Ever since we moved into our house, my wife wanted to renovate the living room. She hated it because it was dark and out dated. I fought her on the renovations because I liked the room and also because I knew what renovations would entail. I knew that once we started, it wouldn’t end with a simple paint job and floor change. Once we began, it would set off a chain of change for the foreseeable future and I wasn’t ready to do that. With the help of friends, she finally convinced me to let go of my fear and embrace the renovation. I saw in the process how God wants to renovate our lives.
God desires for each of us to undergo the process of renovation in our lives. He wants to take out old ways of thinking and replace them with the mind of Christ. He wants to remove the hard parts of our hearts and put in a heart of flesh. He wants to give us fresh insight into His Word, but we have to be willing to submit to the renovations. We have to quit fighting God on the changes He wants to make and allow Him to do His work. Psalm 51 is all about renovating David’s life. In verse 10, he surrendered and prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me.” The first step of renovating your life is submission to God’s will and design.
The next part is counting the cost. In my living room, I allowed the cost to keep us from renovating. It was more than I was willing to pay because the outcome was unsure. Once I let go of the purse strings, the work began. The same is true in our personal renovation. We have to understand that there is a price to pay in renovating and we have to let go of the fear that keeps us from releasing God to do in our lives what He wants to do. It may cost us time, relationships, location or money, but in the end, we will receive more than we lost. Renovations in our lives increase our ability and usability.
The last thing I learned is that you have to be patient in the process. It wasn’t long into ours that my wife said, “We’ve made a mistake. We shouldn’t do any more. What if we keep going and lose a lot more money?” She was right. In the middle of the process, we lost sight of the vision. We questioned the renovation and almost gave up. We decided to see it through and love the outcome. In the Message, Philippians 1:6 says, “there is no doubt in my mind that God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish.” It might get messy and you might lose sight of what God is doing in your life, but be patient. God will complete the work in you and it will be more amazing than you can imagine and worth the cost.
My wife and I recently visited the World Trade Center Memorial and Freedom Tower. We stood around the cavernous memorial listening to the water fall and then drain into the hole in the middle. We read names of those who were killed on 9/11 and prayed for the families still grieving. It was an humbling experience to stand in the place where so much destruction and devastation took place. I remembered how I wanted to be near a TV at all times right after it happened so I could hear if they had found any survivors.
As I stared silently into the pool, I saw the reflection of Freedom Tower in the water. I did my best to take a photo of it (seen above). I flipped the picture to show the hole where the water drained as the foundation for the new building. The loss that once was so deep, so great can become the foundation to build again. It can be what drives us to move forward. So many times though, when we experience a great loss or destruction on our life, we do the opposite.
I was thinking about all the twisted metal that was once in that spot. I saw video on TV, photos on the internet and heard first hand accounts of the mess that was created when those two building fell. I’m sure there were days where people thought, “This will never get cleaned up. There’s just too much here.” For months and years, dump truck after dump truck left the site with the rubble. It wasn’t a quick process to clean it up, but it happened with consistent effort.
Once it was all cleaned up, the task of rebuilding came into question. Should we rebuild? How should we rebuild? What should we build? Now, when I see Freedom Tower standing tall in that iconic skyline, I’m reminded that we are to clean up the mess after a destruction happens in our lives. We are to rebuild bigger and better than before. Quitting is the simple solution. Letting the debris of destruction stay where it fell doesn’t require hard work. But that’s not what God says we are to do.
Proverbs 24:16 says, “No matter how often honest (righteous) people fall, they always get up again; but disaster destroys the wicked.” How we react after a major destruction happens in our life says a lot about our spirituality. Are we content to let it destroy us or are we willing to get back up no matter how often we fall? Disaster will happen in each of our lives. It’s part of life. Each time it happens, God wants us to get back up and rebuild. He doesn’t want us to stay down and take the easy road. He wants us to clean ourselves up, dust off and start to build again. What was once a big hole will now be your foundation for going forward.
How do you keep going when you can’t see the future because your present is so dark? How do you begin to pick up the pieces of a broken life when you’re hurting inside? How do you keep praying when it feels like God has left you alone and unprotected? How do you keep from being angry and bitter when everything you had has been taken from you in a moment? As a person who has struggled with these questions, I have people ask me them all the time. I don’t have all the answers to them. I can only tell you how I did it.
When life sucker punches you, it’s hard to get back up knowing you’ll be sucker punched again and again. The easy thing to do is to give up. The hard thing to do is to open your eyes each day, get up and face life. I had the support of family and friends who constantly picked me up and helped me keep going. If you are struggling right now, don’t push away those whom God has put in your life to help. No, they really don’t understand what you’re going through, but they don’t have to in order to hold you up.
When it’s time and you have the strength, you’ll have to stop trying to hold it all together and start to rebuild. It’s no fun having to start over when you’ve already started and built a life. The good news is you’ll make fewer mistakes this time around and you can build the kind of life you really want. My idea of what life should be was a lot different at 30 than it was at 20. It will still take time, but you can avoid several of the pitfalls you made when you were younger. Pick up the pieces of your life that you want to keep. Leave the ones you don’t behind. Rebuild with good material on a solid foundation.
Even though it feels like God has abandoned you and none of your prayers are being answered, let alone heard, stay in the habit of praying. You can be honest with God about your pain, your struggles and fears. You’ll probably never pray more honest prayers than when you’ve been knocked down. God hears every prayer and sees what’s going on in your life. He has not abandoned you. He has not forgotten you or left you to fend for yourself. He is your strong tower and place of refuge. Run to Him. Hide in Him. He will bring peace in the midst of your chaos.
I prayed two scriptures to help me get through my struggles. I prayed Nehemiah 8:10, “For the joy of The Lord is your (my) strength.” I prayed, “Lord, give me your joy that isn’t dependent on circumstances so that I can have strength to walk through this.” I also prayed Hebrews 12:15, “Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you.” I prayed, “Lord, I know I have every right to be bitter, but please don’t let any of it take root. I don’t want this to affect my future relationships.” I repeated those constantly even when it felt like they were just words and not prayers. I believe God answered them.
If you are in a place today where these questions haunt you and life has sucker punched you, don’t give up. You don’t have to be strong and put on a brave face for everyone. It’s in our weakness that God’s grace is made perfect. He has given you all the grace you will need to survive this. He has placed people in your life to help pull you through. He is walking by your side even when you can’t see Him. It will take time to recover, to rebuild and to heal. Don’t try to speed up the process. Trust God’s plan and timing. You will make it through this.