I wrote this post on my personal blog in January, 2009. The reason I share it with you today is that I want to encourage and comfort those of you who are enduring a trial.
As you will see as you read this post, 2008 was a horrible year for me. To be completely honest, 2009 wasn’t too hot either. But here we are in 2011, and I can honestly tell you that God has been faithful. He has brought us through. Life is not perfect (never will be this side of Heaven), but in 2008, I honestly felt that I would never smile again or have a reason to be happy. If there is one thing you take away from this post, I pray it is that God truly does work all things together for our good. Don’t give up no matter what you are going through. Keep your eyes on Him, trust Him with all your heart. Let Him hold your heart. He will not let you down.
Humanly speaking, 2008 kicked my butt.
I can honestly say it was one of the worst years of my life. If the problems of the past year only involved me, I would be able to share more; but there are other people involved and it is their story, too. I don’t have their permission to write about it. Someday I hope to be able to speak more freely, but it probably won’t be for a very long time.
I hesitated about writing what might be perceived as a negative post, because I don’t want to come across as whiny, complaining or that I am begrudging anyone who had a fantastic 2008. Yet, I want to be honest and authentic here.
And I also want to share what God has been doing in my life in the midst of the problems and the pain. I want God’s faithfulness, love, and care to shine in bright contrast to the darkness last year had brought to me. So if I gloss over the hard parts, or merely say, 2008 was a really hard year, you would be missing part of the magnitude of God’s goodness to me in 2008.
There have been nights that I’ve cried myself to sleep and days where it took all I had not to fall apart at work, or in line at the grocery store, or when some well-meaning person would ask, “How are you?”. I learned that my car is a great place to cry and to pray out loud when I want to be absolutely sure no one can hear me but God.
Some of the problems of ’08 have lessened in severity, some have morphed into new problems, and some have improved. In some cases, the only thing that’s changed is my perspective because of what God is doing in my life through all of this. None of the problems has an easy fix or look like they will be going away just because we bought a new calendar. Obviously, these are not the first problems I have had to deal with in my 44 years of life, but they have had a different intensity than the others.
I have been a Christian since I was 9 years old. I have tried to walk with God and serve Him and love Him ever since. I don’t know if what we’ve been dealing with this year has been a refining by God or a sifting by Satan. One thing I do know is this: even when life seems out of control, God is in control and I can choose to trust Him or I can give in to despair.
I choose to trust.
I trust that God is the almighty Creator of the universe. I trust that He loves me and has a plan for me. His plan is to work all these things for good in my life and to use them to make me more like Jesus. These same things are true for every member of my family. He loves them much more than I do and He wants so much more than I can even ask or imagine for them. He wants that for each of us and for you, too.
My nature tends to be one that wants to fight against the problems, to expend a lot of emotional energy lamenting over the fact that there are problems, and yearning strongly for the time they will go away. I can’t do that in this case. I have had to accept this state of affairs and not try to fix everything, because I can’t fix them; but I am learning how to manage them with Jesus’ help.
I liken it to having a chronic disease that may or may not be cured. You still have to live your life, but you make accommodations for the disease and go through certain measures to care for yourself. With my “disease”, the measures are staying close to Jesus through prayer, reading His word, worshiping Him, and seeking Godly counsel.
Henri Nouwen described it like this:
When we become aware that we do not have to escape our pains … those very pains are transformed from expressions of despair into signs of hope.
Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, described it like this in Romans 5:1-5
1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
So, I choose to ask God to help me rejoice in whatever suffering I may endure in this life.
And I choose to hope.
Not just hope the way a person may hope for a raise at work, or hope to go on vacation this summer, or hope that their problems will just go away. No, my hope is in something, Someone more sure. My hope is in Jesus Christ.
Again, it is Paul who wrote in 2 Timothy 1:12 “… Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day”.
What have I entrusted to him for that day? Everything. My life, my salvation, my family. He’s got it all and there is no better place to entrust it all.
So, what have I learned in 2008 that shines so brightly in stark contrast to what we’ve been dealing with?
- I am not in control. God is. And that is infinitely better.
- God loves me no matter what. I am not defined by my circumstances. I am defined by my position as a child of God. Period.
- God’s will is to conform me and all His children into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. He is using this trial to do that.
- I have grown closer to God and clung to Him more tightly that I would have if 2008 been a super fantastic year.
- I have grown closer to my husband. A lot of time stresses can drive a couple apart, but God has used this to bring us closer. Quite the silver lining, I would say.
- I have been reminded that this life is not all there is. As a Christian, my eternal home is in Heaven, as it is the rest of my family’s. Even if these problems don’t get resolved here on earth (which would be due to human stubbornness, not God’s lack of faithfulness) they will be resolved in Heaven.
I’m not crying myself to sleep as much anymore, but when I do find myself struggling to hold it together, I know it’s because I have allowed my perspective to shift back to my circumstances and away from the Prince of Peace who is the ultimate Comforter.