The Skittle Lined Path


I’m going to let you in on a personal secret. This may come as a surprise to some of you, but it’s true: I don’t like it when life gets hard.

I want my walk with Jesus to be all pleasant, all the time. I would prefer minimal to no suffering, and would like most of my “down and dirty” ministry to take place in Starbucks. If I get a missionary call to the beaches of the Caribbean, I’ll be okay with that. Essentially, I would like my path to Heaven to be lined with Skittles. Actually I would prefer sausage, but that’s for a different post.

This “no pain, no pain” mentality has made the past couple weeks particularly challenging. My newborn daughter, Ella, decided that she would like to be awake from 7 PM to 1 AM. If we lay her down, she turns into the human siren. And she doesn’t stop for a long, long time. Let’s just say that I’ve watched a lot of ESPN Sportscenter recently.

In the midst of these nighttime escapades, I’ve really struggled with discontentment. I crave rest, peace, quiet, and a decent night’s sleep. I feel like I deserve these things, like it’s my God given right as a member of the United States of America. My troubles are so insignificant, but they cause me to be discontent nonetheless.

But last night I read the following, challenging words by the Puritan, Richard Baxter:

What keeps us under trouble is either we do not expect what God has promised [suffering], or we expect what he did not promise [an easy life]. We are grieved at crosses, losses, wrongs of our enemies, unkind dealings of our friends, sickness, or for contempt and scorn in the world. But who encouraged you to expect any better? (Voices From the Past, 138)

Jesus didn’t promise me ease and prosperity. He commanded me to take up my cross and promised that each day would have enough trouble of it’s own. Discontent begins to ferment in my heart when I expect something else.

The reward for following Jesus is infinitely great, but the cost is suffering. That’s what I should expect.

What encourages you in the midst of challenging circumstances?

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+photo by richardefreeman

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I’m married to Jen, and I have three kids. I know a lot about Star Wars, and I live in a van down by the river. I’ve also written a number of books, which people seem to like.


  1. Patrick says

    What encourages you in the midst of challenging circumstances?

    Knowing (an understanding and continual belief) that the days are coming when the suffering will cease. This truth is not always on my mind, but when I remember it, I am comforted.

  2. Keys says

    This is something I'm learning, but here it goes….

    But "my grace is sufficient for you." (2 Cor. 12:9) I can often think of "sufficient" meaning "just barely making it" or it will do since there isn't anything else. But I looked it up. In my concordance (with the Greek) it says it means "to suffice, to satisfy". So His grace is enough to satisfy us-like when you're terribly thirsty and you drink a whole glass of cool, refreshing water; you no longer thirst, you're satisfied. I also looked "sufficient" up in the dictionary, it said, "being as much as is needed, to suffice", "to be equal to a specified task" and "be enough for", coming from a root word meaning "to make". So scrambling it all back together into the verse, it turns into: "My grace is [equal to your specific circumstance]." "My grace is [enough to satisfy] you." "My grace is [as much as you need]." My grace "[is made] for you." Really knowing that and believing that is what gets you through those challenging circumstances.

  3. danni mencer says

    My cloud of witnesses…..Heb 11 is filled w/ men and women who have gone before us and "fought the good fight". But we are surrounded today by men and women who have learned how to run well. Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus. I have recently been reading the blog of a young woman whose first child was born w/ a hole in his diaphragm. The parents are Jason and Seana Scott (Jason is a Penns Manor grad). Baby Kavin was born early in April and you can read some of their journey athttp://www.pregnancydevotion.wordpress. You will be encouraged!

    • says

      Thanks danni. I also find it helpful to remember that many before me have gone through challenging circumstance and that God sustained them. He'll sustain me as well.

