There’s one thing you’ve probably figured out by now: life can be hard. You might categorize your life as relatively pain-free (Education? Check. Paycheck? Yep. Indoor Plumbing? Thank you, Jesus). But sometimes, in the guilt of knowing we should be grateful, we struggle in the disparity between what we think we should feel and what we actually feel.
And for many of us, life just feels hard.
But what if some of the trials we face in everyday life—the ordinary crucibles—are actually places where we can grow?
Here are three tests you should expect by 30—and the surprising benefits of each.
There is no time in life where more important decisions are made than in your twenties. Choosing a major, a place to live, handling money, getting married—our rootedness for the rest of adulthood starts now. And these decisions can create an urgent striving within us, leaving us asking, “How will I know? When will I know? What do I choose?”
We find this reality in Scripture: Martha faces the crucible of the everyday urgent when she’s forced to choose between immediate decisions and time spent with Jesus. She confronts Jesus with the problem and her plan: “But Martha was distracted … she came to [Jesus] and said, “Don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (Luke 10:40-42)
We face a crucial test when we realize that Jesus doesn’t work on our timeline or in our plans. Instead, He calls us to “choose what is better” and seek Him first.
The crucible of the urgent is where two things can come together and form something new—where God can replace your striving with His peace, where you can make the choice to repent of your worry and self-created plans and “seek first His Kingdom and righteousness.”
We can’t ignore the urgent decisions that have to be made, but we can experience them differently.
After spending our childhoods led by others’ timelines, values and decisions, most of us relish the freedom and independence of adulthood—until we realize that boundless freedom can be paralyzing.
The crucible of the unclear is the place where we recognize how wide the chasm is between our ideal and the reality. Our future isn’t as linear, our goals may become unclear, and no one is waiting at the end of the school year to promote us to the next level.
If we don’t graduate from the crucible of the unclear, we will arc toward a cynical, disappointed attitude that poisons our perspective toward the future.
But the Bible describes all of life as unclear: “Now we see but a poor reflection in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I am a fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). This now/then dynamic is about the hope of our eternity in heaven—which also means that the reality of our life on earth is that we will always see in a hazy mirror, and we will always only know in part.
But the promise of this Scripture is also that we are already fully known—defined supremely and exclusively as sons and daughters of the living God. We may understand partially; but He understands fully.
The crucible of the unclear is whether we will allow the element of ambiguity to drive us to seek the Lord more deeply—to worship Him fully even when we don’t understand, don’t have the answers, or can’t make our lives make sense.
In the account of Martha and Mary in Luke 10, Mary was used by Jesus as an example of the “better” choice—which was also the unconventional choice for women at the time.
In your twenties, you face the crucible of choosing the unconventional life. This might mean choosing a career that’s very different than what your parents expected from you. This might mean being bold with the way you spend your money and time because of what you believe about Jesus.
Unconventional living requires confronting the voices in your soul that speak loudly and strongly about who you are—and are not—to be. Flourishing in the crucible of the unconventional means apprehending every one of those voices and taking them “captive … to be obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
God has always been the author of great stories—and every Christian has the chance to live one. God is looking for men and women who are more interested in His glory than they are in their own—who allow their reverence for Him to outpace their fear of what others expect or demand from their life.
The crucibles of your twenties come back every decade. Perhaps it is always in the urgent, the unclear and the unconventional where we seek God most fully. Maybe that’s why these crucibles are the places where He can make something new—in every decade of our lives.
Nicole Unice is the author of ÒBrave Enough: Getting Over our Fears, Flaws and Failures to Live Bold and Free.Ó (Tyndale, 2015) and travels frequently enough to almost feel like she can fly. Find out more at nicoleunice.com