Big Success. Big Challenges.

Twenty-Seventeen was the best year I’ve ever had. I got married! We could end it right there and that would be enough. But for me, it was a really, really great year.

But I have also been thinking a lot about how tough of a year it was, too. I saw students I love give up on God, on Church … and on me. I walked with friends through hard times. Three leaders I love and have lead for years with all stopped leading all within the span of a couple months. I watched students get kicked out, drop out and give up. Work at times was incredibly challenging and difficult. I found myself frequently frustrated with my church.

Yesterday morning I woke up at 4am and couldn’t sleep so my brain went into over-active mode. I got to thinking about all of these challenges, and I realized something: all these things happened in 2017. And the worst of it all happened in the span of just a few months.

I was busy building my life, leading the best way I knew how and just trying to be focused on what God has for my life. But in that short period of time, I had the most distraction and crap just happen all around and to me. I wanted to give up every day.

Coincidence? At the time I thought so. But now with the benefit of hindsight, I am not so sure. I do not like when people blame everything on an unseen enemy, but I take seriously the warning that we have an enemy who prowls around seeking whom he might devour, and in that season, I wonder if I was on the menu!

But I never lost sight of what God has called me to. I still fight for His good plans for my life with Alissa. I know God has good in store for us to do, and to the ultimate goal should be to endure through every challenging season. I almost didn’t. But I am so glad I did. (so far)

Five years ago I went to summer camp with my 8th grade students. Camp is often a place where God does amazing things, but every year it’s always challenging to come back home and realize how hard the lives of my students are. That year was no exception, and I wrote about it then. Before leaving for that camp, I wrote myself a note to give me a little encouragement when I got home. It was simple, all I wrote was: “Big success is usually followed by big challenges. Endure.”

That. Was. Prescient. Then and now.

Life is hard. God is good. Endure through whatever you’re going through. It’ll be worth it! And I write these words for my benefit, for whatever 2018 AJ goes through, 2019 AJ … 2045 AJ … and on. Future AJ: it will be worth it, I promise. It always has been.