Life is hard. Period. End of story. That truth is part of the reason we need each other! In one way or another, we have all experienced trauma and heartache and disappointment, and when we do, it can feel like we are the only person on the planet who has ever suffered in our way. I know I feel like that at times...like nobody else could ever understand what I'm going through. Am I alone in this? I kind of doubt it. And that's why it's so encouraging to hear other people tell pieces of their story. It connects us and brings us hope and energy to keep focused and continue moving forward. When we hear that we are not alone, that we are not strange, and that someone else has lived through what we are walking through, we are strengthened in our journey. I actually think sharing our stories is a part of how God uses our pain to do something beautiful.
I want you to meet my friend, Lisa. She has not been a stranger to hard times in her life. In fact, she has had some challenges that I cannot even imagine. I heard her share her story publicly at a women's gathering not too long ago and I instantly thought maybe some of you would benefit from hearing it as well. I pray that you will find encouragement and courage for your journey as you read how Lisa has walked through hard spaces in her life.
Life can change in a moment. Most of us have experienced this in some way. It might be a diagnosis, an accident, a situation you could never dream of happening. News that changes your life and appears to shatter your dreams. Maybe it is a heart attack, infertility, cancer, loss of a job, divorce or loss of a loved one.
My story is no different from any other young mother. I was 24 and pregnant with my second baby. Miscarriage had taken my first baby at 5 months into pregnancy. I anticipated my second baby would be a perfect bundle of joy, growing up to change the world and then caring for Mom in her old age! But this was not what God allowed into my life. Giving birth at 5 ½ months, I suddenly found myself thrust into a world experiencing my baby’s life hanging on by a thread. He weighed only 2 lbs and the outlook was grim. The doctors urged us to brace ourselves for his likely death. How could this be happening? I was numb, scared, emotionally spent and physically exhausted. The world of the neonatal ICU I didn’t know existed. But there I was…
What do you do when bad news comes?
I mean, life goes on. The bills must be paid, the laundry must be done. Some days, it feels like you don’t even have the energy to breathe, much less work, care for kids or maintain relationships.
Where do you turn when this world has no answers?
How are we to cope and work through the reality we face? Oftentimes when things are bad-- when we are in that valley-- we find ourselves relying more heavily on our relationship with the Lord and our walk with Him grows deeper.
The Apostle Paul is a great testimony to this as he speaks of those things he has endured for the Gospel. (2 Cor 11:24-30) If anyone experienced bad news and constant turmoil, it was Paul! In his Epistle to the Philippians, which he wrote while imprisoned in Rome, he calls the reader to cast their eyes on the joy of the Gospel and not to focus on outward circumstances. Really, Paul? How is he able to do that? I mean, he is in a cold, dark, damp jail with rats and human waste and no sunshine. Paul is speaking to the Philippian church, who has suffered persecution and opposition from their enemies and they are finding it easier to put trust in the fleshthan in Christ and His cross…. Do you ever find yourself here?.... I know I do.
Paul seeks to remind the Philippians to keep their eyes looking through a God lens instead of a human lens. It is so easy to have a fleshly perspective when going through trials. We fall back on those things we can see and feel and touch. But Paul reminds us that God is working through our circumstance. We cannot always know how He will use our circumstance, but in His Sovereignty, we know that He will! Paul understood his dire circumstance… his future held death! He also understood the power of the cross!
His life changed when he met Jesus and that reality caused his doubt to melt away… Have you experienced the power of the cross? ….Can you close your eyes now and think back to a time where the cross became so real to you and caused all your strife to melt away? Can you look back at a difficult time and see how God grew you in your walk with Him throughthat time?
In Philippians 1:12-13, Paul proclaims, “…what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel,so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard…that my imprisonment is for Christ.” How was Paul’s imprisonment advancing the Gospel? Because while chained to the imperial guard, he witnessed to them! Can we, like Paul, say that we believe God has a plan to advance the Gospel through our circumstance? Can we trustGod in our need? Could it be that while receiving a chemo treatment, God opens a door to witness to the unsaved worker in the clinic? Could the grace and peace of God witnessed in you even in your circumstance reveal the supernatural power found only through Jesus? Has your challenge been given to you as a means to advance the Gospel?
You might be thinking, “Well, I’m not Paul. I haven’t that type of perspective. I don’t welcome my circumstance that way. I don’t want what I have been given.” You are not alone here, in fact you are in really good company!
The night before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion He was burdened with the thought of His role and pleaded with His Father to take it from him. (Matthew 26:39)Luke records that his anguish was such that“his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44). What caused this level of anguish for Jesus? It was not the anticipation of the pain and cruelty of the crucifixion. Make no mistake-this was horrific in its own right. But as he carried the penalty for our sin to the cross, loss of communion with his Father was experienced. Knowing that the Father’s wrath would leave him forsaken and out of communion was the cause of his anguish. Think of that…more than the awful death that the cross would bring…loss of communion with his Father was a heavier burden to him.
He pleaded, “If there be any other way, please God, let it be.” …
Have you found yourself there? …in that place where you didn’t think you could bear the circumstance? …
It is a painful place to be. As Jesus talked with His Father in prayer that night, He came to understand that His Father was His strength. His will and the Father’s will become one in unity and in that place, God’s purpose for Jesus was fulfilled. Through our union with Christ, we are given the ability to be obedient to the Father’s will, just as Jesus was.
Jesus was not alone in his anguish and neither are we. In the bleakest circumstances, He is there with us through it. Through our union with Christ, we are given that communion with the Father that brought Jesus to agony at the thought of losing. It is in this communion with the Father that we find our strength to overcome.
In life’s battles, choose God’s place in your crisis. Trust that He is using this for good in some way. Just as Jesus was able to say, “Not my will, but yours be done,” we must keep a Godly perspective. What would have happened had Jesus allowed his emotions to determine his actions? Jesus chose to be obedient and fulfill God’s purpose for his life… Have you been called by God for his purpose? If so, then Romans 8:28 applies to you and your circumstance. I encourage you to look this passage up!
As we look back at the Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Philippians, we see him full of joy, encouraging his brothers to rejoice in the Lord. He speaks of his worldly gain and counts it as loss for the sake of Christ (Phil 3:7-10). Paul knew what he had to do: “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:13-14)
Your situation is an unfolding of a story in which God already knows the ending.
He knows the beginning from the end, he gives us what we can handle, when we can handle it. (John 16:12) Remember that He is ultimately in control and He promises to never leave us or forsake us. We serve a God who has chosen to be present in our reality. Part of that reality is that we can’t always understand why. God does not always reveal “why” to us. He tells us in Isaiah 55:9, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
God is faithful. His promises are true. He is a good God and promises never to leave us. He is with us through our trials and leaves us with a wonderful promise when Jesus returns in Revelation 21:4:
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
In your times of bad news, may you be filled with the good news of our living hope, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who conquered the grave. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.