It’s been some time since we’ve enjoyed the mountains of Van Buren County. This year, I missed fall’s colors, lazy days of reading from the porch swing, and watching for wildlife. Yet, I treasured the solitude in the early hours today; I was up before dawn putting thoughts and words together. The outdoor temperature of 27 degrees prompted appreciation for a warm blanket, a freshly brewed cup of coffee, and, of course, our cozy little hillside cabin. This is what gratitude looks like in this crazy, unpredicted place I find myself – A season of life I had pictured much differently. Truth is, it’s been a hard season. But it’s the little things, the familiar things, that make me smile and offer up moments of thanksgiving to the One who authors my story. God is always teaching us in each new season, and I full well know that every unexpected twist does not determine my identity. Each season that comes, every twist life takes, and each difficulty I face is an opportunity to look for God’s grace. I preach His grace and mercy to myself every single day and walk in this gospel truth every season all year long.
Make no mistake here because it’s been in the midst of this season that God has shown himself faithful. He has provided more opportunities than ever before in teaching, counseling, mentoring, and discipleship. His working in and through me has flourished in 2022 and I am looking forward to 2023.
EVERYTHING IS FUTILE
Lately, my personal Bible reading, study, and my counseling has included the book of Ecclesiastes. The preacher in this wisdom book has much to say about seasons. (“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal.”) Whether life’s seasons come to us with ease or pass from us with pain, together they make up the whole of our life stories. But reality is that not many of us will find our stories in history books and in a few generations, our names will be completely forgotten. All things on earth are short lived, transitory, and lacking in lasting substance. Nonetheless, God tells me in his Word that my name is written in the book of life (Ephes. 1:3-6; Rev. 3:5). My identity is not found in the futile things of this world. What then is the purpose of life?
The words of the Teacher,, son of David, king in Jerusalem. “Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Absolute futility. Everything is futile.” What does a person gain for all his efforts that he labors at under the sun? A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets; panting, it hurries back to the place where it rises. Gusting to the south, turning to the north, turning, turning, goes the wind, and the wind returns in its cycles. All the streams flow to the sea, yet the sea is never full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again. All things are wearisome, more than anyone can say. The eye is not satisfied by seeing or the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun. Can one say about anything, “Look, this is new”? It has already existed in the ages before us. There is no remembrance of those who came before; and of those who will come after there will also be no remembrance by those who follow them. - Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2020), Ec 1:1–11.
As Americans we have a tendency to put labels on ourselves. Whether the label comes from our work, social status, our the wealth we’ve accumulated, many times this self-imposed identification is interwoven with what we have determined as our purpose. Jesus gets right to the meat of things in Mark 8:36: “For what does it benefit someone to gain the whole world and yet lose his life?” My identity is found in Jesus Christ.
The Source of Truth
Beyond the preachers words in Ecclesiastes, how do we understand the fleeting condition of mankind on the earth? Maybe you are wrestling with a hard season of life that is stirring questions. Is there a disconnect between what you’ve been given in the gospel and how that plays out in daily life? We all know someone in need of help and hope and sometimes that person is us! Where do you turn for truth when life lacks a sense of meaning? More and more I encounter women who are looking to shallow philosophies and manmade tools as they overthink life’s issues. This world is full of confusion and as a biblical counselor, it’s my duty to point these well-intentioned women back to the Scriptures.
The Bible is where God himself tells us who He is and who we are in him. In the Scriptures we find how we best relate to others while displaying the fruits of the Spirit. I am thankful that I do not depend on an astrological symbol and how the stars align on a particular day. My identity, my purpose, and my relationships are not determined by an enneagram number as typology used for insight. Simply put, true identity is not found in a number or the stars. Life is fleeting so let’s not spend precious time wrapped up in half truths that can lead to questioning who we are, who God is, and what our place is in the universe. God’s ways are better.
Let whoever is wise understand these things, and whoever is insightful recognize them. For the ways of the Lord are right, and the righteous walk in them... - Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2020), Ho 14:9a.
How we live as we navigate unexpected seasons of life is the product of how we think. Our actions are the result of our thoughts. We must have thoughts focused on “the things above;” Our priorities and thoughts need to be aligned with God’s priorities and thoughts. We need to think the way God thinks. How do we do that? We learn, we live, and we breathe God’s Word – The source of pure truth.
A Book Recommendation
I am closing with a book recommendation and a link to a short Bible study based on the book: Identity Theft – Reclaiming the Truth of Who we Are in Christ is edited by Melissa Kruger with Trillia Newbell, Hannah Anderson, Jen Wilkin, and more. The first two chapters alone are worth the read as their words bring clarity to matters of justification, sanctification, and glorification. Here are a few quotes followed by the link.
“Your identity is grounded in God’s work in you, not your work for God.”
“Belonging to Christ means that we also belong to everyone else who belongs to him.”
“He wanted you. He delights in you. He loves you.”