As I scroll through Instagram, I recognize what I am seeing are the highlights of people’s lives in my feed. Many are strangers to me. Some are friends. I follow for different reasons: inspiration, encouragement, friendship, learning. These are moments of achievement: the corners of one’s home that are worthy of boasts, the personal library where book spines are grouped like the rainbow, the Lightroom-filtered children playing sweetly at their mama’s feet. Sometimes it’s all too beautiful. I understand why we want to show the highlight reel of our lives and homes. I do this myself and I am not calling it wrong, but it’s not the full picture.
To be honest, our lives are not Instagram feeds. These little squares are not an honest assessment of the entirety of our lives. There is so much more than meets the eye…the ongoing disagreement you’re having with your husband, the chronic pain you suffer with daily, the loneliness you feel in the middle of parties, the real concerns you have for your adult child, the grief of losing someone dear, the broken relationships, and the list and variations of our “low”lights goes on.
We know our lives are not an endless stream of highlights. We all have struggles and difficulties in various forms. That is life! But if we saturate ourselves with modern aesthetics and popular influencers (which I do not recommend doing) we can get disoriented, beginning to think we are the only ones with low points. Just because it is not common to procure and share trials, of course doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
Difficulties do exist and suffering is difficult, but what if we saw suffering as a tool and ultimately a gift, rather than a curse? The Christian can see it this way! As James 1:2-5 says:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
I recently listened to an excellent Audiobook a friend publicly recommended called The Scars That Have Shaped Me by Vaneetha Rendall Risner. The author offers an exercise to help the reader gain a better perspective on our high and low points in life. It is a powerful illustration and I hope you will do it with me now. You will need a piece of paper and a pen.
She instructs you to plot a graph of your life. Create an x and y axis, with x (horizontal axis) marking your life in years (you could do 2-5 year increments), and y (vertical axis), marking your life on a scale of high and low (I did high, med, low). Now plot out your high and low points over the course of your lifetime thus far. The high points being the moments of great achievement or pure delight. The low points representing valleys of painful loss, suffering, rejection, or loneliness. Once you have plotted the points, connect the dots to make a line graph. Do you notice the arc? Does it look like a roller coaster of peaks and valleys?
Now Christian, if you are a follower of Christ, knowing God works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), you actually can turn that graph upside down to see God’s perspective of your life.
So go ahead and turn your paper upside down.
Do you see how the valleys have now actually become the mountaintops? Can you see how some of your worldly achievements perhaps hold less value to Him than they have to you?
Amazingly–and this is the key–if we draw near to God in our suffering, “our lowest moments actually become our spiritual highs because it is when God is doing the deepest work in us”. The low points are essential to a strong walk with Christ. For the Christian, they are often when we can experience the most significant spiritual growth of our lives because they are an opportunity to exert our greatest dependence on Him. There is a privilege in the valley that you may not yet be aware of…it is a privilege of closeness with our Lord if we will draw near to Him and His word in our times of need. The reward for trusting God in the valleys is that the low points truly do become the mountaintops and the earthly gains–though they can be good, are kept in their proper place.
We will do well to look beyond this life to the upward calling of Jesus Christ and filter our experiences through the lens of God’s eternal perspective! This is what will last.