My cat Henry is petrified of vacuum cleaners. If he even sees me getting the vacuum cleaner out, he races from the room and hides under the bed. One day, my husband and I were catching up on some cleaning – I was washing up and Daniel was vacuuming. I noticed, as the vacuum cleaner was in full swing, that our bedroom door was closed and Henry was huddled behind our dining table instead. I picked him up, intending to take him into the bedroom. As we drew nearer to the vacuum, though, Henry’s tail fluffed up and he wriggled out of my arms back to the dining table. I asked Daniel to stop the vacuum for a moment, so I could try once again to give him some refuge. But even with the vacuum cleaner stopped, the mere sight of it was enough to scare him – he wriggled out of my arms again and ran back to the dining table.
The behaviour of cats never fails to amuse me. Yet, hidden within this cat story is a life-truth that God’s been placing on my heart recently. Henry wanted to find refuge and safety under the bed. The only way, though, that he could come to that place of rest was to go past the vacuum cleaner. Sometimes in life, there are promises of rest and refuge. We all want those peaceful havens, those seasons of plenty – where we know we’ve finally come through. The problem is, sometimes to get to these places we have to walk through hard times. We’ve got to face the vacuum cleaner.
Sometimes the connection between the hard times and the rest is obvious. If we want the money that allows us to live comfortably, we might have to put up with a difficult day’s work. Being truly skilled at something comes through hours of repetitive, dedicated practice.
Other times, the connection isn’t clear. You’re not entirely sure if there’s going to be a season of rest at all. But maybe God has placed a promise in your heart, that something is coming. On the other side of the difficult, the scary, the heart-wrenching, there’s a breakthrough. Joy after the onslaught of depression. Peace after anxiety. Healing after pain. Restored relationship breaking down the walls of hostility.
There’s a verse in Jeremiah 29 which says:
“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future”.
Some people have used this verse to say that God wants us to live a life completely free from sickness and from trouble. But let’s look at the people God was originally talking to. Yes, the Israelites were reassured that God’s plans were ultimately good, and were promised a hopeful future – but they still had to go through the pain of exile. Only after living through the exile would they joyfully return, with a deepened faith in God.
As Christians, we’re not spared from the difficulties of this world. But my cat story reminds me of another truth. Henry had to go past the vacuum cleaner, but he didn’t have to do it by himself. I was carrying him. And so it is with us and God. When we face those scary things we’d rather avoid, when we go through those times of suffering – God is bringing us through. In some cases, we can resist and run away like Henry did. This might give some kind of temporary comfort, but if we rest in God as he brings us through the trials, our peace will be deeper. We’ll be wiser and stronger, more like Jesus.
It might be something looming up ahead for you. Or it might be something you’re in the middle of, something that’s been going on for ages. For myself, I’m in a time of ups and downs. Some days are full of joy and other days seemed weighed down with anxiety. But I’m learning to trust that God is with me, and he’ll bring me through. Whatever your vacuum cleaner is, I encourage you to press in to God’s love and strength as you walk by.