Struggle

I envied Tabitha.

Her father was a prosperous businessman.

Her yearly tuition was paid in full. She had a brand new car and a posh off campus apartment.

Her hair was always sleek and freshly styled. Money was at her disposal to shop extravagantly.

Her life was sinuous. Uncomplicated. Easy.

Easy is beautiful.

But struggle is not.

My parents were working hard just to make my semester payments. I never grew used to haggling with university officials when it came to extending my due dates.

My campus job paid me just enough to pay my cell phone bill. Worry routinely sang me to sleep and hummed me awake.

I’d look at Tabitha and wish I had her peace of mind.

Her lack of stressors.

Her freedom from struggle.

I wonder if Hannah felt the same way.

In the book of 1 Samuel, Hannah was married to a man named Elkanah. Elkanah also had another wife named Peninnah.

While Peninnah was able to have children, Hannah was barren.

I’m sure it stung.

Watching her husband exclaim with joy because his other wife just gave him another child.

Hearing toddlers coo “Mommy?” and know that she couldn’t reply, “Yes?”

Smoothing her hand over her stomach, thinking it will never grow full and round with a baby.

It is said that Peninnah had up to 10 children.

So while Peninnah’s body was easily fertile, Hannah’s body struggled.

Easy is beautiful.

But struggle is not.

It is gritty and it is raw.

Hannah’s struggle drove her to the house of God where her raw hurt spilled into His lap.

Mucus oozed down her lips. Tears slid down her cheeks. The fluids mixed into each other on her face, creating a bitter concoction. 

Her agony was so monstrous that her prayer wasn’t audible to human ears. She asked, with moving lips and no sound, for the Lord to end her sorrow and answer her prayer for a son.

And in due time…He did.

She gave birth to Samuel, a boy who became one of Israel’s most faithful prophets.

And in the years after Samuel, she had five additional children.

When we struggle, it is not because God doesn’t love us.

When we struggle, it is not because we are inferior.

When we struggle, it is to reveal our undeniable need for God and for Him to showcase His omnipotence.

I struggled with financial matters throughout my entire college career.

Yet somehow, I graduated.

Hannah struggled with her infertility.

Yet, somehow, she gave birth to six children.

Jesus is in the easy, the sterling silver spoons and the red velvet bows.

And He also is in the hard, the graffiti’d brick walls and padlocked doors.

Experiencing the reality of God and how He transforms difficulties into delights is what makes the struggle worth it.  

Easy is beautiful.

Struggle is not.

But the aftermath is always gorgeous.

Troubles me

It troubles me.

It just troubles me is all.

Her black suit was sharp and crisp.

The straps of her heels caressed her ankles.

Hair was bobbed, ears held only one pair of studs.

Most importantly, her voice was smoky, husky, and worn.  

Exaggeratedly so.

I didn’t mean to tune into the conversation.

But the name drop drew me in.

 “Well, you know I’m a follower of Bishop [_________],”

She said this boastfully and smiled knowingly.

The name was prominent enough for recognition to glow in the man’s eyes.

“Oh yes, yes. Well, you know, I once fasted for 2 months straight only allowing myself water.”

He spread his hands in the air for emphasis. “And it was just… incredible.”

“Wow,” she said solemnly. “I see you destined for doing many things.”

It was almost like they were trying to one up each other.

Compete.

Win the gold in the Church Olympics.

I’ve heard conversations like that one before.

Interactions that make me question.

Scenes that make me cringe.

Like the tall televangelist who allows a man of shorter stature to jump up repeatedly to wipe beads of sweat from his brow.

Like jeweled blazer-wearing gospel singers who dismissively sign autographs.

Like guest ministers who require $25,000 honoraria including a $7,000 fee for fueling their private jet.

Like women who designate the preacher’s wife as their icon.

Like ministers who flash their collars like backstage passes.

Ambition has replaced humility.

Lowliness is outshined by limelight.

Pedestals for men have been cemented in the house of the divine Servant

How did we get here?

We’ve become thirsty for standing water and betrayed our first love.

Our flavor is fading and we will surely soon blend in.

No longer indistinguishable.

No longer peculiar.

No longer useful.

It troubles me.

It troubles is all.