I recently went through a very difficult summer and fall. One of my grandmothers and one of my grandfathers passed away. We lost out on two separate promotions that should have been automatic. In fact, we got a letter saying “Yes, you should be promoted, but there are no positions available” for one of them. My mother’s cancer had returned. My spouse was chosen to deploy to Iraq, which in itself would be difficult, however the conditions surrounding the decision seemed very odd. The summer was cold (and having 8 months of winter makes one really long for summer, especially for someone who greatly enjoys heat and humidity). A refinance fell through, by no fault of our own, and we lost $600. And every day seemed to bring more bad news to the point where I dreaded each day. It was not just that bad things happened, it was that every day, there was some new twist. Just as I seemed to find my feet, catch my breath, another tiny bit of traumatic news would come through.
I will be honest, I wondered what I did. I tried being bold in the Lord and that seemed not to work. I found myself being anxious and depressed over these situations.
One night I had an argument with my spouse. We almost never argue. I felt so put upon and so misunderstood. I went to the living room and prayed—not a holy, trusting prayer, but a “I am SO angry, why is this happening?!?” prayer. While I could never hurt myself, I felt the depths of pain so dark and bleak that I thought “This is what people are feeling that leads them to suicide. I understand their misery now, their hopelessness. How do I get out of this?”.
That was a crisis moment. I had the choice to choose faith or let my soul just wither and rot. Right then, I knew that that was a moment of decision. With the grace of the Lord, I opened my Bible and read. I read Psalms 117
1 Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples! 2 For His merciful kindness is great toward us, And the truth of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord! NKJV
I didn’t feel like praising, but really, honestly, I had nothing to lose. I had to turn every fear, every anxiety that I had from where we lived to my spouse’s deployment over to Him, and this time for real. I had to turn over every pain that anyone had inflicted on me. I had to turn over sudden harsh and painful words from someone whom I was seeking help from a few days prior, as well as the words from my spouse just that evening. I had to turn over my desire to give those whom I thought had wronged us a “piece of my mind”. All my anger, all my sorrow, all my shame, all my desire. Everything needed to be turned over to Him and I was to fill my heart with trust that He is merciful, that my sufferings were not wanton or useless.
Please understand, I. WAS. DONE. I was at the end of my rope. I have never really been given to much depression in my life, but this dark emptiness of the heart was crushing and felt inescapable. This was not merely “Wow, rough week.”, but was “I will never find joy, I will never be happy, there will be no escape. Forever.” Sort of feelings. So understand, being asked to praise the Lord and trust that He is merciful and kind took frankly more faith than I had.
But on the other hand, it didn’t. The Lord has given each of us a measure of faith. It does not matter what that measure is. It is enough. I had to make the deliberate decision to turn my faith to Him while my troubles were still around me. Nothing had changed. My mother was still sick, my spouse was still being sacrificed at work, my grandmother was still dead, the weather was still cold. It was still night and nothing had been resolved.
But that is the lesson that you and I both need. We need to see that the Lord did not say we would never have pain, and our anxiety will not prevent pain. However, He did promise to make everything work out for our good! EVERYTHING. EVERY SINGLE THING. He needed me to step out in faith that He gave me. He needs you to do the same thing.
So what happened that night? I stopped crying. I felt peace that passes all understanding because it did pass all understanding. None of my situation had changed, but I had peace in the storm. The storm is still raging, to this day, around me. But I am sitting in the boat with Jesus. At some point He might decide to quiet the storm in my life, or reduce the wind. Or maybe we will hit the eyewall and things will get a lot more choppy. But this is not important. What is important is that you and I sit with the Lord and trust His mercy and kindness.
Why is it important? Why can’t we just stomp our feet? Why is it not better that He makes everything all sunshine and roses? Because faith in good times is not faith at all. No one needs faith when everything is going their way. We are not moved by seeing someone who is joyful because everything is going their way. However, we marvel at the faith of a woman who has lost her husband, at a child who is frightened but is moving forward, at a man who has been so obviously wronged, but is at peace and letting the Lord deal with those who wronged him. We are moved by the noble, not the problem-free. We are taught by the faithful, not those in a life of ease. There were thousands of people not in the furnace, but we read about three: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and their meeting the Lord in the furnace. They are the ones we take faith-cues from. We read about the faith of Stephen who was being stoned for his faith, not the thousands of people who were not stoned for theirs.
Now, at this point you might be feeling fear. You might say “But I don’t want to suffer! That is why I do all these things, why I worry so much!”. I totally understand, I do not want to suffer either! However, let me explain. This does not mean that if you trust God He will say “AHA! Now I can make your life miserable!”. NO! A THOUSAND times No!
No, what I am saying is that suffering happens. This is a fallen world. And even if you spend every minute locked up in your room, you will suffer deeply. This is just the way this sinful world is.
