Choose today

It’s Monday as I write this, after a long and difficult night with a teething baby. Lately, I find myself at a crossroads. Life is beginning to demand more maturity and strength than I have ever given before. Some days, defeat looms large over me before the day has even begun, and anxious thoughts threaten to sabotage my peace and patience.

The platitudes don’t help. “It could be worse,” or “everything happens for a reason.” Worse still, the endless stream of suggestions from well-meaning friends. And sometimes even “choosing happiness” is not enough to overcome the tide of melancholy that inevitably rises. In life, we encounter real pain, real difficulties, real circumstances that can’t be wished away. How do we cope; how do we keep going?

Growing through all of this, I’m learning that I won’t always have everything I want or even need, but I still have to face the day and live it abundantly. Is this what Jesus meant when he said “take up your cross and follow me.”?

Sometimes I reach out my hand for support and there is nothing there. Somehow I still have to keep up with my responsibilities, help or no help. Friends may listen and show empathy, or they may not. Some days I just want someone else to take over so I can take a nap — can you relate?

Here is the thought that keeps me pegged down on the difficult days, shaping my outlook and my reality: choose today.

When demands are coming from every side and my resolve is beginning to crumble, I wonder how I’ll make it to someday, the ideal future I have in my head. But someday doesn’t really exist; all we have is now. This is my life; I can choose to take charge of it, or let it defeat me. Perhaps I didn’t choose these circumstances, but I can choose to take what I’ve been given and make it into something like what it should be.

Meanwhile, God is working on my heart. He still teaches me, even when I’m unfaithful and self-focused, his infinite wisdom eclipsing my lack and revealing truth. In the practical, he’s teaching me to speak up, hold my boundaries with grace, and ask for what I need. Personal responsibility is a bit of a byword lately, but it won’t ever be irrelevant. Pragmatically, it means holding your space and not expecting someone else to do it for you. All I have is today; this is my only life. No one else can do this for me: no one else can be my son’s mother, no one else can communicate with my husband, no one else can live my life for me. And no one else can have a relationship of vulnerability and trust with God on my behalf. It’s up to me to choose this every day.

I’m reminded of another scripture where Jesus said, “Go in through the narrow gate; for the gate that leads to destruction is wide and the road broad, and many travel it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14 CJB)

Perhaps he meant that few would be willing to find it within themselves to shoulder their own burden, to live in the hope of Christ while facing the challenge of the day to day. It’s the great paradox of life, that we can live in victory while carrying a cross. But that is the message of Christ. Paul wrote, “To Jews this is a stumbling block, and to Greeks it is nonsense; but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, this same Messiah is God’s power and God’s wisdom!” (1 Corinthians 1:23 CJB)

All we have is now. There’s no promise of better days tomorrow, but there’s blessing in the struggle. No one can do it for you. You’ll find your joy again, you’ll find peace. Be present in this season; choose today.