Our society tends to place so much value on appearance and image. We see millions of highlight reels, that just don’t quite add up to real life. We often see an illusion of someone else’s life and not reality. We see the perfect mom, the perfect husband, the perfect kids, the perfect career, the perfect home, the perfect exercise regimen, the perfect body, and the perfect hair and makeup (which, by the way, are most of the time completely edited, again, not real).
We live in a world that craves flawlessness and leaves no room for mistakes or imperfection. Who’s to define what perfect looks like anyway? With all of the fronts, it can be really hard for us to step out of the box and be vulnerable. It can be hard for us to admit that we don’t have it all together. I battle with this so often.
We can be left feeling like we are the only ones who struggle. But let me assure you that we all go through less than perfect trials. We do not have special powers that cause us to come out of our pains and trials untouched. Therefore, it’s okay to feel weak at times and it’s okay to not have it all together in the middle of our journeys. It’s okay for us to share with trusted women of God that we need prayer. We can ask a friend for prayer when our marriage is a little rocky. We can ask for comfort & support when our children make less than perfect choices. We should be able to do this without judgment in the Family of God. Will our church family be perfect? No, but don’t let that hold you back from seeking support.
The Middle of Our Stories
The one thing about the middle of our stories is that God truly is molding and shaping us. He is transforming our minds and hearts and the minds and hearts of our family. When we are right in the middle of what seems to be a hopeless mess, God knows what he is doing.
The enemy wants to deceive us. He wants us to play the comparison game. He will say, “Look at this lady over here, her kids have it all together, Look at this other person over here, she had enough faith for her healing, and girl, you just don’t have enough. He wants us to feel defective. He flat out wants to destroy us. The enemy will come at us with all kinds of accusations when we are in the middle of struggles. When we are waiting for God to move, he wants nothing more than for us to detour from what God wants to do in our lives.
But what the enemy doesn’t want us to know is that our painful middles can make us better and grow lasting fruit in our hearts. Our middles can glorify God and can be used to help others. In our middles, the Holy Spirit will sometimes reveal strongholds and idols that have taken up residence in our hearts.
When the pain seems too hard to bear, I often ask myself, “Is this season producing faith and good fruit inside of me? Is it making me better or bitter?” Pain has a way of bringing out things that are deeply rooted in our hearts and sometimes, I find it to be the things that aren’t that pretty. Oftentimes, it’s the ugly, prideful, and selfish things that will rear its ugly head when we are under pressure.
We live in a fallen world where suffering and sickness exist. We will all go through trials while on this earth. However, the enemy can’t keep us down unless we become bitter and let him. The pain that the enemy is using to try and take us out, we can rest assured that God is using it for our good. God doesn’t always remove the painful trial right when we ask. However, the pain that he allows can purify us and can work on our behalf producing lasting fruit inside of us. We can rest in knowing that he is a loving and good Father. He wants what’s best for His children and we have to persevere and trust in that.
You see, right now as I write, I’m in the middle of my story. I haven’t yet seen the victory or my healing. But I’ve found valuable treasures here in the middle. The things God has so mercifully been working in me is something I would have never received without my journey through suffering. The fruit that the Holy Spirit has been growing in my heart from the depths of suffering is priceless. Many times the enemy has come to sift me out. He would say, “ If you just had more faith God would heal you. You must not be one of his favorites or he would have healed you by now.”
But the enemy has highly underestimated He who lives inside of me. Because of the one who lives inside of me, I can grow and learn in the middle of this season in life. I can rejoice with someone else when God heals them, knowing that God will also heal me when it’s his perfect time. I can rejoice with someone else, that their child has made the right choices, knowing that God also has a plan and purpose for my child despite his/her wrong choices. God sees the bigger picture, and that my friend, will bring beauty from ashes. So if you feel like you are sitting in a big heap of ashes today. Just know that God promises to bring good out of our messy middles.
The Middle of Jesus’ Story
Who in all of history had a messier middle than all of us but Jesus Christ……..
The middle of Jesus’ story was no highlight reel. His journey to the cross was his “cup” here on earth. Dying on the cross is the one thing that he came to earth to do. He was the sacrifice that gave us forgiveness of sins. This was the journey that had been placed before Him. His story had a significant middle. A middle full of the mundane, miracles, joy, suffering, rejection, love, loyalty, healing, teaching, leading, faith, friendship, humility, pain, grief, sorrow, and betrayal. This was the middle of Jesus’s story. Without the middle of his journey to the cross, we would be missing out on so much of who Jesus is. But because of His middle, we can have comfort in knowing that we have a God who can relate to all of our middles. Even our painful ones.
Aren’t you glad that Jesus shared his long-fought middle with us? Aren’t you glad that he didn’t just share his highlight reel? This God can relate to me! Hallelujah! Jesus’ middle led to a victory and ours will too. We may not even see the purpose of our middles in this lifetime. This thing that is happening in our lives could impact generations to come. God sees the bigger picture. His thoughts and his ways are so much higher than ours. We will never fully grasp the plans of God. We just have to trust in what little bit we can get our tiny little minds around and leave the rest to faith.
Two years ago I became sick with a chronic illness, it came out of nowhere and came with intense suffering. I remember telling God, “This is not the cup I wanted nor the cup I had asked for.” I did not want this cup of suffering that he had allowed in my life. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t walk this journey with chronic illness. As the journey got harder, my self-sufficiency died. My pride and dignity left, and there I was, stripped away, standing bare before the Lord.
