During the four years that Dan and I have been married, we have gone through more trials than I ever would have imagined. I used to look up to people who went through hard times, thinking that the hard times would somehow instantly make them into patient, gentle, and incredibly godly people. I also used to rank “trials” by my understanding of their difficulty. I’ve learned, in the past years, that everyone goes through trials, and all trials are hard. It’s not up to me (or anyone else) to rank someone’s level of trials, but rather, to encourage and pray each other through them. And just because you are going through something hard doesn’t instantly make you a more godly person, although God can and often does use trials to sanctify us.
This past year has been especially full of various trials for us. As we have made our way through them I have often been discouraged by how ungodly my response has been. Patient? Gentle? Try angry and frustrated. I would desperately pray that God would use the situations for some good, because I certainly couldn’t see the good happening in my life.
I have been sick with about three viruses back-to-back during the past few weeks and have often found myself lying helplessly in bed while others take care of the dishes, laundry, and my girls. During one of those helpless moments, I started to reflect on how I have changed during the past six months, and I was blessed to see that God was indeed using the trials to teach me some good things, and to change me in some good ways.
I’m sure there are some out there reading this who are going through their own difficulties. I hope that you may be encouraged by my sharing some of the ways God has used trials to change me this year.
I have been humbled.
Before Dan and I got married I was convinced that I was better. I was a better wife. I was a better mom. All of these moms that were overwhelmed or frustrated, I would not be one of those. After Lydia was born I started a schedule. I kept things clean and got things done. And I stubbornly held on to my expectation that I would always be in control.
Once Abby was born, all of that fell apart. I have learned that I don’t need to be the best. In fact, it is far better to be humbled because then you can ask others for help, encouragement, advice, and prayer. This summer I have gone to moms asking their advice or just asking for prayer (or a hug!) more often then ever before. There is no reward for those who have it together. Those who are broken and humble will be blessed.
I am at a point now where I try, but know I can’t do it all. I can’t be a perfect wife or mom. I can’t do everything I want to do. I have to sacrifice and prioritize and ask God and Dan what things to let go. Then I have to be ok with messes, ok with unfinished projects, and ok if I never learn to do all the things I want to. And I am at a point where I have no idea how other moms do it with more than two kids! But I’m also at a point where I am open to learn willing to make mistakes as long as I am doing my best to fulfill God’s calling on my life.
I have cried out to God.
I have cried out to God many times in my life, but never quite like I have in the past year. I specifically remember one evening when Abby was still in the hospital. It was dark and raining and we were riding in the car. No one was talking. I was crying, feeling completely hopeless. All I could pray was, “God, help me.” over and over again. I didn’t even know what I needed or how God could help, and I didn’t have the strength to think of anything else to pray. And it seemed like no answer came.
Sometimes in moments like that, things have felt so dark, God has felt so far away, that I haven’t wanted to tell anyone about it. It felt like God was failing. It felt like I had to make God look better than I thought He really was.
Sometimes people have commented on God’s faithfulness or answered prayers with Abby in the hospital and I have smiled and nodded and thought, “I don’t see it.” I would pray, “God, people are watching. Show Yourself strong!”, but He wouldn’t answer, wouldn’t show up in any way that I could see.
So why do I share all of this now? It turns out that I’m not the first person in history to struggle in times of trial. (Read Psalms) By faith, I know that God heard my prayers and was even carrying us along, though I couldn’t see it at the time. But, through it all, through the darkest moments, I have cried out to God. Even when I thought it was hopeless and He wasn’t listening, I cried out to Him because He was all I had to cling to.
And when all hope did seem lost and I felt I was just getting depressed and angry, I would pray, “God, keep me close to You whatever it takes. Even if You have to drag me kicking and screaming, keep me close to You. And make me more like Jesus.”
And do you know what? Through it all, He has.
I have learned to cling to scripture.
There have been plenty of times when doubts and lies have filled my mind.
“I’m suffering and no good is coming from it.”
“This is all ruining our family and making me a worse person.”
During those times I have stubbornly read and re-read various verses and clung to them desperately.
“tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
“the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
I would cling to those scriptures and others and declare to myself, “It’s true. It says that. It must be true!” And I would declare to God, “You said it God, I’m going to believe it!”
I long for heaven.
A month or so ago I memorized Revelation 21. When I was stuck in bed sick I would find my mind wandering to heaven. I would imagine the wedding banquet. I would imagine a heavenly choir welcoming the saints in with celestial music. I would imagine what the holy city would really look like. I would think about eating the fruit from the tree of life while walking on the new earth and talking to Jesus face-to-face. I know my imagination falls far short of the glory and reality of heaven, but the point is, I actually think about it now.
I actually look forward to heaven. I look forward to an end to sin and suffering. I look forward to when God will wipe away every tear. There will be no more death, no more mourning, no more crying and no more pain.
(And as a small bonus, there will be no more night. This can only lead a sleepy mommy to assume that there will be no more tiredness because there will be no more need for sleep.)
What is coming next?
Sometimes there is a cynical part of me that wonders, “What’s next?”. We are planning to close on our new house in six days and move in shortly after. Then what? What trials will God bring next? I try to correct myself and remember that God works things together for good. He’s not out to get us and make our lives miserable. And even when trial after trial comes our way, God still offers joy for His children. He is good, isn’t He?
Go, then, earthly fame and treasure!
Come, disaster, scorn, and pain!
In Thy service, pain is pleasure;
With Thy favor, loss is gain.
I have called Thee Abba, Father!
I have stayed my heart on Thee.
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather,
All must work for good to me.
Man may trouble and distress me,
’Twill but drive me to Thy breast;
Life with trials hard may press me,
Christ will bring me sweeter rest.
O ’tis not in grief to harm me,
While Thy love is left to me;
O ’twere not in joy to charm me,
Were that joy unmixed with Thee.
(From the hymn: Jesus I My Cross Have Taken)