"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men."
Let all that you do be done in love."
I Corinthians 16:14
Valentine's Day, my husband and I decided that we would pass on giving each other gifts and forego the outings for this year. His birthday is at the beginning of the year and mine is just a few months after, so we thought we would save the "special stuff" for our birthdays. Because I am still trying to eat right and stay as healthy as possible, I asked him not to give me anything sweet... no cakes or cookies. This would help both of our efforts to eat better. He agreed.
The day after Valentine's Day, my neighbors, whom we love so much, blessed us... "the teenagers" (they call us) with a beautiful gift. When we opened the present, we found that they had given us chocolates. But not just any chocolates, gourmet chocolates. Ron and I looked at each other, smiled, took a chocolate out of the box.... did a "chocolate toast", and bit into this scrumptious decadence. The moment I bit into it, I looked at Ron and said, "They understood the assignment."
When we hear this term in social media, it is often used when someone goes above and beyond the call of duty. People use this term when someone completes a task and completes it well. The moment Ron and I opened the box of chocolates, and tasted them, we knew that these were not just any chocolates, but they were exquisite...creamy. They were gourmet, some with pecan praline, some with cordial cherries, and others with chocolate ganache... and they were amazing. Our neighbors, not only wanted to bless us, but they went above and beyond the call of the assignment. The assignment that God had given them was clearly understood.
I realized that God had a message in what seemed to be a simple box of chocolates. Let whatever you do, be done in love. Do it as if you were doing it for the Lord Himself, and not for men. This thought should change one's perspective. Understand the assignment. Put your heart into it. Don't settle for the ordinary. Regular won't work. Perform, give, share, bless, minister... as if you were doing it for God Himself.
When Ron and I tasted the chocolate, for a moment, health goals melted away. Concern about a few inches in the waste line vanished into thin air. We chose to bask in the moment that God loved us enough to give to us the very best... in more ways than one.
"The little troubles we suffer now for a short time are making us ready for the great things God is going to give us forever."
II Corinthians 4:17 NLV
How many times have we said it? The struggle is real. I promise you I have said it no less than a hundred times. When something comes up in my life that presents itself as an insurmountable feat, saying "The struggle is real" is a way to say, this is hard for me to handle, but I am handling it. It is a way to try to make sense out of something that is crazy hard, but perhaps, shouldn't be.
While I have used the term sarcastically, I have also used the term to relay to others that the current situation I am going through is major. It is not meant to be taken lightly but meant to reiterate that my struggle right now is not fictitious. It is not menial. But I am literally on the edge and I need help to make it through. The struggle is indeed, real!
The other day, Ron and I were talking about a few things that we had been through over the past few months. While we were in it, it seemed that there was no end in sight, no answer to the issue at hand. In this situation our hands were tied. We had no more resources or connections. This however, made for a ripe situation for God. We laughed about how we refused to give up, but insisted on trusting God through the WHOLE process, knowing that we had sought Him in the beginning and that He was working things out in our favor.
Ron ended the conversation by saying, "The struggle is real!" There was a pause, to which I said afterwards, "But it aint permanent!"
How many times do we get stuck in the struggle, forgetting that everything that we go through in this world is just making us ready for what God has for us in eternity? Paul "reckoned that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18). If we can ever remember that our current condition is not our permanent condition, we can find the joy that we need to tunnel through what we are currently experiencing.
Whatever plagues your heart right now is real. Very real. More real to you than it will ever be to me, even if I have gone through the same thing or something similar. And just as sure as you are living and breathing, your heart is aching and possibly breaking for a resolution, a way out, or even a moment, just a moment, of genuine peace. But the way things are now are not the way that they will be.
The sick man at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem had been there for 38 years. That's a long time. No doubt, the struggle was real. But then, Jesus came. He sought him out of all the other people. Even though Jesus knew instantly how long the man had struggled, He stilled asked Him one question, "Do you want to get well?" (John 5)
The man gave excuse after excuse... but the summary... "Jesus, the struggle is real!"
Jesus gave one answer. "Pick up your bed and walk"... summary... "It ain't permanent!"
Change your gaze. There is still hope. There is still a way out. The waters don't have to be troubled. Jesus is more real than the temporary struggles we face.