As the journey got harder, my self-sufficiency died. My pride and dignity left, and there I was, stripped away, standing bare before the Lord.
Chronic illness relapses have had a way of stripping me of my pride. When you lose your ability to lift your arms to wash your hair at times, it has a way of chipping away at your pride and dignity. Having to turn to someone else and ask for help was not something that I was used to at all. The Holy Spirit revealed to me that pride and self-sufficiency had become idols in my life. He spoke to me, “You can choose to let this trial make you better or you can choose to let it make you bitter. You can choose to allow the Holy Spirit to do a work in you or you can choose to let your heart become hardened.”
This was not the answer I was looking for. It would be so much easier if I didn’t have to go through any suffering at all. I just wanted my Father to remove the trial. I didn’t want to walk through it. It was too humiliating and it had brought me low according to the world‘s view of success. But thankfully God doesn’t see success and abundance as the world sees it.
As my health and energy have started to improve, the one thing I had left was my passion for writing. I started blogging about things that God would place on my heart and of course, it included chronic illness because that just so happens to be the journey that I’m walking through at the moment. I remember getting frustrated and asking God, “Why would you give me this passion for writing when all I have to write about is the mundane, messy middle of chronic illness? Not a success story, not how I made it to the other side and not how I’m healed.”
Bearing Fruit in the Painful Middle
But through the intense suffering, God started revealing to me the beauty of the middle of my story. I could see the beauty and the transformation that the Holy Spirit was doing inside of me. I could see the pruning and the good fruit that was taking place in my life. The outside of my situation still looked grim and messy but the real work was taking place in my heart. What the enemy had used to try to take me out, God was using to make me more like Christ. What the enemy meant for my harm, God has been turning it for my good.
So, although God hasn’t removed this fiery trial yet, He has started revealing some of the idols that I have had hidden away in my heart. Things that were taking his place and hindering my relationship with him. My pride, people-pleasing, and the need to be understood by others were taking the place of God in my heart. These were strongholds that were destroying His daughter’s abundant life.
If you also struggle with these things, just know that we are not alone. Some of God’s greatest and most faithful warriors, of the Bible, also struggled with these same issues.
The Messy Middle of Job’s Story
Job was one of these faithful warriors. Job’s life tells a story of great perseverance in the face of unthinkable suffering.
James 5:10-11 KJV says, “Take my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example, of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.”
It’s been the middle of Job’s story that’s helped me persevere in the face of suffering. Knowing that my God is in complete control and full of compassion and mercy gives me courage. God will clothe me with strength and dignity to laugh at the days to come, good or bad.
In the book of Job, God says that Job was perfect and upright, one that feared God, and eschewed evil (Job 1:1 KJV). We know when the Bible says that Job was perfect, that it doesn’t literally mean that he was sinless. We are none sinless. Even as upright as Job was, we see later on in the middle of his story that suffering had a way of breaking him. God said Job was one of his most upright servants in all of the earth and even he had idols hid away in his heart. This should give all of us imperfect people, hope.
Have you ever wondered why God didn’t just put the end of Job’s story in the Bible? You know, the victory, the restoration, or Job’s highlight reel. Why would he put the depressing devastating middle of Job’s life in His Holy Word? Because the middle of Job’s story is where it shows the long-fought battle and the perseverance. It shows the fruit that grew, even from the depths of sorrow. Job’s story shows us that even the strongest of God’s warriors can go through life-altering difficulties and even experience depression. We are not the strong ones, but God is. We are not the ones in control, but God is. We are merely human.
Job, even as upright as he was when adversity and trauma hit he found himself fighting with self-pity and wondering why evil people were prospering while he was enduring extreme suffering and loss. It comforts me to know that an upright man such as Job still struggled to make it through suffering. He didn’t necessarily walk through his losses gloriously and neither do we. We have to depend on God and his strength and not our own.
Just as Job’s middle helps us to persevere, yours and mine can also help someone else persevere. Some people may not receive our middles and that’s okay. Our middles aren’t meant for everyone but they ARE meant for someone. Adversity comes to us all. No one’s journey is the same. But through authenticity, we can see just how similar our struggles are. We can be a light in someone else’s darkness, not because we have any power to help them but because we carry the power that can help them, the Holy Spirit. When Christ was lifted up and died on the cross, He said he would draw all people to himself (John 12:32). He is the one who draws people, not us. But the middle of our story has meaning, no matter how horribly we seem to be handling it. Fruit is grown in the middle of our mess, even when we can’t see it. We can trust our Father even when the healing hasn‘t come yet.
Someone is needing to hear your middle. They need to see the works, the fruit, and the glory of God coming from our middles even when the end and the victory seem nowhere in sight. All we have is our testimonies. We can’t talk about things that God hasn’t personally walked us through.
And they overcame him (the enemy) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. – Revelation 12:11 KJV
So, ladies, scroll right past those highlight reels, knowing that they are just that, HIGHLIGHT REELS. BE strong in your authenticity. The Bible never shows only the highlight reels of his people’s life. He shared the good, the bad, and the ugly. And what magnificent power the Word of God holds!
I would love to hear what God has been working in you, in the middle of your hard-fought battle. If you feel comfortable, please leave a comment. It might be the one thing that someone else needs to hear today.
Written by Tracy Hagler
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on The Faith to Flourish