The blessing of a messed-up life

I’ve known a few people who have enjoyed relatively problem-free lives. By “few” I mean I can count these people on one-and-a-half hands. Max. One woman I used to know who proudly and regularly proclaimed she lived by God’s principles (exegeted by Dr. Dobson in the childrearing department, Elizabeth Elliott in the wifely submission department, Larry Burkett for finances, Emilie Barnes for teacups and doilies) had a life that seemed to bear witness to the discipline of living within the boundaries of that counsel. It all worked for her.

There was a lot of “if only” in her response to people who had messier lives: “If only this person had followed godly principles, __________ would never have happened to them.” She also had a toxic propensity for labeling sick people as spiritual failures. (“If only they’d dealt with the sin in their lives – or prayed more effectively – they’d enjoy the blessings of good health and a long life!”)

Let it be noted here that this woman with the perfect life was one of the least-compassionate people I’ve ever known. But you probably already figured that one out! Her handful of companions in the blessed life department are all nice enough people, but they were people who spoke the language of compassion haltingly, with a strong pity accent.

When hard stuff happens in my life , I find myself wistfully longing for someone else’s life. The life I covet is actually a life like this handful of blessed people enjoys. I want the good gifts I see in their lives: orderly families, HGTV homes, cozy church experiences, glowing good health.

Again and again I discover in the midst of my pain that the Giver of those good gifts is there in the midst of the chaos and pain, wanting me. Giving me Himself. Yesterday my family’s too-dramatic life took yet another hard turn: more loss, more upheaval. It feels anything but a blessing today.
But I am learning to do the counter-intuitive thing – turn into the pain instead of running, cursing or cowering – or worse, demanding that God give me the blessed life I am convinced I so richly deserve. As I do, I again discover my Father there.
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About Michelle Van Loon
  • Lisa

    I don’t think you can truly exhibit compassion until you’ve been on the receiving end of it, through some tragedy or trial in your life. It’s puzzling to me why some people seem to experience relatively few trials compared to others…but no matter what trials we go through, God is there in the midst of it. Quite often I feel closer to God when I’m going through a tough time than when everything’s going my way, so in that respect, trials are a blessing.

  • Michelle Van Loon

    I wonder if I’m jealous of those few who seem to get through life unscathed. I think at some level I must be – or I’m simply tired, and am craving some rest. Their lives look restful to me.

    (Of course, I’m not wearing their shoes, and some of these folks may be fighting battles I can’t begin to imagine. However, at least in a couple of instances, the people I’ve known with blessed lives have sort of bragged about them, and chalked those lives up to their adherence to the principles.)

    You’re so right, Lisa. We learn compassion through the hard stuff, and give it away to others as we receive it.

  • Jessica

    we learn it from those who teach us of compassion. Jesus being the ultimate example. other people in our lives. thank you for being an example of compassion in my life michelle. you are a blessing. i am praying for you and your family. my heart is hurting for you.

  • Michelle Van Loon

    Those are words of compassion, Jess.

    Thanks – - -


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