Life is Cruel

I remember one of my professors in class saying, “Life is cruel,” as my blockmates and I analyzed a story reflecting our world. Being a wide-eyed sixteen-year-old then, I nodded my head without hesitation. After all, humanity’s pain from broken relationships, sickness, abuse, trauma, and death are experiences that visit us all in one form or another.

Fast forward to more than twenty years of life beyond the classroom, and I can say that the line “Life is cruel” is true—but only partially true. Life can certainly be cruel, but it is also BEAUTIFUL, and if we miss the BEAUTIFUL part, then we don’t really know life.

If we are sensitive enough to listen to the world around us and inside us, we’ll find the fingerprints of God stamping our days, calling us to His craftsmanship of beauty. When flowers bloom outside our window, we have a sense that barrenness and despair cannot win in our lives because a time will come when we, too, shall bloom. When the sun shines after a turbulent episode of wind and rain, we know that God sits enthroned over our own chaos. When we open our eyes in the morning and breathe in a fresh gallon of air, it’s not just our lungs that balloon; we expand, too, with energy and purpose for a new day. 

Image by mnaydenova from Pixabay

When we find ourselves in awe of the simplest, most beautiful things in life, we find ourselves face to face with the reality of the Beautiful One, Jesus Christ. 

Oh, loss and death are certainly inevitable. Scars more painful than the agony of a broken bone will leave us breathless and in tears. Betrayal, injustice, violence—these are the cruelties of a fallen world. However, hope, restoration, victory, peace, and justice—these are our heritage in Jesus—our heritage of Beauty— even if our current season may be oh-so-cruel. What I love about faith is that we can journey with a God who LOVES us and who knows how to turn our ashes into beauty.

Journey of the Ancients 

I am reminded of these verses as I write: 

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.  By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.  For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.  People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.  If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had the opportunity to return.  Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:8-16)

Being in a faith journey with God will mean that there will be times we have questions like, “Lord, where in the world are you leading me?” “What is the purpose of my pain?” “Where is the fulfillment of your promise in my life?” There will be expectations that will shatter, dreams that will seem impossible, hope that will be deferred.  But when Jesus is our Great reward—our GREATEST REWARD— we realize that our journey is not really about reaping blessings or living a comfortable life or even seeing dreams fulfilled at the end of our days. We realize that life is about living with God, dreaming with God–the Beautiful One–and celebrating each day with Him. Life that is lived with the greatest of meaning and joy will be a life knowing God.  

Image by Adam Tumidajewicz from Pixabay

True life is about loving our Father with the very breath and strength that He has gifted us with, recognizing His voice, and allowing Him to be our ultimate dream. “The Lord is my shepherd,” the Bible says, “I shall not want…” (Psalm 23:1). God Himself wants to fill us with the knowledge and incomparable experience of Him. 

In reality, Abraham received more than he bargained for. He may have died a foreigner in the land God had directed him to go to, but he eventually became a nation. His son Isaac was born, and from Isaac came Jacob, later on renamed Israel, the father of the twelve tribes. The descendants of Abraham would possess the Land of Promise, the very land that Abraham’s feet walked on, and of which the Beautiful One declared unto him: “I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God” (Gen. 17:8).

God wove time into His narrative, crafting a story of beauty for Abraham that would echo from one generation to the next and to the next and to the next. We can believe He is doing the same for us.

How We Respond

Embracing God’s beauty in our lives means embracing Christ’s ongoing work in our lives. Because Jesus is Life, we can believe for a resurrection after our seasons of failure and death. Because of Him, there can be restoration after loss. Because of Him, there can be a beginning after an end. But dare we believe it? 

Jesus ought to have the last say over our painful circumstances. We can invite Him to speak into our mental and emotional graves, shifting the direction of our lives into the lane of victory because to know Jesus is to know Him–not just in His suffering, but also in His resurrection power. Part of delighting in God’s beauty is knowing that glory and victory exist in Him!  

Image by Germán R from Pixabay

So how do we respond to life’s challenges? “In everything give thanks…” (1 Thess. 5:18). IN EVERYTHING. This is a precious key to bouncing back with beauty. As we start thanking God in the midst of life’s cruelties, we start healing. As we start thanking Jesus in the middle of a crisis, we open the door to His intervention.  When we magnify Him, making Him bigger than our troubles and pain, we give Him room to invade our hearts and our circumstances with His majesty. 

I hope these words encourage you. We may still be in the first quarter of the year, but how we respond to life’s curveballs and challenges will affect the way we engage the rest of 2024. Let’s respond with beauty at every turn!

Image by 12019 from Pixabay

One with you in this journey called life,

Janina Marie Rivera 


One Voice Magazine

Janina Marie Rivera is the author of the book, A Night Bird Sings of Blindness and Fear and has co-authored the devotional, Dawns, published by OMF Literature. She is a contributing poet in the books Joyful Light and Whitmanthology: on Loss and Grief by Various Authors. She is the Editor-in-Chief of One Voice Magazine.