Sometimes it stinks to be strong - to be required to just.keep.going.
Sometimes it seems like it would be easier to crawl into a hole and just hide until the storm has passed, or throw a huge fit so the whole world knows how unfair life has been.
Sometimes the whys outnumber the answers and the uncertainty of life is overwhelming.
I felt like that a couple of years ago, in a way I've never felt before.
Dave had just been promoted to running his own store so we were going to be moving out of state. I had just had Lily 2 months earlier and the thought of moving was overwhelming - I wasn't thrilled to say the least. My friend and I, in hopes to encourage me, decided to study James 1 from the Bible. The beginning goes like this...
" Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way." (The Message)
As we talked through the verses, we were encouraged and felt good that we were doing a sweet little Bible study.
Then I packed up the kids and our stuff to meet Dave at our new home. On a Friday. I knew no one, I had no idea where our new home was - I was grumpy. From Friday morning to Tuesday night, Dave and I were at odds. I was angry about being there, he was angry with my bad attitude. I thought to myself, "Glad I am studying James...this sure is a challenge." Then Wednesday morning Dave woke up and his entire body was numb. He couldn't tie his shoes, he couldn't button his shirt. As I got my hard working husband ready for work, buttoning his shirt for him - I was scared out of my mind (as was he, but he wouldn't admit it.) Finally, whatever his body was doing demanded us to go to the ER.
They wouldn't let me bring my kids into the ER and I didn't know anyone to watch them for me. I had to be with my husband, but I had to take care of my kids. I had no choice. I took my kids to a drop in day care - where later when I picked them up Luke was eating out of the trash due to no supervision. Awesome. Anyway, as my heart was breaking and angry that I had to do that, I rushed to the hospital where my husband was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
I am a stay at home mom. My husband provides for our family by working, and I provide for our family by taking care of our kids. Now what? See, my mom also has MS and she is in a wheelchair and all I could see in my mind was Dave sitting in a wheelchair. He was only 27 - he didn't deserve this. I was only 26 - and I felt like God was playing a cruel joke on me...first my mom, then my husband? The next day I called a church that we had visited on Sunday begging for help and I was met with, "Sorry, we don't have a program in place for that." Needless to say, we never went back there.
Our friend and former pastor hopped in his car and drove 3.5 hours to be with our kids so I could tend to my shocked husband. Shortly thereafter, another friend hopped on a train at midnight to take care of my kids for a week. God was taking care of my family and me - but I couldn't see it. I was so scared and angry. Dave feared that he had failed our family as he struggled to hold a fork to eat and could barely write his name. I reassured him that he had not and told him he would have complete recovery and to have faith - yet I was in doubt. I wanted to climb into a hole, hide, scream, run. But I couldn't, because I had 3 sets of little eyes watching everything I did. I had to keep on keeping on...even though I felt like I couldn't take another step.
My mind kept going back to the passage in James - "Consider it a sheer gift," really God?! A sheer gift would be perfect health. A sheer gift would be stability and security with our future. Not MS. NOT MS!!! "Mature and well-developed," are you kidding me? I thought I had already been through enough to be considered mature and well-developed. I decided, in my anger, that if God was going to test me on the part of the Bible that I was studying, I was no longer going to read it.
Let's take a quick pause in my story. Right now there are some of you reading this that are really hurting. Some of you are going through loss, betrayal, illness, unemployment, and much more. Some of you are being so strong right now because you have too - despite what you want to do and how you really feel. Some of you are angry and confused, not knowing when life is going to go your way. Some of you know God and the hope that He offers, some of you are questioning His promises, and others don't believe in God at all.
But what I can tell you as truth, from the depths of my heart is that there is a God. A God who loves you. A God who keeps His promises. A God who declared in Jeremiah 29:11 -
"I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for." His plans are not always our plans, but with that said, we don't see the whole picture like God does. He knows what's best for us - in the long run. And though it may feel like it, He has not abandoned you. He is still there, even in the darkest hour of your life - even if you can't see Him.
Dave did fully recover. He has to take medication each week that he loathes. He can't hang out in heat for a long time, and getting the flu could be detrimental to him. But life is back to normal - a new normal, I suppose. And after close to two years (obviously I wasn't as "mature" as I thought) I realized that God isn't playing a sick game on me - and I decided to crack open the Bible again. My heart aches for you who are hurting. My prayers are filled with requests for your well-being. But today, as I say goodbye I want to leave you with this: God hurts with you. He loves you. Even if you don't know Him yet, He is there ready to take you in His arms.