Shortly after the neighborhood caterpillar infestation, we had a problem with ants in our house. It was stressful and bothersome, but I felt capable of handling the situation since I had a much worse ant infestation years back when I was single.
I pulled out all the old tricks, and soon the ants were gone and I had patched up the hole from which they had entered with some plaster. But then that afternoon, we had a new cluster of ants paving a trail into the inner confines of our living room, and then we had a new one the following morning just a few feet away from the second one I had cleared up the previous afternoon. I ended up spraying the areas where the ants had entered with bug spray, mopping the house thoroughly again with a solution that would deter the ants, vacuuming the living room rug (the ants were starting to climb it), and then patching up all the areas (and possible areas) where the ants had entered our home.
For a week or so, it seemed like all problems were solved. We soon realized they weren’t, however. We found ants in our hallway at that time. And then a few weeks later, my husband pointed out a new group of ants in our living room, not far from the original problem area.
As I took care of the most recent case of ants, I felt disheartened by the consistency of this problem. Just as we thought we had resolved the issue for good, it came back to taunt us, it seemed. Would we ever fully be rid of these little intruders?
Clearing out this latest cluster of ants made me think about how much their constant invasions symbolized life issues in general. The truth is, we will all experience an ant intrusion sooner or later. We may not encounter a literal ant problem (although that is very probable too), but at some point, we will face issues that resurface over and over again.
The ongoing conflict with a coworker. Problems at home between a family member. Health issues. Financial problems. The bad habit that hasn’t quite been broken or the sin issue over which complete victory still needs to be claimed.
Facing problems in this life is an unavoidable part of our existence. Fortunately, Jesus gives us hope in the midst of this somber truth.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”John 16:33
When our problems seem overbearing and everlasting, that is the hope we must cling to. As endless as our hardships may seem, we will not take them with us past this life. They are only a temporary part of our existence through which we can seek to please the Lord, just like all other aspects in life.
As I was clearing out the latest ant trail, I realized one way I could seek to please God through my hardships was in persevering through them as I did the problem with the ants. The truth is, I haven’t wanted to keep cleaning out these ant clusters. I have grown discouraged and weary by this reoccurring issue. But I know that I must continue to do so. If I simply give up and ignore the problem, it will grow bigger overtime, and our whole house will be covered in ants.
When problems resurface and I tire of responding to them over and over again, perhaps I need to remind myself of just how big my issues could become if I never dealt with them again. Thinking of hardships like an infestation of ants definitely motivates me to persevere and work through whatever issues I can. I may not be making the headway I want to in a certain area of life, but keeping an area from becoming worse as we ever so slowly try to inch toward something better is valuable, so let’s keep persevering through our trials.
Something else that I have been thinking about as of late is how God does not call us to deal with our problems on our own. As believers, God’s Spirit dwells in us, and He is able work in and through us to bring victory over certain areas of our lives. He can help us to be loving and kind and to show goodness and gentleness to the coworker or family member with whom problems are mounting. He can give us joy and peace in the face of financial or health crises. He can fill us with self-control when we are tempted to fall back into bad habits and faithfulness to walk in righteousness instead of turning back to sinful ways. And He can give us patience in the midst of our hardships as we wait for them to fade away, whether in this life or the next.
Many months ago, a friend told me about a quote she posted on her bathroom mirror that really sums up God’s ability to work in and through us. It reads as follows:
I can’t. You [God] can.
‘I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.’ Phil. 4:13
Teach me the MYSTERY of CHRIST in me.”Andy Stanley
We really can’t, and the trials we face in this life are an ever-present reminder of that fact. But God can through us. These struggles give us the opportunity to depend on Him like nothing else as we become more deeply aware of our own frailty, and dependence on God is key to walking closely with Him. So, let’s humble ourselves before Him and recognize our own inability as we face each hardship, great and small. Let’s press on through the power of His strength, not giving up to our problems, not giving in to self-pity or bitterness, but continuing to give each trial over to God and trusting that He will see us through.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”1 Peter 5:6-7