In ten years, you won’t remember what’s bothering you today.
I’ve been a pastor for just about twenty years. During this time, I can’t remember a season without some level of discouragement. Some days were boiling, others just simmering, but there’s always been a pot of adversity on the stove.
Do you know what’s interesting? When I look back over the last two decades, I can only remember maybe five or ten big things. Surprising? It should be. That’s nearly a thousand Mondays where I felt like my sermon wasn’t good enough. It’s hundreds of difficult meetings, awkward conversations, vague texts, angry emails, resignation letters, cryptic meeting requests, and other problems I couldn’t solve. But today, these problems aren’t on the front burner–they’re not even on the stove. Or even in the kitchen! Today has its own problems. And so will tomorrow.
The problems we face today will probably be hard to remember in twenty years.
The problems we face deserve our attention. But we don’t need to worry about them.
The problems we face today will probably be hard to remember in twenty years. If we could take a time machine back to 2008 or 2013 or 2020 (too soon?), what would you find? You’d find me acting like whatever problem I’m dealing with is the end of the world. You’d find me wondering if the church would survive, feeling sorry for myself, or worse–questioning if I should even keep going.
Do you know what I’d tell that guy if I went back in time? I’d say to him that he needs a little perspective.
I’d tell him that things could be worse than they are. The fact that Jesus lets a knucklehead like me serve him is a testament to both his sovereignty and his love. The fact that he doesn’t allow us complete control of the wheel demonstrates his mercy and wisdom. Be thankful that the Lord prevents you and others from making a complete hash of things.
I’d also hasten to remind him that he’s not alone. The truth of the incarnation means that God is not ashamed to enter into our mess (Heb. 2:11). He has gone into the darkest places of this world and dealt with the worst problems. And he’s come out victorious. He doesn’t leave us alone (Matt. 28:20). Even though you feel abandoned, you are not. There is one who was forsaken for you so that you would never be deserted (Matt. 27:46).
I’d tell him that his eyesight is off. When dealing with difficulty, I’m as blind as a bat to what God’s done in the past and somehow have perfect vision for how bad the future will be. Put on the spectacles of the Scriptures. What do you see? God has been, is, and forevermore will be faithful. His past performance is indicative of future results. His promises are true. Even if you can’t see your way clear, he can. Walk by the squinting eyes of faith.
I’d also tell him that he’ll likely not remember this in a few years. So, work hard, pray, and serve faithfully. But, don’t worry. You will live through it to face another day (with new challenges).
Many of our struggles will fade into history. The ones that remain will one day do the same. I sometimes imagine that entering heaven is like walking over a bridge. And upon stepping over the threshold to Immanuel’s land, all of the burdens of life roll off our back into the infinite abyss below. They are gone forever and out of view. Now our eyes are filled with the glory of Christ (1 Jn. 3:2).
Then the stove is shut off. And we’re home. Until then, perspective is vital.