says:

    Joel and I have had the budget conversation also…..many times:) Though it isn’t always fun to live on a tight budget, there really is joy in taking what the Lord gives you and multiplying it. One of my favorite things is to take our little grocery budget and wield it to make exciting and diverse meals:)

  • Angela says:

    I don’t really have anything to say; I’m just smiling.

  • Kathy says:

    “I am grateful for the place we are at right now.” Wow, Stacy…such wise words beyond your years.

  • Stacy says:

    I love you, Catherine! As you know, there is SO much God can teach us through this awesome thing called marriage. Thank you for following my blog–it means a lot. :)

  • Catherine says:

    Wow, friend. So very true and well said. Thank you for speaking the truth in love, the Lord has blessed me through it! And thanks for just being YOU!

  • Cindy says:

    Amen sister! Your blog is adorable, practical, and such a blessing…just like you! =) Thanks for sharing!!

  • Stephanie says:

    Stacy, you hit the nail on the head with this post! I love your blog and can’t wait to see what else you write.

  • Priscilla, Kelsey's mom says:

    God’s timing….His provision…His love…

    “When I look back on my life, I see there is something extremely sweet that happens during struggle. When hardship is the reality we find ourselves in, we experience a heightened awareness of being in need.”

    God has been really honing me in this area in recent months. I have always resented James’ exhortation to “count it all joy in times of trials” blah, blah, blah. But God, in His earnest desire to see the reflection of His dear Son in me, has apparently decided it is time for me to grow up in this area. Yay!!!!

    And then there this “being in need” business. Seriously? So, in other words, embrace my neediness…? Really?? OK, God, what ever you say. Once again, in His pursuit of my heart, He shows me a familiar part of myself I need to love and forgive and…need…and embrace. Why do we (I) resist so?

    Well, to say the least, you, Dear Girl, in sharing your heart, have blessed mine. Thank you. I look forward to more.

    • Stacy says:

      I love you, Priscilla. Thanks for your honesty. I almost started crying while teaching Sunday school today and thought of you and your response here. We’re learning about the Israelites and their journey out of Egypt to the promised land and I found myself sharing with the kids how easy it can be to read these passages and think “Come on, people! God just parted the Red Sea for you and you think going back into slavery is better than continuing to trust God?” But then I shared how many times God has truly provided for me…and yet….to use your words….I resist Him so. At least we know we are not the first to struggle with these things, and you know what? There were consequences for Israel, but in the end, He was forgiving and patient with them. And He is with us. :)

  • Ashley says:

    So true, and so inspiring. Love this devo.

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It doesn't always make sense-the way we live. We decide that's ok. People don't have to get it. Welcome to Foolish for Light, a place for exploring the counter-intuitive life of a light-chaser.

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