There is a song by Gungor called “Beautiful Things.” The first phrase is, “All this pain. I wonder if I’ll ever find my way. I wonder if my life could really change at all.” Just take a second to really ponder this phrase. There are so many hurting people in this world. “All this pain. I wonder if I’ll ever find my way. I wonder if my life could really change at all.” Was there ever a time when you felt that way? Maybe you’re feeling that way right now. I can think of so many dark times in my life when I have wondered this exact thing. I’ve so often wondered if things could really ever turn around…if I could ever really be happy again. Could it really be possible to forget the hurt?
Maybe it is a miscarriage. Maybe it is infertility. Maybe it is sexual abuse. Maybe it is the death of a child or other loved one. Maybe it is a divorce. Maybe an unhappy marriage. Maybe it is a breakup from a boyfriend or girlfriend. Maybe it is the death of a dream. Maybe it is an illness. Maybe it is chemical or clinical. Whatever it is, I’m convinced that everyone has felt this way at one point or another. “Will it ever really get better? How can something good possibly come out of this?”
The song continues with, “All this earth. Could all that is lost ever be found? Could a garden come up from this ground at all?” Similarly, I think we all feel that way about our own souls…our own hearts. Sometimes we feel so useless…ugly…empty on our own. Is there really any good thing that I can do? Can something beautiful really be created out of my life?
I love the comparison of our lives to a garden. I love that something as plain and ugly as dirt and mud is the very thing needed to create a beautiful garden full of flowers, plants, fruit… I love that something as small as a seed can turn into something as great as the ancient trees of the Redwood Forest.
Pain is an awful part of life. A lot of people actually question the existence of God because of the existence of pain. They wonder, “how could a loving God allow…” We all go through painful times in life. There are certain painful experiences in my life that I would not wish upon my worst enemy. Some of those were things I chose and brought on myself. Others are experiences that were chosen for me and I just got to reap many of the consequences. I can very distinctly remember times in my pre-teen/early teen years when I thought about ending it all. Life seemed so incredibly chaotic and I felt as if I had absolutely no control over how my life would turn out. I remember feeling like the dirt and dust…something that is always there, but often a nuisance. I definitely thought, “I wonder if I’ll ever find my way. I wonder if my life could really change at all.” I remember thinking that if things continued the way they were and if life could not ever get better than what it was, then there was no use going on.
“You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us”
I love the promise of new life. I love the hope that Spring brings with green life rising up from the ground after a long winter filled with icy death. At times, life seems hopeless and winter feels so long. Sometimes it feels like our entire lives have been one long winter. One terrible thing after another…constant storms of bad news and heartache and darkness. Sometimes it takes so much concentration to find any beauty in our lives at all…especially here in America.
Now, I know that it sounds odd to say that beauty is hard to find here because we are a nation filled with wealth and abundance. We have more than so many people on this planet have. But our abundance almost makes it more difficult to see the great blessings that we have. We are so distracted with the things we don’t have or things we wish we had that we miss out on some of the most precious gifts…like clean water, indoor plumbing (I don’t know if I could live without that…), food, electricity, vaccinations from fatal diseases, hospitals, a police force… We have so much to be thankful for even in an icy winter.
Did you know that there are so many examples of pain becoming beautiful in nature? My favorite example is that of a butterfly. Of course a butterfly is often considered a symbol of new life. It starts off life as an ugly little squirmy worm-like creature, turns into a caterpillar, covers itself in a chrysalis, and emerges as a beautiful butterfly. Before a butterfly can take off and spread her wings, she needs to experience pain. She has to struggle to emerge from the chrysalis she created on her own. Without that struggle, her wings will never be strong enough to fly. She will be helplessly trapped on a branch of a tree and die from a predator, starvation…something. But she will never survive.
I think of the pain that I had to endure to be able to hold Emery and Levi in my arms. Not just the pains of labor, but also the pains during pregnancy. Pregnancy, while a blessing, is quite uncomfortable for many. Labor is indescribably painful. Now, I know that there is an option of an epidural and not feeling pain during labor, but there is still pain after the baby is born. Your body still contracts as it goes back to its normal size. Your body still hurts as it recovers from its amazing adventure. There is no such thing as getting a child without pain. Even if that child comes through adoption rather than through your own body…it is painful to watch your child go through pain. It is exhausting to be up into the night with your sick child…or worrying about your grown children. Pain is a part of parenthood…but you cannot get parenthood without pain. But I would take that pain any day for the moments of holding my kids in my arms.
I am so thankful for 2 Corinthians 5:17 which says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone. The new has come.” What a great promise of new life. What a great chance I am given for change! I am not bound to life’s circumstances. I’m not bound to the bad choices I’ve made. That is gone now. I don’t have to dwell on those things. I get to relish in the thought that I am made new from the inside out. I get to start over.
Then there are pains that still make me wonder, “Why did I have to go through that? What good thing can possibly come from this?” While I would love to go into detail about exactly what I’m talking about, I won’t…and I think that it is best for now. I know that those things will somehow produce endurance in me. They will somehow build character in me. Am I glad to have gone through these events? No. If I had a choice to go back, would I allow them to happen again? I don’t think so. But I also know that I lack the big picture here. I know that there is going to be some way that I am going to be able to use the strength God developed inside me to get through some of life’s difficult experiences. I can say, though, that some of these experiences have already begun a good work. I have, somehow, learned the value of forgiveness. I have learned the beauty of redemption. I have learned that the phrases like, “Once a…always a…” (fill in the blank) are not true! There’s no such thing as being trapped in whatever choice you’re making in life. I know that there is an ability to change and to be redeemed. I’ve seen it in some of the worst of circumstances. That pain and struggle has, in its own way, brought me hope. It has reminded me that there’s no being stuck. There’s choosing stuck.
I am so thankful that beautiful things have been made from the pain in my life. I am anxious to see how many more beautiful things there are to come. I hope that you’re able to see the beauty in your life today. I’m convinced that no matter how dark things seem or how hopeless you may feel that there is something good waiting for you. I’m convinced that you will find your way and your life really can change. I’m convinced that God desires to grow a garden in your life. Does it make the pain go away? No. Does it make it less painful? I’m not sure. But it might bring you some hope. God makes beautiful things out of the dust. We are made of dust.