What I am saying is that you can have joy in suffering or you can have depression in suffering. It is not that we are going to get out of all bad things. That fake belief is what is keeping you in your anxiety disorder…as if somehow you can make it so you never suffer. In actuality, you are still suffering, and so are those around you.
But when you turn to the Lord, your suffering eases. The situations may not ease a bit. But you will feel better. You will have joy and peace that really does pass all understanding.
Every day, since the depths of that night, I am awaking in wonder. I go through my day and think “I am HAPPY! I am JOYFUL! Yet my problems have not eased!”. Every day I see “my old self”—exuberant, sometimes silly, laughing easily, finding delight in small things. In my heart, in my mind, and in my spirit, there is lightness and fun. There is joy and faith. There is every good and perfect gift. I am not afraid that my spouse might have to deploy. Do I want it to happen? NOT. AT. ALL. Period. However, I am not afraid of it. I come to the throne boldly, and I ask what I want, and then I sit back and let the Lord decide, knowing that whatever He decides, He will see us through. Every day is delicious, every moment is sweet.
It is not because I am a good person. I am not. Make no mistake, this was not my strength. I am still human, and I still bleed if cut. It still hurts when I stub my toe. It still is a hardship when the plumbing goes out. I am still surrounded by laundry, and still disappointed when not invited to a party. But the Lord’s faith, the faith He gives us all, the Lord’s peace—not of ourselves–is working mightily to keep my heart, mind, and spirit strong, even as my body suffers in this world.
Now, “bad things” are still popping up. I found that I was not invited to a party that I would have enjoyed going to. I was a bit down about that. I found that I actually had to try to feel as upset about it as normal—I kind of wanted to feel sorry for myself. Feeling sorry for ourselves feels good, frankly. I was upset, but I just decided to forgive, to let the Lord take care of things, and to go to bed. Again, this is His wisdom, the wisdom He gives, not my own. The next morning I was fresh and the pain was gone. Later that day the Lord showed me that if I had been invited to that party, I would not have been there for a friend who had had a terrible day! She needed me a lot more than I needed to be at that party. The Lord worked my momentary “suffering” for the good of those who love Him—namely myself and my friend.
So do not fear. Do not be afraid that you trusting the Lord will mean that bad things will happen. NO!
What that means is that when bad things happen, because they will no matter how much anxiety, OCD or panic you use to try to manage the universe, you will have peace and joy. You will have joy that you do not have now. You will realize that pains are momentary and fleeting, but when you have the Lord, I mean really trust Him, everything else is something you can handle.
Let me put it this way….if a broken leg did not hurt, did not cause damage, if it was no worse than a broken fingernail, then we would not fear breaking our leg. It would not cause us a moment of worry, right? And if we were assured that a broken leg would, for some reason, no longer be any worse than a broken fingernail, then we would not mind having our leg broken. Oh we still would not break it on purpose! It would not be something we choose to do. However, we would not have fear or pain or anguish if we did break it. The leg would still be broken, but we would not be afraid of it.
This is a rough comparison to what the Lord works in our lives when we really give our lives over to Him. We do not want to suffer, but we also realize that the suffering we have is not like the suffering we had when we did not trust Him. When we did not rest in His mercy and love, when we did not trust Him, the storms were terrifying and the pain overwhelming. Right now, in your life, you are so terrified of storms that you panic if someone even draws a picture of a cloud! Right now you are so overwhelmed with fear and dread, that you have tried to change the weather with your anxiety.
But when you rest in the Lord, you will see that the storm is nothing but wind and rain. Thunder is just a loud noise, like the bang of a drum. He may or may not let the storm blow out before it hits you, but you are fine either way because the Lord is more powerful than the storm and you know that you can rest in Him.
2 Corinthians 4:8-18
8 We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed– 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So then death is working in us, but life in you. 13 And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,”* we also believe and therefore speak, 14 knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. 15 For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. NKJV
Update: My husband’s deployment was miraculously cancelled. There was no way he was NOT going, had most everything packed and called me one morning to get a card number to buy the plane tickets he needed. Later that afternoon, he called and said it was cancelled. Then he was diagnosed with a brain tumor just a few weeks later! BUT the Lord sustained him through that too and now he is no deployed, does not have a brain tumor, and was just promoted!
-My mother is responding incredibly well to the chemotherapy she is getting. Her faith is strong, and the Lord strengthens her body. She has almost no side effects from the heavy chemo they give her!
-We are still where it is cold. I would still like to move! However, the summer is beautiful and warm.
The Lord has worked what we thought was bad for our good. He is always faithful. It just took a while for us to see His hand. We are still learning His might, His kindness, His ability to take something bad in our lives and work it for our good. Some of these took many months, but He has perfect timing.