Back in 1973 I was 14 years old living with my mum and sister after mum and dad had separated. To make ends meet financially the three of us would clean the offices of Bruce Lyon Real Estate in Epping NSW.
As a treat every Friday night we would buy sweet and sour chicken and rice from the chinese restaurant. I loved the burst of the sweet pineapple mixed with the vinegar. I have since learned that life is also sweet and sour and we need to learn how to navigate that.
What is the sweet and sour of life. It’s the knowing that we all will live with opportunity, loss, challenges, joys, sadness, triumphs and trials. May I suggest the pineapple was made sweeter in the presence of vinegar.
Thats right every life has its ups and downs, its joys and sadness, its triumphs and sufferings.
I believe we grow more from our moments of pain and suffering experienced in our personal reality than our joys and triumphs.
When you do suffer and experience pain you must discover the path to meaning in the midst of it. Someone once said, “pain redeemed impresses me much more than pain removed”.
I have found that God either removes pain or redeems it (I think He leans more towards redemption). He takes what was meant for temporary evil and turns it around for eternal good.
We can spend a lot of time focused on removing pain when redeeming pain is the way forward and upward.
To find meaning and purpose in pain and suffering is the road to redemption. Meaning gives us the strength to deal with pain and suffering. I would go as far to say, that to have victory in life, meaning is as important as hope.
Hope certainly gives us anticipation for a good tomorrow but meaning and purpose bring joy in the now, in that tomorrow that hope brings us into.
Hope carries us into tomorrows present while meaning and purpose makes sure we find joy in it.
Hope can lift our gaze to a brighter future but meaning focuses our gaze on todays wonder and people.
Hope is a vehicle that carries me into my future while meaning and purpose are the fuel that keeps hope moving forward.
I would go as far to say that happiness is a result of discovering meaning in suffering and pain. Once you allow meaning and hope to pervade every arena of your imperfect existence then happiness and joy will follow. A happiness not dependant on your life being perfect or free from challenge.
For me meaning focuses on three things: pursuing God, personal growth and people ministry. As long as your day has these three focuses then joy can be yours no matter what the challenge. These three mixed with purpose, passion and being present makes for a wonder-filled life.
Pursuing God as a Christian, having a relationship with God through my faith in Jesus means I have a real sense of knowing God and getting to know God as a constant in my life. I am both satisfied and insatiable in my walk with God.
1 John 5:20
And we [have seen and] know [by personal experience] that the Son of God has [actually] come [to this world], and has given us understanding and insight so that we may [progressively and personally] know Him (God the Father) who is true; and we are in Him who is true—in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. AMP.
When it comes to personal growth I’m not talking about our physical growth or strength. I have found over the past ten years as my physical body becomes weaker because of the effects of Motor Neurone Disease (ALS) that my spirit man and my soul can grow stronger. This growth in our lives can only come by proper spiritual food, exercise and rest. For me that means feeding on the words of Jesus, meditating on His love, life and light and resting in the peace that comes despite the waves that would crash against our world.
Pursuing God and personal growth has to have an external outflow. What we receive, we must give. We have been blessed to be a blessing. If we have been comforted by God it is for the purpose of comforting others.
People ministry is however not just about spiritual and heavenly endeavours, it also includes practical and earthly pursuits.
I suggest all of our lives, whatever our trade or daily responsibilities, can have a personal meaning and purpose attached to them which will foster significance, self worth, and joy.
As a society we tend to think that people ministry is exclusive to doctors, nurses, fire fighters, police, pastors and the like. It’s true these are significant people ministry jobs.
However, can I suggest that your job is also as significant and an opportunity for people ministry.
Imagine our lives without those who removed our rubbish weekly from our homes.
If your one of those drivers, that early in the morning remove the rubbish from my home, thank you. Your work means so much to me and my family. You help to create a home that is welcoming, fresh and pleasant to live in.
Imagine life without builders who build those homes for us to enjoy family and friends.
Imagine life without a hairdresser, electrician, plumber, motor mechanic, accountant, dentist, retail workers, truck drivers, miners, estate agents, physiotherapist.
Imagine our lives without people who mow our lawns, build our places of recreation, hotel cleaners and public transport workers.
Without a barrister and barista. Without being able to legally drink a coffee.
Without parents who are at home raising children and turning houses into safe and loving homes.
Having made the move from city to country I have come to appreciate the many people who make a steak on your plate possible.
None of us would be able to live the life we live without these and many other people ministering to us in their day to day jobs. Thank God for everyone of you!
Now go out and see that you are not just working for a dollar but you are ministering to a community that is grateful.
What about those of us that have become differently able? Those of us that can no longer do what we used to be able to do.
I believe the key is not wishing that you could still do what you used to do, but look for other ways to express your life values.
For me, with the weakness of my body I need to look for opportunities to share my life lessons with those in my circle of influence.
To be available to those who suffer the pain of been given a terminal illness diagnosis. To be a messenger of hope, faith and love.
As a father and grandfather to cheer on and champion my family who are and will be my greatest legacy and the ones who will have me in their hearts more then any other. To being present for as long as possible to love on my clan.
We all need to look at what we do during the day and attach a greater meaning and purpose to it if we are to find real joy, significance and self worth in our life. If we are to get out of bed with purpose.
May I conclude however in saying that the greatest of joys, the overwhelming sense of being significant and having worth is not in what we can do or who we are, but in the wonder and reality that God loves us and His love is completely unconditional.
Love and peace.