When the four of us collectively decided on the word Struggle, I wondered what God would reveal. I created a list of my times of hardship, mentally deciding which to explore, one that I went through first hand or one I observed at close range:
Struggle with infertility having our daughter Keegan
Struggle watching my parents and in-laws getting older
Struggle realizing my career ladder was shorter than expected
Struggle with how mundane parts of life have become
Struggle watching unequally yoked marriages becoming roommates
Struggle watching a friend go through chemo and radiation with pancreatic cancer
I was not prepared for the intense emotional and physical struggle that God would allow the first week of this Good Word. There is no better word than shock to describe the surprising stroke of a young man, awesome father, avid fisherman, hiker, skier and golfer. He is the man that has agreed years ago to teach my kids how to paint, because I’ve never seen anyone prep and trim as well as he. He is the man who washes his cars each weekend and has a cleaning solution for any possible spill. Truly. We joke that he should have a DIY show. He was the first person I called when spilling fuchsia nail polish in the front seat of my car, and again when a gallon of red paint spilled in the trunk of the same car. He sends hand-me-down clothes to my son cleaner than when purchased (and if you have a son, you know how well-worn and stinky 10 year boys are), he is also smart as a whip and funny as can be. He is who we are going to retire with. I never would have said I thought of him as a brother, even though our coloring is similar, but was reminded that I randomly shared while shopping at Somerset Saks last September that he is the man I would totally feel comfortable going on a family trip, if last minute my husband and his wife were delayed.
Without sharing his story, which I am hopeful to be shouting from mountain tops when our Lord provides a miraculous recovery, one that the medical community will be in awe for years, I will share the postures I’ve received from my Big Daddy these past few weeks:
Posture of PRAYER
My first reaction to his wife’s call was an overwhelming sense to get to the ER as quickly as possible, but first to get on my knees in prayer. I don’t know if it was out of obedience or submission, but I immediately understood Reverent fear (1 Peter 17) as I pleaded for our Lord to be with him and her, that the prognosis wasn’t true.
Over the weeks, there have been innumerable and intense prayer circles (think of a sport team huddle, arms around each other, praying aloud) with my husband and kids, friends and even strangers who are all in this together. Scripture is our common language, like when a Brother in Christ held me as I sobbed, sharing his grief and how Psalm 34 was helping him:
“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (vs 15-18).
As we learned in the Receive month, the Holy Spirit is the very presence of God living within us. Once we receive the Holy Spirit, we are provided with courage, boldness, discernment, as well as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (John 14, John 16, Acts 4:29, Galatians 5:22). I’ve had the awe of the Holy Spirit speaking through me numerous times, helping me and others understand why God would allow this crisis to occur.
Posture of HOPE
Our God, Author of Life, often provides glimpses of His Kingdom. Day two of our crisis, God gave me one of these glimpses through creation. In a minuscule clearing of woods, God had a doe deer appear. It stopped and looked at me, staying long enough for my family to see her, before disappearing into camouflage of vibrant green coverage. God has done this before for me, with other deer in another clearing. Then He was telling me to be present, to take time to enjoy the now and not to worry about what is to come. That prior message was reinforced: even though I cannot see Him, God was telling me He is present. He is in this crisis with us.
If you don’t believe me, ask your friends about the “angels” that visit them via cardinals, blue jays, beach birds, and butterflies in the middle of a lake.
As much as I hate that my friend is being used as a tool to test the faith of friends and family (1 Peter 1:6, 1 Thessalonians 3:3, James 1:2), I find Hope that this crisis will bring Glory to Jesus, our Miraculous Healer and Great Physician. “Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” John 11:4 and “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God”. 2 Corinthians 4:15 (also see Psalm 19:1, Psalm 57:5, Acts 7:55)
Posture to REPENT
Ironically (or perfectly planned God time?), less than 12 hours before the crisis occurred, I was at a Bible study celebration and this was the card randomly at my place-setting:
“The time has come,” Jesus said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15
My Bible Study spent this year studying Mark 1:15 as well as Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”
… what am I to do if I don’t like the plan He is laying out?
Intellectually I understand that God allows bad things to happen to test our faith, to open non-believer’s eyes and hearts, and bring more souls to Him (just read the book of Job!) but it sure doesn’t feel good when it is your loved one who is suffering. When tragedy strikes a community so quickly and so terribly, many people want to know what is going on. There are many phone calls, texts and pull-asides at the grocery! During the first weekend, I was sharing my vulnerability and was taken aback when I was told to repent. What?
Ironically (or perfectly planned God time again?), I have been practicing “repenting” weekly with my friend Beth. I understood the process, but was unsure what I was to repent about this crisis? A minister pointed out that by examining and weighing my heart, I would discover that I was praying for what I wanted, but I cannot control this crisis. I have No Control of this situation. I had to release it back to Our Lord and allow His will to be done (Our Lord’s prayer Matthew 6:9)
Posture of STRENGTH and PROTECTION
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NLT)
The outcry of love and support from our community has been wonderfully overwhelming. There are silent servants who want so desperately to help and provide love. Two powerful prayers were shared:
My friend Pam taught us about Glory Strength, praying for strength we cannot get on our own, only from our Father will we have the strength to get through a challenge. Colossians 1:9-12 and Ephesians 3:14-16. “The Lord will renew their strength” Isaiah 40:28-31. (Also read Isaiah 41:10)
Peter reminds us to “be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The Protection Prayer is spelled out beautifully in the Armor of God, Ephesians 6:10-17.
Posture to PRAY FOR ALL and ALL CONCERNS
The response I’ve received often when asking friends what is on their heart or what I can pray for them this month has been, “don’t focus on me, I’m ok, I’m not as bad off as … blah blah.”
… Death, cancer, stroke, miscarriage, infertility, cheating spouse, unequally yoked marriages, divorce, financial destruction, career relocation, unmanageable children, … so many struggles to list… We are not guaranteed an easy life, nor one free of worry or of trials.
But God cares for you. He wants to hear your wants and desires.
Our Lord is a Father of comfort and the God of all compassion, so that we are equipped to show compassion to others (2 Corinthians 1:3).
My friend Emily reminded me, He is a God of the details too.
“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows”. Luke 12:7