Updated: Dec 19, 2021
I didn't see this book coming. Last week (1st-8th of August) my family went on a family vacation down to San Diego. In preparation for the vacation, I stocked up on books to take with me. I put holds on three books at the Shasta Library that I knew I wanted to read: To All the Boys I've Loved Before (by Jenny Han), Together, Apart (by a number of authors since it's a collection), and Didn't See that Coming (by Rachel Hollis).
But while I intentionally sought the other books out to place a hold on them, it was entirely by accident that I found this book. When I put "Together, Apart" in the search bar to find that book, this book popped up as well (probably because both words show up in the subtitle).
When I saw that Rachel Hollis had written yet another self-help book, I knew I just had to read it! And so I did.
I took three books with me on vacation and I am so glad this was one of them. Not just because I ran out of things to read and we didn't hit the second-hand bookstore until the day I finished this book (and thus, without this book, I would have gone a couple of days without something to read) but because this book was truly impactful.
Rachel Hollis talks about something in this book that has been close to my heart for 6, going on 7 years. She talks about finding joy in the trials of life.
I have shared my story a couple of times with you all and it is in my poetry book so I won't share it again but I want to highlight this element because I, like Rachel Hollis, believe it is so important to getting through those sucky times.
God doesn't place us in the mess. He doesn't bring hardship upon us. That is not Him. He is good.
But He is also all-powerful. He is sovereign. Sometimes that part is a little bit difficult to comprehend. It simple means He can do anything, stop anything from happening, make anything happen, change any situation, etc. He is totally, perfectly powerful.
This makes the pain, suffering, sickness, and yuckiness in this world super difficult to comprehend. It is one of the biggest unanswered questions in Christianity because if God is all-powerful (i.e. He can stop my pain) How can He be good? And if God is good and I am in pain, how can He be all-powerful.
I get it. It's hard. The two don't quite make sense together if you don't look a little closer. And truth be told, I don't have all the answers.
But the answer both Rachel Hollis and I propose to you (and plenty of others as well) is that God doesn't put you in these situations but He allows them to happen to you for a reason.
Still, confused? Completely understandable.
Let me give you a couple of verses that might help me explain the concept:
Rom. 8:28 - "And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose."
Rom. 5:3-5 - "We can rejoice too when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with love.
See God can take away your pain and struggle. He hates to see you in pain. But He knows that something good will come out of those trials. Those trials build endurance in you that you would not receive otherwise.
A pastor spoke on this at one of the camps I counseled for a couple of weeks ago and noted that this concept is the same for trees. The harsh wind and weather blowing against them as they grow toughens them and builds up their roots so that when they are tall, they stand strong. Scientists once tried to remove all these conditions, thinking the trees would be stronger for it but the trees collapsed. They had not developed the endurance they needed to survive!
Those trials we hate so much...they develop relationships, they bring us closer to God and others, they prepare us for our future, they bring us closer to the future God has planned, they bring good things for us and others, and they build us into better people than we were before. But only if we choose that.
I was so thankful to read a similar message in Rachel Hollis's new book. This is a message I will always stand by and the message that has been the bedrock of my faith and life for a long time.
But despite already knowing (and deeply believing) the underlying truth in Rachel Hollis's book, Hollis still taught me two things as I read through the chapters that I plan to integrate into my own life:
I don't need to discount my pain to count my joy: I feel I have been in the process of learning this lesson for a long time now. I mentioned a few weeks back my struggle with a new wave of medical troubles. These trials have really hit me hard and it has been difficult to hold onto joy through them. I have had to relearn how to find joy in the trials but even more so, I have had to learn that it is ok to cry out to the Lord in desperation. God hears and more than that wants my cries. He cries along with me when I am in pain and He holds my hand through it. Finding joy in the trials doesn't mean stuffing your pain in your back pocket and pretending it's not there for yourself, God, and everyone around you. That is not the way to deal with trials no matter what your community may tell you. Instead, admitting the pain you are in and crying to God for help in that pain is how I can get through my trials. I can still find joy but it is important I also admit the pain I feel.
Small smiles matter: One of the early chapters in Hollis's book really hit me hard. She talked about rediscovering the things that used to bring her happiness. She discussed how important it was that she made time for these things. God cares about our happiness as well! He doesn't just want us to be in pain 24/7. He doesn't just provide for us and then leave us with a bit of rice and water. If all he cared about was that we were alive, there would be a lot less beauty in this world! Reading this reminded me how important it is that I focus on these things. It has been a long time since I have intentionally been grateful (in 2019, I wrote the things I was grateful for on little slips of paper every day) and it has been a long time since I have done the little things that make me happy. After months of having too much time on my hands and feeling like I haven't "earned" the right to do the little things that make me happy (since I read for hours on end and that makes me pretty happy), I have forgotten that being happy isn't something you "earn" but something you can choose to make time for or choose to leave in the dust. I am making a commitment to myself to 1. be more grateful for the little things again 2. do the little things again. I want to both make time to include the little things that make me happy in my schedule (even as my schedule grows more packed this fall) and make time to write down my gratitude for those little things.
If you have not yet read Rachel Hollis's new book, I highly suggest finding a copy at your local library or bookstore and checking it out! 5/5 stars 100% would read again.