WHEN YOU PASS THROUGH THE WATERS I WILL BE WITH YOU;
(Isaiah 43:2 NIV) Testimony
Joy and peace through adversity!
There was a time when I sat at my desk looking out of a window; a vine straddled the wall at the side, tiny green shoots promising future fruit. It was a new beginning; a new era in our lives. The Lord had provided this perfect place for our home and business. A place unique for our purpose. Our joy knew no bounds.
I’m sitting at my desk now, looking out of a window. The same place, just a different window, a different view, a different perspective, a different season. It’s wintertime! Outside the ground is covered with snow and snow is once again falling in fragile flakes from a grey shapeless sky. The coldness matches my mood. My heart is cold, though the Lord’s intense love for me still burns through the icy barrier. And I love Him too. I’m just lost in a tunnel of darkness, holding onto His hand, not knowing the future, wondering how I will cope alone. Yet I’m not alone, because Jesus never leaves me. His Word tells me, ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.’ (Hebrews 13:5 NIV) and I’m holding onto that promise.
“I’m sorry, so very sorry!
I heard David speak, asking a question, but it was as if he was miles away and I could do nothing except continue staring at the blank wall, silent tears running down my face. I wanted to scream out my pain, but it was too deep and I couldn’t reach into the darkness.
“Six to nine months. I’m so very sorry!”
We walked in silence back to the car, each wondering if we should do as planned and buy the watch I had wanted to give him for Christmas. Time! It was something we had just been told we didn’t have. Separately, yet together, we had already made the decision to continue as normal, so we parked the car and went to a little coffee shop in town, where we sat in silence for a while, neither of us knowing quite what to say. Such news needs time to sink in and silence is all there is when trying to come to terms with the certainty of separation from each other. It was the 23rd of December 2011 and we knew what the future held, but we just needed time to absorb the reality. The Lord knew exactly what He was doing and He had a plan for both of us; different plans now, but both under His divine control and He would be with us every step of the way. He did not promise that it would be easy. How could it be!
But He did promise, ‘And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.‘ (Matthew28:20).
The watch was the only thing we bought that day. We just wanted to get home, to be ourselves, not these two people in a public place, conscious that we were putting on a face, not letting go, not allowing our emotions free rein. I smiled at David and he smiled back at me and then that amazing joy beyond understanding flowed through us and an incredible sense of the Lord’s presence overwhelmed us in His immense love. ‘Do not grieve for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’ (Nehemiah 8:10)
Throughout the months that followed I found myself unable to pray anything other than, ‘Thy will be done’, though I was incredibly grateful for the loving, caring prayers, the laying on of hands and anointing with oil by many dear friends. All these things are biblical and we received them as blessings from our God, but underneath lay the very foundation of my faith - trusting in Him and in His infinite wisdom, whatever the circumstances. Our lives are forever in His hands and death is only ever a breath away for each one of us! Though I was very conscious of this thought it didn’t mean that I didn’t sometimes suffer great fear and anxiety about a future without David. There were many nights of restlessness when sleep just wouldn’t come, when the enemy slipped between the barriers and fed little arrows of uncertainty into a mind exhausted from hospital appointments, major surgery, the need to be positive for David’s sake and the sheer helplessness of our situation. On one such night David had become very agitated and restless and after reading the Bible to him and praying he settled into a deep sleep and I lay quietly beside him, just listening to the silence, until I suddenly became aware of the fluttering of wings. It was as if the room was filled with butterflies, but almost before the thought had time to register I knew in my heart that the sound was of angel’s wings. No matter how dark the night or how fierce the storm, He is always there to comfort and give refuge to those who are suffering.
“Lord, You are indeed my refuge, a shelter from the storm. It feels like there’s a hurricane blowing though my life right now and I feel like a stone wall that is being battered into submission to the storm. My stones are loose and precarious Lord, but You and You alone are my strength and shield. You will shield me beneath the shadow of Your wings until the hurricane is over and I will remain standing to fight again; though storm damaged I will not fall. You are my joy!”
Joy is not happiness. It is something indescribable, gloriously indefinable. It does not depend on things going right or on bountiful blessings - even tragedy can bring blessings to the soul of a believer whose heart remains steadfast, trusting that our Heavenly Father knows what is best for each one of us. And sometimes the best comes from suffering. Suffering can bring out the best in us and can be the greatest witness to the amazing grace of our God, who desires only the best for each one of His children. The greatest depth of joyful worship can be born out of the greatest depth of suffering. We ask for healing and that’s right, because there is nothing too difficult for God, but sometimes His answer is negative and He knows the future and we do not. Our joy comes when we are able to say, ‘Thy will be done in these circumstances,’ - and mean it! The joy of the Lord is indefinable, yet it is a very tangible connection between our God and us.
The book of Ecclesiastes says, ‘There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under Heaven. A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot. A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.’
It’s wintertime! David’s time to die and my time to weep and mourn, a fitting season for a grieving heart. The autumn of watching David fading away has gone and the winter envelops me in folds of grief and nothingness, whilst I wait for the springtime to warm my heart and begin a new era in my life. In the days, weeks and months following David’s death and ‘promotion to glory’ the Lord was very gracious in allowing the coldness and blankness in my heart to rule for a while. It helped to ease the pain of loss and grief, enabling me to maintain the clarity of mind needed to deal with the multitude of things that had to be done. Then in His infinite wisdom and when He knew I was ready, He allowed the ice to melt and the grief to be freely expressed in tears. Now is my time to grieve and I know it will be a time without end as long as I have life on this earth. Yet I know also that joy and peace will walk alongside the grief all the days of my life, until the Lord takes me home to that wholeness of heavenly joy.
‘Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’ (John 14:27)
Peace - When I think of peace I think of a pearl of great price. A gentle necklace of quietness strung with beads of grace. I think of the lovely peaceful times the Lord gave David and I as we walked side by side with Jesus through the darkness of cancer. I think of the quietness of our home and the peace in prayer, the way Jesus was with us every step of the way. The immense depth of His love, experienced afresh each time we felt overwhelmed by the coming separation. The journey was at times almost more than we felt we could bear, yet His promise of eternal life anchored us in a peace beyond comprehension. We were richly blessed.
And now, when at times the depth of loss and separation seems to overwhelm me, I look back and know that I still have the preciousness of those peaceful moments ’beneath the shadow of His wings’ and His joy beyond comprehension fills my heart and underpins my faith. When I call out in the night He answers, ’I love you!’ And I know that with my hand in the hand of Jesus I am safe and secure, through the good times and the bad times.