I often think of my darkest days and also my most anxiety-filled moments, they sometimes come at me like a flash and other times they persist. There are times when I give them more space as I process the past and embrace the gratitude that history has offered me.
God gave me the most amazing gifts during those times, the warmth of His love and the sense of His presence. I clung dearly to those two things as I would often find myself feeling vulnerable and insecure. I felt His extreme love for me and also His protection and His guidance. I was in a place of total reliance on Him.
Because you see, when we are desperate we grab on to something…fear, a vice, dear friends, God, anger, etc. Something fills that space. Often we run to God and emotionally collapse in His presence, creating a natural environment where He can really be our everything. It’s a sweet and tender season of leaning and gleaning. And then, as we gain strength and work through the difficult season, we find ourselves more confident to stand on our own. It’s such a beautiful and healthy thing but we’re not in that sweet space of grace where we lingered in during our most desperate times.
And so lately, I’ve been asking God to take me there, not as the insecure, anxiety-filled version of myself but from a more mature place. I’ve been asking Him to teach me total reliance on Him in the middle of normal life. And let me tell you, that is hard! It’s difficult to surrender when we’re not completely depleted or in desperate need. It’s hard to run toward God when life is in rhythm and our physical, spiritual and emotional needs are being met. Yet that’s what I seek after, that’s what many of us desire.
I think the biggest treasure I took from my difficult season is the gift of a soft heart. I didn’t want to come out hurt, angry and permanently scarred and I would often ask God for strength but also for a tender and forgiving heart. I knew how easy it would be to befriend bitterness and partner with pain so I worked hard to address those things that could potentially breed in my heart and grow in my life. Honestly, I feel them sometimes but I understand that they are issues that can be dealt with and not the DNA that makes me who I am.
I continue to ask God to keep me in that gentle place where I found healing and love, and I also ask for compassion and empathy for those who are struggling to feel and know Him in this way. I was talking to Luke this week and I asked him, “Do you think there are people on this earth who feel absolutely no love at all?” He thought about it for a moment and then said, “Yes, I think there are.” That broke my heart but I know it’s true. I think about children who are sold into slavery or abandoned by their parents and how alone they must feel in the world. I hope they feel God’s love.
So how do we live in the sweet presence of God in the middle of regular life?
1 Thessalonians 5:17 says to “Pray without ceasing” which doesn’t mean non-stop, but actually means constantly recurring. To me that simply means integrating prayer throughout the day and asking God for His will and direction and then taking time to listen and act. I was doing this a couple weeks ago and God brought a precious couple to mind.
This husband-wife team has been a powerful duo for as long as I have known them. They started and ran a successful business together for many years and simultaneously worked alongside my parents in their marriage ministry as leaders and mentors to many, many couples. I loved watching them work together and always admired their love for each other and their heart to help others.
About a year ago I found out that she had become very ill and hadn’t walked on her own in over a year. He was her full-time caregiver and when I saw him he teared up sharing about her condition and how difficult it had been for both of them. I couldn’t even picture her in that way, she had always been such a symbol of strength to me. But her body was failing her.
Lately I have really had them on my heart. I was praying for them one day when I felt like I should call and check on him, so a couple weeks ago I picked up the phone and called. He shared that his wife had just been given several months/up to a year to live and that she had also just been diagnosed with pneumonia. He was heartbroken and my heart was hurting for them. He was caught in a rut of taking care of her and I could sense he was feeling hopeless.
As we were talking I felt God stirring something inside of me. So toward the end of the conversation I shared what was on my heart. “God still has work for you two to do together,” I said. “You have always been a powerful couple and you still are. You have touched so many lives together and you still will. You have walked couples through their hardest times and seen God do miracles in their marriages. Your situation has changed but you are still that same, dynamic couple!”
I felt like God had a final assignment for them, something they could do together as a couple before she said goodbye to this world. So I shared it with him. I told him I thought it would be really special if they would write letters together to those who are dearest to them, just to let these friends know what they mean to them as a couple while his wife is still alive. He got so excited! He had been caught up in the routine of life and bogged down by really hard circumstances but God wanted to remind him that he still had purpose, that they still had purpose together.
And do you know what I received this past week? The most beautiful hand-written note from this couple. The words were so thoughtfully penned as they went through the history of our friendship and their expression of love and gratitude. And at the very end he signed and then she signed, her signature small and shaky and clearly expressed with much effort and difficulty. I pictured him writing these letters as he reads them aloud to her…she gets to think about the meaningful relationships in her life and although she can no longer react, I believe her heart is reminded of the interactions she’s had with these people and the impact they have had on her life.
He texted and asked me for someone else’s address. Every day they write these letters together. It’s her goodbye to the world and their final expression of gratitude as a couple. It touches my heart to the core.
God speaks to us by prompting our hearts. I know what it’s like to dismiss that nudge, to remind God that I’m too busy, unsure, or not talented enough to carry out His tasks. But then I’m reminded that God often shows his love to us through the expression of people (John 13:35 NLT, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples”). And I’m also reminded that I have asked Him to be near me and speak to my heart in the midst of the mundane. So I press in for more of that closeness. And God always meets me there.
If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need or want to hear.