Monday, November 9, 2015

An Anchored and Secure Hope

A dear friend and co-conspirator in the mommy life asked me if I’d be willing to help with a blog post series on Suffering. If she’d asked me three short years ago to do this very thing, I would have paused and considered why I’m eligible for this call to write. Sure, we’d had our times of suffering in our marriage and life, everyone does, but was it really suffering? Of course we’d lost a child to miscarriage. Our first, born from my body straight to the Lord without even a full body yet to lay my eyes upon, only the knowledge of the life that was within me and now with God.  Did that rock our world? Yes. But we grieved and healed. Was it suffering? Yes. But we’ve moved on….right? So who am I to speak of suffering? That was just a trial, right? Not actual suffering?

Actually, God has used suffering a lot in our life. Looking back over just the years since I said, “I do,” there have been many opportunities to experience the valley. Within the first months of our move, three years into our marriage, we lost our first child to miscarriage, as mentioned above. The first year we moved into full-time ministry, my husband’s grandmother passed away back home. The second year, his uncle got cancer and passed away within months. Year three brought a cancer-scare with my mom, and a throat cancer diagnosis with my dad.  We experienced financial hardship years three and four and part of year five, and in the fall of year six my stepdad announced he had cancer.
And years six and seven? Well, we were blessed with the amazing news that we’d be having another baby. Joy and peace and hope were on the horizon. We shared the news by lining up pumpkins, one for each member of our family, and the one on the way, with a little Pinteresty sign that said, “Baby #3”.  When we were considering having another child, we discussed things like finances, work versus family balance, logistics of car seat to van-size ratio, and we thought through how in the world I could manage my two-under-three (well, when we found out we were expecting our oldest was still three, our youngest just turned two) considering how stubbornly nauseous and sick my offspring tend to make their mama. We thought we were ready. We knew there were risks, especially after the miscarriage. But we felt the Lord approving this idea and blessing us with a new baby come spring of 2014.

The moment the nineteen week ultrasound started, my husband and I began light banter about boy or girl, the tone changed slowly and suddenly and the air became as heavy as the wet snowstorm outside the walls that divided us between bad news and the world rushing about where it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go.

Eventually and after many tests, we would come to realize that our daughter had an extremely rare chromosomal abnormality. She had a congenital heart defect, a cleft lip and cleft palate, possible club feet, and later, after she was born, we’d learn she possessed only one misplaced kidney.  Two months and nearly ready to go home and wait for her first open heart surgery, she aspirated (choked) and ended up needing a tracheostomy to save her life and let her breathe around her tricky airway anatomy.

The road that was paved through five months of NICU life was hard. Stressful.  Life altering. But it saved our daughter, and we were able to bring her home to stay and thrive with us for over eight months before her heart shunt began to get too small and we knew surgery number two was looming. We’ve since spent the last five months in the PICU waiting for, and then currently healing from her second open heart surgery. The season of home was filled with laughter and joy, but also with stress of home nursing, sleepless nights, scary moments, ER visits, life-flight fears lived, and precious moments of cuddling my daughter by the Christmas tree. To some it was a juxtaposition of normal life meets medical life. To us, it was joy in the face of suffering.

I believe that all we’d gone through in the previous years had granted us with bits of hope along the way so that when this time came, we’d know hope truly existed to see us through this trial. I believe that because we chose to cling to the cross through those other painful seasons, we were better able to appreciate this current and very unexpected season in the valley.

If there’s something to be learned on this journey of suffering, it’s that it’s actually three-part. The first is that peppered among those trials mentioned at the beginning of this post were peaks of joy and utter happiness that can only come from the Lord. Our first healthy child was born, then our second. Our move from a tiny two bedroom duplex to a blessing of a three bedroom home with yard for our kids to run through the grass and sled on the slope. Watching as relationships around us showed growth and healing. Watching my dad fight and beat his cancer. Watching my step-dad do the same. Among our suffering, God plants seeds of joy, that can grow and bear fruit that will worship and praise Him even while in the storm itself. These moments of joy bring us hope. An anchored and secure hope. I’ve learned that when the valley seems the darkest to look around me, for surely, even when it hurts the most, Jesus still grants me joy in sorrow, and peace in pain, and a hope that anchors the soul. Hebrews chapter six tells us:

For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, ehe swore by himself, 14 saying, f“Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham,2 ghaving patiently waited, obtained the promise. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes han oath is final for confirmation. 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to ithe heirs of the promise jthe unchangeable character of his purpose, khe guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which lit is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope mset before us.19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into nthe inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has goneoas a forerunner on our behalf, phaving become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
(Hebrews 6:13-20 ESV)

The second part is that suffering and trials causes us to grow in Christ. God lovingly teaches us along the way. Sanctification is the process of dying to self and becoming more like Christ. And holy cow, has this process EVER done that for me. At the beginning of this journey with our daughter, I thought I had it all together in Christ, meaning I thought I was cool with the Lord and didn’t need to grow in my own heart, that He was giving me this experience to learn from and help others through similar experiences. Wow. Just wow, was I ever wrong. This crazy roller-coaster took me through seasons of bitterness, of self-pity, of long-time friendships derailed, and of the Lord pointing out areas of my life that I still needed very much to grow in. While many told me how brave I was or how amazing I was taking care of my daughter or holding her hand in the face of surgeries, I was on the inside fighting battles deep against sin and my want to be in control of my life instead of letting the Lord be sovereign. Thankfully He is a loving God, and taught me about forgiveness and love and grace along the way. Honestly, I’m not sure that I would have grown the ways I have if it wasn’t for this particular walk through this darkness. I’m learning that we can rejoice in our suffering, for it produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope (Romans 3:3-5).

Finally, seasons of suffering remind us, and bear with me because this is something I’m still learning and grasping and feeling in the palm of my own hands, that our life is about learning to live for the Lord. Angie Smith writes in her book Chasing God about life that, “It is, and has always been, a gradual death to everything we love outside of Him.” (Chasing God pg. 22). That this is not our eternal home and we must learn to look at it from that perspective. And if life is about daily dying to all things around us so that our eyes and life only reflect His glory, then the point of suffering is that, “…we will never know God without first recognizing our need for Him.” (Chasing God pg. 23). God uses these seasons, these trials, these sufferings to realize that only the one true God is sovereign over our lives. That He really is with us, if we call on His name. That He loves us and our brokenness even now, when it’s real and raw, because God experienced it first hand when His own Son was on the cross, taking on all of our sins, and turning His face away for that moment, that very moment when all the sins of the world hung on His Son’s brokenness. The pain He felt as Father losing Son. He’s been there, folks. The Lord didn’t just walk this valley watching His Son bear all sins on the earth, He created the very valley that He, Himself walked through. If we go through this life with its seasons of suffering for the sole reason to have positive thoughts and rely on our own courage and strength, then we’ve missed the point of the valley. Smith reminds us that, “When we nod our heads and our hearts remain unmoved, we’ve taken it (the cross) for granted.” (Chasing God pg. 26).

Press in to the trial. Press in to the storm. Press into Jesus because He is the only One who can save you from the suffering. The only One who can wipe away your tears. The only One who can teach you and grow you through this valley and show you joy along the pathway. Let Him mold you through this and by this. He is writing this story and it can cultivate a new and amazing love for Him if you press into every part that He’s writing, not just easy parts but also into the darkest of parts. For when the world around us is the darkest, it allows Him to shine the brightest. 


  1. Yes!! Last year, in a terrifying storm, my phrase was "my story, His glory." He is good all the time.