A few years back, I was praying and the thought came to so strongly that it was almost audible; “Are you willing to accept victory?”  On the one hand it seemed like a strange question.  Who wouldn’t accept victory?  Who wouldn’t want victory from the stress that was going on in my life, at that time.  And yet, there was a strong sense of dread in the question.  It was as though the Holy Spirit was saying, “This is going to be really awful.  Are you willing to take this on my way?”

I think it only took a matter of seconds before I answered “Yes.”  After all, what were my options?  It was obvious that my situation wasn’t going to get better any time soon.  Why wouldn’t I say yes? Would I say no and then try to wade through whatever was coming all on my own?  Would I choose to go through it using my own methods?  I knew I needed a whole lot more wisdom and strength than anything I could muster on my own to handle what I could actually see happening, let alone what I couldn’t see up ahead.

The song, “Victory in Jesus” came to my mind, in particular the words that read, “He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.”  It occurred to me that we live in a culture that thinks of victory as the “up side” of everything.  The picture of victory is of someone raising her hands above her head, jumping up and down and shouting with joy.  But the victory that was obviously being offered me was something that was going to take me to a hard place.  There could be no doubt that my situation was going to be changed by being plunged into a flood of trouble - a heap of hurt.  Despite that, the “Yes” answer still seemed logical.  Whatever life held for me, however difficult it would become, to answer “No” and possibly get relief for a time would only mean masking the problems that were surfacing.

That would not be victory.  That would be pretending.  That would mean delaying the “surgery” that was needed to cure the core problem.  No one wants surgery, but seldom do we say no when it means a cure.

I am at the other end of that victory now and my life has been turned upside down and then right side up.  The victory didn’t come the way I expected.  It was harder than I could have imagined even though I sensed that day that it was going to be pretty awful.  Still, I have the assurance that I did all that I could.  God blessed me throughout the process and continues to bless my life in wonderful ways.

I wonder if you have had some time in your life that is unspeakably hard.  Maybe you are experiencing the most difficult season in your life right now.  I honestly didn’t expect it.  I was surprised by it.  My feelings are sometimes still hurt by it.  I think, though, that we cannot enjoy the full life that we long for and that God intends for us, without staying determined to respond well to the events in life that have hurt (or are hurting) us the most deeply.  I suspect that we spend some portion of the rest of our lives continuing to choose how we respond to a past but particularly painful event.  Only our relationship with God can keep us on track.

He intends to use the hard places to our advantage.  The enemy of our soul would like to see them crush us, or at least render us crippled.  God intends these things to be used for our strengthening and for the encouragement of those who look on.  Satan would like to see our responses (our lives) used to dishearten those we love.

Our responses must be authentic.  We can’t pretend that we are constantly “just fine” simply because we don’t want to appear “faithless” and risk being a bad example.  The pain is real, the time it takes to heal is real.  We must give ourselves permission to “feel” and by doing so, we will be giving others permission to feel, as well.  We can talk about our questions, doubts and confusion.  They are real and reasonable.  The key is that we work through them at the feet of Jesus.  This too is an example and a witness to those around us who will one day experience some deep pain of their own.