What was I to think? How was I to process this time when it seemed that I was floundering in every aspect of my life? How was I to grapple with the appearance that every decision I was making was the wrong one? This continued to be the case for months to come. It seemed from a worldly perspective that every choice I made turned out to be a disappointment. Honestly, I didn’t have much wisdom to speak of at that time. I had to go back to the first things.
First: God is sovereign and He is good. He has promised that he will complete what He begins in His people. I had to trust when everything seemed very very bad, that the problem was with my perception. I don’t have the eternal perspective that God has. I could not see how these things were working together, but I do believe that God does not lie, so regardless of how it seemed, these things were and are for my good, for my husband’s good, and for my children’s good.
Second: I remembered telling the young mothers and wives at church that each phase of life is just an opportunity to apply the basics of Christian living in another setting. It is still a matter of treating others as we want to be treated, being at peace with the people around us, being patient, kind, long-suffering, faithful, slow to speak and quick to listen, covering a multitude of sins. I tried to apply these things to the relationships I had in the hospital and with my “new” husband. I truly wanted to be a reflection of Christ. I didn’t want to do anything that might leave a sour note about Christianity in my wake.
Third: I had been reading my sister-in-law’s blog over the months, and had noticed that she would list things that she was thankful for each day. I began to try to see what there was to be thankful for in my situation. Some days it was like excavating for lost treasure in the desert, but I tried.
That was it. That was the sum total of my ability to make any sense of the madness I was existing in.
In time, I have been able to glean a little more. I have recently been reading “Knowing God” by J.I.Packer. The chapter entitled, “Thou Our Guide” deals with the question of God’s guidance in the Christian’s life. It has been helpful in thinking through the events of the past year and a half. In summary, he states that we know God does guide us, because Scripture says that He has a plan for us, and He communicates with us. This communication comes primarily through the Word, and will not ever be in conflict with what the Bible instructs. We have a tendency to look for other more emotional and mystical guidance, when it would do us well to just look to abide by the instructions laid out in Scripture. Other things become more clear as we do this. In the light of His Word, Packer encourages us that we must think – that is use the brain the good Lord has given us. Then we must also think ahead at the possible consequences of our present decisions. We must take advice from those who are wiser and more knowledgeable that we. We must have what my pastor calls “a healthy suspicion of ourselves“, that is realizing that I am going to rationalize selfish behavior if I am not careful. Finally, we must be willing to wait for God’s perfect timing.
“But!” I found myself saying, “I did all these things to the best of my ability, and it still seems that the decisions blew up in my face.” Where did I go wrong? Come to find out, this isn’t all that strange. Packer lists several biblical characters who had similar experiences. In some cases, like Jonah, it is a direct result of disobedience, and often when things seem to go wrong, we assume that we have somehow rebelled against God. Not a bad place to start. But this was not the problem for me at the time. Packer goes on to quote Psalm 34:19 in which we find that “many are the afflictions of the righteous”. Paul’s life is one that is filled both with obedience and affliction. He was in prison for most of his Christian life, instead of traveling across Europe and Asia spreading the gospel. Of course, in his case we see the wonderful results of his life in the completion of the New Testament, and the example we have of the proper way to respond to difficulty. But often we don’t get to know why things happen the way they do in this life. We don’t get to see the finished product. We only have the confidence that when we see Him face to face, we will understand, and praise Him for His wisdom. And meanwhile, we can continue to do the next thing, having the confidence that he can redeem our successes and our failings, our obedience and our rebellion for His glory and the good of His people. “Sooner or later,” Packer says, “God’s guidance, which brings us out of darkness into light, will also bring us out of light into darkness. It is part of the way of the cross.”
But, as I said, this understanding has been long in coming. In the midst of it, my wisdom was really more along the lines of Dr. Suess, who said,”Why are they sad and glad and bad? I do not know. Go ask your dad.”(from One Fish Two Fish)
I had a woman ask me one day, “Do you feel like you are just so amazingly stronger now?” I responded, “No. I feel very weak. Thank God He is strong, because I feel very weak.” I hope I didn’t shatter her faith, but I could not lie. During this time I felt weak, and helpless, and stupid, very stupid. I don’t say this to get pity (I have plenty of self pity to suffice). I say it so that maybe someone else out there will be comforted in the dark valley that they are not alone in their weakness. We are not required to be strong. We are invited to bring our weary selves to the One who can give us rest. His yolk is easy and His burden is light.
Jesus loves me, this I know.