“…but the hill country shall be yours, for though it is a forest, you shall clear it and possess it to its farthest borders; for you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.”
Joshua 17:18 (NRSV)
Yesterday afternoon my sister, my father, and I met with a medical professional in the retirement community where my folks live. We met to discuss my parents current needs. We needed to talk about my mom’s progression of Alzheimer’s, how it’s affecting my dad’s health in his fight against cancer, and to map out thoughts and ideas for how we monitor and address the situation going forward.
These are strange conversations that we weren’t even contemplating just a few years ago. It’s strange when things in life don’t turn out as you had envisioned. It can be unsettling, to say the least.
On the drive home my daughter asked me how I was doing with all of this, and what I was feeling. I was honest with her that I’m feeling all of the natural stages of grief that come with such events on life’s road. I then shared with her something that I feel God has been impressing on me in recent days.
Jesus said that He came that we might have “abundant life.” We often interpret that to mean life that is void of pain, sorrow, struggle, tragedy, or suffering. Yet, elsewhere in God’s message we are told to rejoice in our suffering, to consider it joy when we encounter trials, and to give thanks in all circumstances. We are told the godliness with contentment is the “means of great gain.” I’m beginning to understand that abundant life is not the absence of pain and struggle but the contented embracing of life in all of its diverse circumstances from tragedy to victory.
In todays’ chapter the family of Manasseh were not content with the inheritance they’d been given and they complained to Joshua. They wanted more. Joshua told them they could have the forest (which would have to be cleared), and a valley filled with strong enemies that would have to be overcome. The tribe complained that they weren’t happy with what Joshua was giving them. Joshua countered that his decision was final. In essence, Joshua countered their complaints by saying: “This is your lot in life.”
Today I’m reminded that we don’t always get to choose our lot in life. Things are not always going to turn out the way I planned. I can gripe and complain and play the victim. Or, I can embrace life in all of its diverse moments. I can learn to find contentment amidst the struggle, to consider it joy in the trials, to rejoice in my suffering. I’m slowly learning that an abundance of life includes the tough lots as well as the easy ones.