Driving home on Sunday after a fender bender fiasco, my husband and I discussed how lucky we are. We were fortunate enough to meet each other and marry at a young age. We both have supportive families that are there for us when we need them. We are both college-educated, and have enough money to and financial sense to guide us through tough times.
Even the stressful afternoon we had just had was so much better than it could have been. Our truck was barely damaged in a wreck that could have totaled a newer car, and we would be able to choose whether or not to pay for repairs or do it ourselves.
“Why do I deserve to be happy when so many better people are less fortunate?” I asked my husband.
“Be careful,” he replied with a smirk, “If you ask for misfortune, God might give it to you. Don’t drag me into the lessons He has to teach you.”
Less than twenty-four hours later, my lesson began.
Our apartment flooded after our neighbor’s water heater busted. Walker turned off his water and we spent two hours helping him bail water (while also creating a dam of towels in our apartment) before maintenance arrived to clean up the disaster. The only thing of ours that was damaged was one wooden shelf, and due to our neighbor’s quick thinking and lots of Tupperware containers, all of his furniture was spared.
For the rest of the week, we had two loud, industrial dehumidifiers running in our apartment. With filthy floors, a bathroom sink in our dining room, unwashed laundry piled high, our furniture in a jumbled mess, and the inability to clean anything until it was all over, my stress level skyrocketed. But we had a roof over our head, working water, and food in the pantry, so again I counted myself lucky.
Thursday rolled around, and we received a notice from the IRS that we owe taxes, that they refunded to us, because we incorrectly filled out a line item in 2015. But, with the insurance money from our car wreck, we will be able to pay the taxes in full. A third time, I knew we were blessed.
That night, a misstep sent me tumbling down the stairs to severely bruise my foot, sprain my wrist, and barely spare my laptop from shattering against the wall.
Up until that point, I felt like I had been coping pretty well. I had taken the flooding of our apartment in stride, and dealt with the inconveniences that followed. I had submitted to God our financial burdens, knowing he would take care of us. I had done what I could to support my husband, who was dealing with all of this during his first week of school and while studying for a major test that would help determine his academic future.
But sitting on the landing in emotional and physical pain, I came to the limit of what I could bear. I burst into tears.
My husband sat down next to me, hugged me, and said, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, [...] whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”1
“But what about when I have plenty of things I don’t want?” I asked.
He laughed with me through my tears.
The reality is, I don’t deserve to be happy. I don’t deserve to be fed and clothed and have a good job and life. God gives me these things anyway, not because of anything I do or say, but because I am His. Terrible things happen to all of us because evil is alive in our world, and it isn’t evenly dispersed. But we don’t have to submit to it. Instead of lamenting the inequality of life, we are called to use our blessings to bless others, and to give glory to the One who gives them to us.
This week, I learned to be generous instead of stingy when I am feeling empty and insecure. I learned to laugh because pain is not my master. Most importantly, I learned that God sees my messy life, acknowledges me for who I am (even the ugly parts), and loves me anyway.
When you find yourself at the bottom of your life’s stairs, injured and broken in body and spirit, remember the One who strengthens you. And stand back up.
1. Philippians 4:12b–13 NIV