Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% what you make of it.
I've heard it said many times before, but I'm finally starting to believe it. If you read my last post, you know I'm learning to make peace with a life that I didn't plan. It's funny how right after I wrote a book about the difficulties unmet expectations, I entered into a season with impossibly perfect expectations that were shattered once again. Life is a constant process of learning and re-learning (and re-learning and re-learning...)
Now that I'm settling into this new life I didn't expect, I'm trying to be as intentional as possible about looking for good in all things. I'm trying to make the best of this situation because I trust that God works all things, even (especially!) hard things, together for our good.
As many of you probably know, one of my favorite Bible verses of all time is Isaiah 43:19 - "Behold, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." (It's even the the title of my book, I love it so much!)
Over the past few months, I've been reading the book of Isaiah in its entirety. Isaiah tells the story of God's people placing their trust in idols that cannot do anything for them. An idol is anything that we put in the place of God — we let it dictate our decisions and we depend on it for peace. In Isaiah, God gives His people (the Israelites) a series of "wakeup calls" that their idols aren't serving them. When they refused to change their ways, God puts them through the trial of being exiled from their homeland. This exile isn't a heartless punishment, it's an opportunity for the Israelites to put their trust in the only God who can actually save them.
Reading Isaiah has made me evaluate my own idols — the opinions of others and appearing successful, to name just a few — and reminded me that the trials I face can have purpose. The other day, I encountered a few verses that warned me about wasting the season I'm in.
"Who gave up Jacob to the looter, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned, in whose ways they would not walk, in whose law they would not obey?
So he poured on him the heat of his anger and the might of the battle; it set him on fire all around, but he did not understand; it burned him up, but he did not take it to heart." Isaiah 42:24-25
Let's take a quick pause here to talk about reading the Bible. It can be very confusing, and that is completely okay. To be honest, when I first read this passage nothing stood out to me. Thankfully, there are tons of resources that make Bible reading easier. Here are a few of my favorites...
Pray and ask God for help
Search "Isaiah 42 commentary" (or whatever chapter I'm reading) on Google and read what Bible scholars have written about the verses
Read the verse in a few different translations
Re-write the verse in my own words - not to rewrite the Bible, but to help me better understand and remember what the verse means.
After I've spent some time digging into the meaning of Isaiah 42:24-25, here's what I now know.
The verse is first essentially saying: Who allowed God's people to be captured and exiled? It was God, who we (the Israelites, but also God's people everywhere) have sinned against (by making and worshipping other idols).
The next verse follows up these questions by explaining how God responded to the people's lack of trust in Him and their idolatry. Here's verse 25 in The Message translation of the Bible:
"Their whole world collapsed but they still didn't get it; their life is in ruins but they don't take it to heart." Isaiah 42:25
For me personally, The Message version of this verse makes things more clear. God's people were waiting for man-made idols to save them, but it just led their lives to ruin. The collapse of their safety and security was an opportunity for them to finally learn to trust God instead of depending on other sources of strength.
But they still didn't get it.
They still didn't take it to heart.
They missed out on the opportunity to make purpose from their pain.
There have been multiple moments in the past few months and days even where I've felt like my life is in ruins. Unlike the Israelites, my home has not been captured by other kingdoms and I'm not being forced into exile. But my world feels like its crumbling, in a "I just graduated college and I'm not sure what's next for me" kind of way.
There is a lot to learn from this verse — I don't want to be like the Israelites, who went through trials and missed the opportunity to learn. This connects with that old cliché I mentioned at the start of this post: "Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% what you make of it."
I can't control which trials I face. I can only control how I respond.
To be honest, it's been really difficult for me to love the season I'm currently in. I've tried everything I can to rush this season along, but evidently God wants me here for a reason. If I can't change my circumstance (believe me, I've tried) I don't want to waste this season of waiting, even though I'm tempted to self-medicate with productivity or apathy or control.
I don't want to be "set...on fire all around" and "not understand." I don't want to be "burned" but not "take it to heart," as quoted in Isaiah 42:24-25 NIV.
If I can't change my situation by my own will, I want to make the most out of my trial. I want to walk out of this better, not just bruised.
Through all of this, I'm holding on to the hope that someday I will be in a different place, more settled and confident. But even if my situation doesn't unfold how I want it to, I believe I will be changed for the better if I allow this trial to rearrange my desires. This season of life is teaching me that my idols can't save me — no matter how successful or smart I appear — only Jesus can.
When I am tempted to dwell on my unmet expectations or strive to escape my current reality, I will remember that "In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps" (Proverbs 16:9). I will look at the story of Isaiah for the reminder that God will make "a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert" (verse 43:19).
I'm not sure where you feel like you're stuck or exiled, but I want to encourage you: this trial can make you better, but only if you let it. I'm going to say it once more: Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% what you make of it. If you're in a situation you'd never choose for yourself, I see you and I'm sorry. It's okay to admit this is really hard. Feel the sadness and disappointment, but realize that is not your final destination. You're missing out if you get stuck complaining about what you can't control.
Don't let this season pass you by without teaching you something, without making you better.
Don't get "set...on fire all around" and "not understand."
Don't be "burned" but not "take it to heart."
I know you've got this. We've got this.
Don't waste the waiting.