Sometimes God requires us to go to the hard places. He may even lead us there more often than we like. We can choose to go willingly, reluctantly, or not at all. If we go willingly it is easier to enjoy His company and to feel His presence with us. If we go reluctantly, it may leave us feeling alone. If we choose not to go at all we will miss an opportunity for personal growth, possible healing, and potential joy.
For over a year now God has brought me to the same hard place. In the beginning I went willingly because it was easy for me to see the importance of going. In recent months I have gone less often and reluctantly. Where is this hard place, you ask? My hard place is the home of my Aunt and my Cousin. It used to be the place that I spent time with my Grandmother. That is why it is a hard place.
In the beginning it was easy to willingly go. I was needed and I saw it is an opportunity to share God's love with my family. As time passed and things settled down it became more difficult. My Aunt moved into Grammy's old bedroom because of her health issues. This meant that when I went to visit my Aunt I would sit next to her bed in the same spot I used to visit with Grammy. There were many times that I would return home from visiting my Aunt and have nightmares when I went to sleep. In those nightmares, I was reliving Grammy's last moments in that room. This is when my reluctance to go to the hard place began. I would go but not as often. Although I no longer have those nightmares, in their place I feel a heavy blanket of sadness.
There have been times in recent months when I have felt prompted to go and visit my family and have chosen not to. I've come to God with excuses such as, "I'm too busy" or "Maybe next week". Visiting a few times a month has turned into visiting once a month, until yesterday. Yesterday I didn't make excuses, I went. I still felt the same sadness but God showed me something important about the hard places yesterday. He used my Aunt and my cousin's daughter to do it.
Sometimes you have to visit the hard places for a long time in order to see God at work and experience the joy. During my visit yesterday my Aunt turned to me and said, "I always enjoy our visits. I like it when you come." When Grammy was living I didn't have much of a relationship with my Aunt because she was very sick and slept a lot. God has used my Grandmother's death and our visits to draw us together. I didn't fully realize just how close together He had drawn us until our time together yesterday. Somehow during a year and half's worth of visits God has made me her confidant. I now have the privilege and the joy in the midst of the hard place, of sharing hopes and fears with her. We get to do life together. If God had not helped me continue to go to the hard place I would have missed all of this.
In addition to visiting my Aunt in the hard place, I have spent time with my Cousin and her kids there. I had spent time with them even when Grammy was living. However, since her death the kids have drawn closer to my kids and we have become a safe place for them to land. Yesterday her oldest began asking me questions about God. We've had conversations about Him before but this time was different. She is really searching and confused because of some recent conversations that she's had with a Jehovah's Witness. What if I had continued to resist going to the hard place? I would have missed the opportunity to share Christ and the truth of His Word with her. He would have sent someone else but I would have missed out on the joy of pointing her in His direction. These things that happened yesterday make going to the hard places worth it.
We all have hard places. What is your hard place? Is it work? Church? The home of a difficult family member? Your own home? As long as God keeps bringing you there, keep going. Ask Him to do what He needs to do in and through you in that hard place. It's easy when we're in a hard place to dwell on how painful it is to be there, but if we could only have eyes to see what God is doing we would go willingly rather than reluctantly. Because we are human and our understanding is finite, it often appears as if He is doing nothing and there is no point in our sacrifice or suffering. Yet if we could see through the eyes of eternity we would know better. He is always at work. He is always up to something. It's our choice. Will we only go with Him to the easy places or will we let Him walk us through the hard places, willing to be a part if His plan even if it hurts? Maybe the questions we need to ask ourselves are this: Is the suffering and the sacrifice of going to the hard places worth it if God can use it to point just one person to Christ? Is it worth it if it brings His love, His hope, and His healing into someone else's life and in the process our own?