My journey in suffering started out so quietly that I barely knew what I was dealing with. A hard day here, a difficult boss there. Slowly, difficult times began to stack up.
Then David lost his job and the floodgates opened wide.
We were instantly launched into a long journey through adversity. Wave after wave of trouble hit us. Year after year we endured, with barely enough time or strength to catch our breath in between the crashing waves.
Suffering touched every aspect of our lives; job loss (twice), chronic health conditions, financial hardship, infertility, near-death experiences, car accidents, death, fractures in family, fractures in friendships, the loss of our only child and more surgeries than I care to recall.
After 11 years, we became accustomed to hardship. Dare I say we were habituated to it.
But now, it seems the tides are turning.
A warm breeze is blowing through our life and it feels like we are entering into a season of peace, or at the very least, a season of less-trying experiences. From where I stand, the majority of our challenges appear to be dissolving bit by bit. Sure, somethings like infertility and childlessness will likely never leave us but many of our other trials are slowing. The healing is coming and the darkness is lifting.
For the first time in over a decade, life feels light.
After a long season of suffering, it can feel downright uncomfortable to emerge from beneath the wet blanket of dashed dreams and crippling despair. Year after year, eventually you become accustomed to life being hard. You become accustomed to always bracing for impact.
Like coming out of a cave after many years of groping around in the dark, stepping out into the sunshine of life can be disorienting at first. The effort it takes not question or doubt the credibility of your new-found positive circumstances is immense. You can’t help but wonder how long the sunshine will last before another storm hits. And yet in the midst of this wariness and confusion, Jesus whispers, “Do you trust me? Do you trust that I am good? That I love you deeply? That I don’t intend adversity to follow you around forever? Allow yourself to hope…”
Ah, hope. Such a wonderfully tricky thing for those of us who have endured life’s worst.
At times it seems easier just to not even go there. Keep your head down. If life goes well for a time, great – but always be ready to brace for impact. Hope can seem like such a gamble. Dare I hope that my darkest days are coming to an end? Oh the pain I would feel to take hold of that hope, only to have life take another detour into pain and suffering!
Hope can lead us astray if it’s grounded in the wrong things. The Bible never tells us to place our hope in our circumstances. No. That would be a grievous error, sure to disappoint. Instead, we are to place our hope in Him. The Unchanging One. The God who will always be there to carry us and to lift our faces from the dirt. The God who will never betray us or turn His back when life gets hard. And it will most likely get hard again one day.
Our ability to hope is directly correlated with our confidence in God’s goodness. If we are utterly convinced that God is good and that He loves us, we can safely hope. Hope placed in His hands will never disappoint.
“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,
who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement
and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you
in every good deed and word.” -2 Thess 2:16-17
Hard things likely still lie ahead for me, for you. But God is good. And right now the skies in my life are clear for the first time in a long time and I’m going soak up the sunshine for as long as I can.