“I’m sorry,” my husband says often.
Not because he’s done anything wrong, or to offend or hurt me. But just because he can tell I am unsettled, discontent, disappointed at that moment in life in general.
He thinks he has failed because I am not happy all the time, that he needs to wrap me in all the comforts of this life. We’ve been over this before. Marriage is not about keeping one another happy. Our marriage is about satisfaction and comfort and rest in our walk through this life together, sharing in the sanctification and worshiping Jesus. But he says it anyway, as the kindred spirit that he is.
He suspects that what I am mostly unsettled about is that I feel this way even though I know intellectually that life is not about me or my happiness but about how the fruit of my heart reflects Christ’s love and sacrifice and glory. I’m grieving my ungratefulness, my discontentedness a sign of shaken trust, although God’s trustworthiness has never changed.
The kink is this: it just always seems to be a path of deep sorrow, sharing in the torments or pain of another, watching opportunities slide away for loved ones, coming alongside others as they experience disappointments that just aren’t going to go away, affliction, persecution, failure, trial, hurt.
I know Christ’s path was harder. I know mine cannot compare at all to being the perfect, sinless Son of God made the vessel of wrath in a painful, vicious death in a humiliating display for all the world to see. Does knowing that truth make the pain and sorrow less nocuous? Will it numb the point of entry so that I just don’t feel it anymore? How does this suffering in joy work?
Confidence in God’s good providences (which are assured to believers in Romans 8:28) doesn’t mean, big sigh, oh drudgery life of unhappiness and discomfort, okay let’s go forth and suffer through. What God is providing are not circumstances for me to endure with heroic stoicism, marking time until God either reveals a better plan or takes me out of this life. What he is providing is me to the circumstances.
In accordance with his sovereign will, the circumstances of my life are set along a route with the goal of his glory in view. But they are mere wisps and shadows of this world. If I am claimed by Christ’s blood, they are not my life. Jesus in me is life, eternal life. The circumstances are really inconsequential.
And I, almost-58-year-old me with all my baggage and experiences and stumbles and failures and memories and gifts and skills and wisdom-gained-through-affliction-and-hurt and compassion-grown-through-seeing-others-through-my-own-mistakes and faith-growing-like-a-mustard-seed, am the one he has prepared for the journey, this particular journey, because this is the one that will reflect Jesus. None other is suited to me. No one else’s is matched to how he has tilled the soil of my heart or how he nurtures the seed of faith in my soul or how he plans to shine through in love and truth.
There is comfort in knowing that I don’t have to struggle against my circumstances. More than real relief, this is a realization that warms my heart and satisfies my soul. It is a comfort greater than anything this world can provide, because it is linked to the great and eternal promises of Scripture. The flowers fade, the grass withers, but this truth will endure beyond the boundaries and limitations of this life. Jesus in me is everlasting. No matter what the circumstances may be that I face here.
All of the comforts of this life are worthless—and comfortless—unless we possess the comforts of the next life as well.
I am whom God has intended for this life for the sake of his glory and my good. The strength of the Spirit of Christ is mine. The renewal of the mind is mine. The peace that passes all understanding is mine. The forgiveness that is unknown to this world is mine. All the comforts of this life and the next.
This is transforming grace.
1 Corinthians 2:9
2 Peter 3:9