The year of our Lord, twenty-eighteen, began on a Monday. And that made the new year seem right on schedule. A new week, new month, new year, and a fresh start should always begin on a Monday, don’t you think? So, 2019 feels a little off to me. In fact, I’m a little behind on all of it (which explains why you didn’t receive this post earlier).
Most years, I enjoy taking the days between December 26th and New Year’s Eve to reflect and ponder, plan and dream. Normally, I read through the previous year’s journal and, if possible, a few older ones as well. It takes me back to where we were a year ago, or sometimes a decade ago, and allows me to see how faithful God has been. It also reveals my immaturity and helps me to realize where growth was (or is) needed. But best of all, reading through past journals brings a flood of reasons to praise God where answered prayers are recorded.
Honestly, it’s been hard reading what my 2018 journal holds.
The theme of exhaustion, non-stop labor, and depletion runs through much of last year’s daily entries. But in the painful journey, in the difficult unknown, there were treasures that God quietly hid for us to find in the darkness (Isaiah 45:3). I’m jotting down some of those treasures as reminders to me (for those days when I get disoriented and forget the lessons learned).
Lessons for Navigating Seasons of Affliction:
1. Adjusting my perspective is a daily must.
Most days begin with a weary body and foggy mind. Sleepless nights are common when you are a patient or a caregiver, but even when sleep comes, there is the depleting aspect of the never-ending task of dealing with the sickness and pain. It is a battle of the mind and body—for the patient and for those who care for him. The only hope for navigating the challenges of the day (whether you’re in a time of affliction or a time of abundance, health, and peace) is by getting a true perspective. There are many voices out there, lots of self-help philosophies, and feel-good belief systems—but there is only one source of truth: God’s Word. As I open His Word, with a heart that trembles in awe of His authority and grace, God speaks (Isaiah 66:2).
As God’s character jumps off the pages, I’m drawn into a deeper admiration of Him and it invites me into wonder, worship, and praise.
Worship provides the attitude adjustment I so desperately need first thing in the morning.
2. Get in on the supernatural aspect of thankfulness.
I don’t understand why or how, but something tangible happens when I lift up thanks to God—out loud. There are so many reasons for thanking Him through this past year. One huge thanks is that LeRoy is still here with us. He’s still hopeful and, although daily he endures excruciating pain, he’s still working toward recovery. I’m thankful that his spinal cord lesions have shrunk to a miniscule size. We’re still hoping for a completely clear MRI, but his latest scans are so much better than a year ago. Incredibly, although his left leg is still impaired, his right leg works just fine and that allows him to drive on days when he feels well enough to attempt that. What a gift that is. Driving allows him to feel somewhat “normal.”
God commands us to give Him thanks in all things, but ironically, the action of thanksgiving is actually beneficial to the one giving thanks.
3. Danger zones can be deadly.
This year, I’ve learned how terribly dangerous it can be when I give up just a little ground, when I let down my guard to indulge in a few straying thoughts, and how easily that can lead to: coveting, entertaining lies, wallowing in self-pity, and developing sinful thought patterns.
4. When in danger, quick action is absolutely necessary.
The moment I realize I’m caving to self-pity (which normally manifests itself in a grumpy attitude), I have a choice. I can keep heading down that road, or I can drop to my knees to do some serious crying out for help (Hebrews 4:16). God rushes in every time we ask Him for grace and help—but the problem is, so often it is tempting to stay at the pity-party rather than going to our knees.
Believe me, I’ve learned that the comfort God brings when I ask for it is far more satisfying than the temporary “consolation” that self-pity brings.
5. The good provision of true friendship is a precious grace.
This one is tricky, because I’ve found that if I’m not careful, my dependence on friends grows too great. But good friendship is one of those kind mercies that God provides us with that can be very beneficial in our time of loss, suffering, or affliction. It is an enormous blessing to receive an encouraging text or Scripture from a friend who is faithfully praying for us. It is an incredible gift, to have a friend pull in the drive with an unexpected delivery of groceries or a meal. It is a powerful support to have a friend pray with me over the phone or offer to take me out for a drive—even if it’s just for half an hour. Just yesterday, as I was out at the woodpile loading up the back of the truck to carry wood to the porch (to keep the fire going that warms our home), a kind man and his son (from our church) unexpectedly pulled in to deliver a fresh load of wood to my porch!
The way God uses His body to provide for us, through friends who serve us in our time of need, is a reason to stir our hearts to deep worship of Him!
6. Reading good books provides encouragement and practical help.
One of the biggest revelations when you’re living in a season of affliction, is how very much is out there that you just don’t understand. How many times have I tried to offer comfort—from the ease of an armchair and a life untouched by real tragedy? I was a novice at suffering and a pitiful comforter. This year, I’ve found it so helpful to read what others, far wiser and godlier than me, have learned as they endure long seasons of affliction. I’m so thankful for good books that dear friends passed on to us like this one: “A Book of Comfort for Those in Sickness.” Books authored by sufferers are rich with insight and help as you walk the road of suffering.
If you know a friend who is in a difficult season, consider passing on to them a book that ministered to you when you needed it.
7. Practice the “grace of remembering” to strengthen your hope for the future.
This is so important, especially on days when hope seems ridiculous. Go back. Go back to those times when you’ve seen God come through, when you’ve lived in the glory of answered prayer, when you’ve known that God is near and at work in incredible ways. Go back and remember.
Let those memories fuel your hope as you focus on the mercy and grace of our Almighty God.
There’s much more I could say, but hey, this post is already way too long. There’s still more lessons I need, but I’m grateful that our Teacher is merciful and knows how to take my hand and lead me into the path of learning at a slow pace.
What have you learned during seasons of suffering? I’d love to hear. And, as always, we are so very grateful for your prayers.