  4. says

    Scripture is always the most help in challenging circumstances. Chewing on objective truth when my subjective soul is whining is always helpful! I've also found much hope and encouragement in these quotes:

    So he supplies perfectly measured grace to meet the needs of the godly. For daily needs there is daily grace; for sudden needs, sudden grace; for overwhelming need, overwhelming grace. God’s grace has given wonderfully, but not wastefully; freely but not foolishly; bountifully but not blindly. -John Blanchard

    He will not err in any of His dealings with us. He will take away and give; He will afflict and bereave; He will move and He will settle, with . . . perfect wisdom, at the right time, in the right way. The great Shepherd of the sheep makes no mistakes! -J.C. Ryle

      • says

        Ditto! Although it's not always the same scripture, there always seems to be the right scripture for each and every circumstance, strengthening my faith. I believe that Our Lord will neither leave nor forsake us, not just because this promise appears several times throughout God's word but also because I 'know' it; my heart experiences its truth because He speaks to me and comforts me through scripture.

        I also think Keys' response is super encouraging! Thanks for the insight!

  5. says

    Stephen, I can relate. Our 11 month old has only slept 5.5 hours straight once. The other nights he has been awake ever 2 hours or so. This has been an exhausting process, however, the Lord has been so good, has given me strength and gently reminded me to be grateful. I am surrounded by wonderful couples with infertility problems, children who have had serious, life-threatening conditions, etc. This has given me perspective and made me appreciate every moment I have with my child, who is an inheritance from the Lord. They say it gets easier, and I do look forward to that, but I'm going to relish the days in between. I hope you will, too! :) Blessings. P.S. Thanks for your humor and sarcasm- they are right up my alley.

    • says

      I can relate to being grateful when I see what others are going through. I am so blessed to have a baby that is healthy! So many would desire to even have a baby that cries through the night.

  6. says

    What encourages me?

    "My grace is sufficient for you; for my power is made perfect in weakness"

    God never gives us scraps of His grace. His grace to us is always enough, though life is hard and I don't really understand circumstances. His sovereign care and leading and provision is good, especially in hard situations.

  7. says

    As a mother of three kids, two of which loved to cry and cry as little babies, much of it when I wished I could have been sleeping, I know the exhaustion, et al. I've only just come through it in the last 6 weeks.
    On a practical note, I found the book the Baby Whisperer to be helpful in helping me show compassion to this baby that was "wrecking" my sleep.
    One thing in particular: Roll screaming baby to lie on her side, wrapped snuggley in blanket. Bend low to her available ear and say, "shush, shush, shush" over and over while gently but firmly patting her middle back. Supposedly newborns cannot concentrate on crying while hearing the shush sound and having their backs patted. Of course, if she's hungry this won't work. But time and time again this proved to be the only calming effect on a tired baby that was screaming my ears off.
    Hope you find something to ease your little ones' discomfort. It does get better. If it didn't, I wouldn't have three! :)

  8. says

    Thanks for this great post Stephen and on my birthday too no less!

    What encourages me in the midst of trials is God's truth. He knows all my days even before I was born and nothing that happens is outside of his plan for my life. He is my Father who sacrificially gave His Son for me so that I would know God as Father. And finally, although trials come in all forms and can be brief or life-long, He is for me and not against me because of His great love towards me.

  9. H. B. says

    Wow. I love that quote by Baxter, I'm going to have to keep that one.

    What keeps me going in challenging and uncomfortable circumstances is the hope that God is using it for good. I especially hold on to 1 Peter 1:6-7:

    "for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

    Kind of like excersizing, the burn doesn't feel that good. But, in a kind of love-hate sort of way, you can choose to view it as a pleasant discipline when you remember that through it God is making your faith tested and genuine, and precious to him, and you remember what the result will be–glory and honor at the revelation of Christ.

  10. says

    This was a good post. Thank you.

    First Peter keeps me going a lot during rough times.

    ps Our daughter is now nine, but my husband and I still agree that the fancy baby swing was the best $100 we have ever spent. We get a little misty when we remember how it helped us. I'm not giving you advice to buy a swing, I just mean to agree that lack of sleep can be a big deal even though it is probably officially on the small deal spectrum, and crying baby + lack of sleep is no fun, and even nine years later, we can remember how unfun it was. I am sorry you all are going through that right now. You will get to sleep again, I promise. :)


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