Hello, Sunshine

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.

HelloSunshine

Advertisements

The Overflow

About a year ago, I felt a stirring in my heart. I sensed that God was suggesting something to me, nudging an idea across my path. It was subtle. Just an idea that kept resurfacing from time to time. It wasn’t overt. It didn’t slap me across the face or grip my heart with intensity. It was more a whisper of, “what if…”

I can still hear the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit planting seeds. “Beck, what if you did something that combined your theological training, your counseling background and your first-hand experiences with suffering?” I would turn it over in my mind from time to time, wondering what the Lord might be suggesting. Start a support group? Return to counseling? Help out more in the Care Ministry at my church? Nothing I tried on seemed to align with what God was bringing up. Then one afternoon God just spoke plainly to me as I was carrying a load of laundry up the stairs.

“Write. Write a book. Write a devotional. A 365-day companion for people who are suffering and walking in a season of darkness.”

I set my basket of laundry down and stood there for a moment. Of course. Of course He would suggest something crazy like this. Something I felt completely unqualified to do. Something so crazy and overwhelming it could only come from Him.

I laughed because I couldn’t help but agree with His vision. I saw a quote by Toni Morrison once that said “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” For years I tried to find a 365 day devotional that would walk me through my suffering. Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman was the closest I could find and it was written in 1925 – even the revised edition I have feels a bit antiquated. Oh how I wished I could have found a companion to walk me through my darkest days and help shape my perspective of suffering. I so desperately needed a new way of looking at my wounds.

What I was looking for didn’t seem to exist. There are 90-day devotionals for those waiting on miracles, 30-day devotionals for people suffering with depression, 50-day reflections for women going through cancer, year-long meditations on hope and a wealth of nonfiction books that offer lots of insight for those who are going through hard times. But there isn’t a book to journey with someone through the long haul of deep suffering. And there needs to be. There needs to be something for the person who is facing more than just a season of difficulty and needs to cling to Jesus for dear life. Something for the Christian that longs to hear of God’s overflowing love for them in the midst of darkness.

I’ve learned that protesting against God’s will doesn’t get you very far. It just delays the inevitable. So I consented, “Yes Lord, I’ll do it. But can you help me every step of the way? Because I will surely make a mess of this without Your guidance.” I didn’t even bother to explain that I have zero writing experience outside of this little blog. I didn’t tell him that I felt unqualified and ill-equipped for such a huge task. He already knows those things and He still asked me to do this. So I obediently surrendered my hesitation and I said yes in faith.

The first step was coming up with topics. 365 of them. Gulp.

I started with a pretty little notebook and I began to jot down ideas whenever inspiration struck. Most of the ideas were born of the overflow of inspiration from the Holy Spirit. Ideas came from every possible place and it every possible way. Sermons, the Bible, books, dreams, quotes and conversations. More than a few times the Holy Spirit would just spontaneously give me an idea on a random Tuesday afternoon. There were entire days when ideas overflowed out of me like a waterfall of divine inspiration that I could not stop.  As I sit here today, exactly 9 months later to the day, I have 365 ideas for topics.

The next step? Write. Trust that the words will come from the overflow, just like the ideas did.

IMG_6560