ROOTED IN LOVE ◽ ENCOURAGEMENT
My most recent struggle with my four-year-old daughter has been cleaning her room. She has gotten much better about it, but it was a real point of tension in our house for a while. I would send her to clean her room, and she would immediately start crying like I had asked her to stand on the roof in the middle of a hailstorm. Seriously, she acted like it was the end of the world. She would complain about it being “too hard,” and I would point out that it wouldn’t be so hard if she would clean up her toys after she played with them instead of leaving them all out. I suppose that’s a hard concept to grasp when you’re four, though.
Eventually, she finally started cleaning her room – sometimes not until getting privileges taken away. She got to work and start putting a few toys away, but when I checked on her again, she had gotten distracted and started playing instead. I had to remind her (perhaps none too gently) over and over again exactly what she was supposed to be doing. She dragged out a simple chore, which should have taken ten minutes at the most, and make it an hour-long task. I explained that the sooner she got her work done, the more time she would have to play. It didn’t make a difference. She didn’t want to clean her room, no matter what I told her. Once, I even found her cleaning her brother’s room instead of hers, because apparently it was easier. Many times, I was tempted to just go and clean up for her and get it over with, but I knew that wouldn’t teach her anything. Sometimes as a parent, as frustrating as it can be, I have to let them learn the hard way.
And it was frustrating. It still is at times. But through it all, God has showed me a lesson about myself. He has opened my eyes to the fact that I am not so much different than my sweet (and yes, stubborn) little girl. My own life has plenty of messes that I’d rather just leave alone than attempt to clean up. Or maybe I go into it with determination, but I get distracted along the way and forget my purpose. Sometimes it’s tempting to try and clean up someone else’s mess instead, because it seems easier or helps delay what I really need to do. I know that putting it off only wastes my own time, but I make excuses, I whine and complain, and I avoid facing my mess at all costs. But sooner or later, it has to be faced. All of our problems do. Whether it’s unaddressed sin, dreams laid by the wayside, broken relationships, or any of the number of things life throws at us, eventually those messes have to be dealt with. The longer we wait, the higher the mountain becomes, making it harder and harder to clean up.
I know God could easily solve all my problems with a snap of His fingers, but I also know that He is a loving Father who wants me to learn and grow. If He took away all my pain, all my suffering, all my junk – what would I gain from that? He wants me to lean on Him and trust Him, of course, but He also wants me to do my part. He wants me to take responsibility. He wants me to be a humble and joyful servant, but I can’t do that if I just expect Him to do everything for me. He gives good gifts, He loves beyond measure, and He takes away our pain. But He also disciplines, and He also gives us hard work that seems too overwhelming for us to do. And I think that’s sort of the point. Without His help, it IS too difficult to do. But according to 2 Corinthians 12:9,
His power is made perfect in our weakness.
It is not with our own strength that He expects us to accomplish astounding feats, or even ordinary tasks. It is by His strength and through His grace we do these things, so that we are able to glorify Him.
Many people claim that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, but that really isn’t true. Today, you may very well be facing a mountain or a mess that you just cannot handle. But God can. And if you lean into His strength, you will overcome it. Jesus told us that “everything is possible for one who believes.” We can do anything, it’s true. But it’s not by any power or might of our own, it is through His grace alone.
Like I tell my daughter, we just have to take it one step at a time until the job gets done. Start with something small, and soon you will be moving mountains. God isn’t afraid of our mess, because He knows that it stretches us and makes us grow. And maybe as soon as we clean one mess, another one will show up. But He’ll be right there to encourage us and remind us of our purpose. There is always hope, so don’t give up.