When my husband is asked “How are you doing?”, his most common answer is “I’m living the dream!”  It’s sort of his life-phrase.  He is the ever-optimistic, full of faith person in our relationship.  I would like to think I’m the “realistic” one, but I guess I probably lean to the pessimist side as my first gut-reaction when life challenges come my way.

For a long time his answer bothered me.

Sometimes we would be in the middle of a seemingly impossible financial trial or incredibly weighty emotional situation, and he would still say “I’m living the dream!”  I would challenge him thinking he was being too fake or not open & vulnerable enough with the people asking.  But, one day as I was mocking his answer because of our challenging circumstances, it sparked a conversation I won’t forget.  My husband told me that he doesn’t EXPECT life to be easy.  He knows it will be difficult.  But in the midst of the challenges he sees all the great things God has given and the ways God has come through for him.

Maybe this answer seems obvious to you, but for me it was like a lightning bolt, “aha” moment.  Without realizing it my mindset has been to expect that if I do my best, things should be relatively easy & smooth-sailing.  Every little bump, hurdle or trial in life has made me question God’s love for me, or if I did something wrong, or made me feel like I was being punished for something.

In that conversation I finally realized that’s not what life is about.  God DOES love me!  And life IS going to be difficult.  Those two facts CAN co-exist.  But, because of God’s love and goodness, I get to live my life with purpose even in the midst of hard seasons of life.

As I walk through trials, He is there with me.

And, if I yield myself to Him, incredible beauty can come through my trials for myself to see and for other people to be encouraged by.  God brings us fulfillment and hope and blessings through painful situations.

One day as I was reading my Bible, I noticed something I had never thought of before.  This is the story of when an angel visited Mary to tell her she would be the mother of Jesus.

Luke 1:30-31  “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.”

In her response, she says:

Luke 1:47-48 “How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!  For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed.”

And here’s what hit me as I read the passage.  What did her life look like as a result of God’s “favor” and being “blessed” by God?

-       She would be misunderstood & shunned for being pregnant while not married.  The culture of her day was much more harsh than our culture is, and would’ve caused many strained relationships (at best).

-       She would be pregnant for 9 months.  We don’t know what aches & pains her pregnancy brought, but most women I know have discomfort, some sickness, and many other minor aches & pains at minimum.   My own pregnancies were relatively good, and still had plenty of discomfort!

-       She would give birth in a stable.  Having a baby is always hard work, but she definitely had no pain medication and no medical staff or midwives to help out that we know of.

-       She would help raise Jesus, along with her other children.  And from my few years of experience, I’ll say this… Parenthood is not for the faint of heart!

-       She would eventually have to watch her son die on a cross.  Death on a cross was normally reserved for criminals in Bible days.  She ultimately had to watch her son bear the sins of the entire world, be punished as a criminal, and die before her eyes.  I can’t even fathom how incredibly hard that must’ve been as a mother.

Although her life was incredibly difficult, we look at her story and think of her as a blessed woman.  She had a very special part in God’s story.

I want to be able to see my life that way too.  That although my circumstances aren’t perfect, I am blessed to get to play a role in God’s story.  My pains, hard work, setbacks, discouragements, and challenges can be woven into my story in a way that shows God’s love, beauty and grace.  God walks with me, and my life has purpose and meaning.

So, whatever trials you and I face today, let’s look for the good & the beautiful & the miraculous that God wants to show us.  We really can “live the dream” today!