A year ago today, as we walked through the extraordinarily impressive museums of the Vatican in Rome, I cherished holding the hand of the dear man who had just married me. That day—glowing in the Italian August sun—brought to a close the precious time God gave Peter and me to enjoy our honeymoon surrounded by the beauty of Italy. It marked the end of a sweet time of celebration—no worries, no cares, no burden or hardship lessoned the treasure of those special days together.
The end of our honeymoon also marked the beginning of a new journey—one that has had its fill of many joys, as well as some sadness and hardship along the way. I am so grateful for this gift of remarriage to Peter, with whom the joys are many and the hardships are few. God is very kind to me to give me a loving, sacrificial man who cares not only for me, but also for my children! To say there are no difficulties or challenges would not be accurate, but there is much sweetness and rest mixed in with the hard work marriage brings.
When I look back to the 25 years of my marriage to Chris, the last 15 of which he had MS, I can truly thank the Lord for His life-giving mercies, new every morning. There were many cherished moments in our marriage and family life those last 15 years, but I live with the ever-present reality that God carried me in His arms through some of the hardest, darkest moments of my life during that time. Though surrounded by family and friends who prayed and cared for us, I still found myself regularly crying out, “Lord, where are You?”
“As for me, I said in my alarm, “I am cut off from before Your eyes”; nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications when I cried to You.” ~Psalm 31:22
Is it possible for one to feel so overwhelmed by life’s circumstances and still have God’s very real, deep peace? Yes, it is. This has been my life for many years. I can testify to the Lord’s faithful love, mercy and care through all the difficult, painful, shaky places of my life. Regardless of how we feel, the reality is the Lord never leaves us, who are His redeemed people for a single moment of our existence; He is always with us, working all things for our good.
“But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the LORD God my refuge that I may tell of all Thy works.” ~Psalm 73:28
My pastor said in yesterday’s sermon, “The greatest times God reveals Himself to us and shows His power and nearness are in the valley.” This is a true statement! To know I am not alone, to know He is with me in every hard moment has meant the difference between being tossed about by the waves and winds, and sitting securely in the eye of the storm. What a refuge is our God!
The temptation, however, to take it easy when the storm is far gone, in some ways, is a greater challenge than being in the storm itself. When the hot sun of hardship or the devastating winds of a life’s hurricanes are absent, I can start to think, “Hey, I’m doing well. I like this. I’m secure, feeling pretty strong. I’m tempted to become complacent, to prefer to lie on the beach getting a tan, so to speak, than getting out in the garden with gloves and shovel in my hand, working to keep the weeds at bay in my beautiful garden.
“Rise up, you women who are at ease and hear my voice; Give ear to my word, you complacent daughters. Within a year and a few days you will be troubled, O complacent daughters; for the vintage is ended, and the fruit gathering will not come.” ~Isaiah 32:9-10
Then the Lord reminds me, usually through a physical weakness, financial uncertainty, or conflict in a family relationship that I am not to make snoozing in a hammock on a pleasant sunny day my goal. I am to stay engaged, daily soaking in the Word of promise, focused and prepared for the battle of unbelief, ready for any trial that may come my way.
No deliverance from a trial is ever meant to fuel our secret desire for an easy life. Life’s hailstorms remind me that God is in control, refining me and showing His love and power in my weakness. They also point to the reality of a better day and a better country in eternity with Him because of Christ in me.
“Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.” ~Psalm 103:13
And when God does deliver me from a hardship? Well, I believe He is teaching me that His mercy is a very real and essential part of His character. When I feel the sunshine on my face again, however, I am never to find my security in the fair weather of my life. I need Him just as much when the clouds float by in an azure blue sky as when the sleet of winter is pelting me mercilessly.
Thanks be to our heavenly Father, that in His great love, He gives us comfort, strength, and rest in the storms of life. And yes, thank Him just as much when He reminds us that we need Him every moment of every day; that we are not to be complacent on this journey toward the Celestial City, but are to let Him train our hands (and our hearts!) for the spiritual battle of a faith-filled life in a fallen world.
“Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; my lovingkindness and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and He in whom I take refuge…” ~Psalm 144: 1-2a