I’m going to be totally honest here. This year has been probably the most difficult year in my life. Not that I haven’t been praying, studying and worshiping: I have . . . fervently.
But my heart and attitude and demeanor have been . . . well, I confess . . . depressed, despairing, and, at times, anxious. Part of that has been driven by my circumstances. As many of you know, my husband Joel has early onset Alzheimer’s. We are entering our 7th year of life with this disease. In addition, my father is elderly and lives in Florida, my in-laws are aging and have health issues, and my favorite son (only child) moved out-of-state to college. To top all that, a lot of my team members and close friends are facing difficult life circumstances too. I take this all to heart. There has been much grief and loss.
I’m learning (slowly) that it’s okay to cry and lament over losses. You know God can handle it! Scripture says He holds every one of our tears in a bottle. . . . Isn’t that the greatest? I’m finding that in these times of weeping with God, it’s not pain relief that happens but the assurance and the realization that God is with me and for me and ever-present in that pain. What a comfort!
I’ve been told life with my precious hubby is going to get even harder. That there will be more dark nights of the soul . . . but, by the grace of God, I persevere and journey on. Hope rings true through His word.
Joel and I’ve been pulling out photo albums and remembering so many blessings in our 35 years. We have had (and still have) a wonderful life together. We’ve remembered all that God has done for us though there have been struggles . . . blessings like the wonder and awe of having a son after 14 years of infertility. My husband has been a picture of Jesus in the flesh to me. He’s been my biggest fan and cheerleader, he’s been very kind and patient with all my hang ups and neuroses through the years, and he has spoken truth to me with unconditional love – Now its my turn to be Jesus to Him.
However, I’ve learned also in scripture that Jesus has to be our first love. He wants first place in our lives–NOT our husbands, children, friends, family, careers. Life . . . marriage, even good marriages, can feel lonely. I’ve felt lonely a lot in the past few months. But years of bible study and hearing how other women have walked life’s journey with Jesus through difficult times have taught me–God is with us, always . . . we believe and have faith in the truth, not in our feelings . . . though they are very real. And eventually the intense feelings wane and His peace comes.
Our Equip Her Bible studies put a huge emphasis on prayer, and what I’ve learned here about prayer has been a lifeline through these difficult times. You might be thinking, if prayer’s not changing your circumstances, why continue to do it? Here’s what I’ve learned:
- God calls us to pray: James 5:16 “the prayer of a righteous woman accomplishes much.”
- God listens and is working though we ask and do not see: 2 Cor 5:17 “we walk by faith not by sight.”
- Romans 8:26 “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” Sometimes I can only pray “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, help me!” –an honest and simple prayer, trusting God hears through the Spirit speaking on my behalf. What a relief that is.
- God desires us to have an honorable thought life, and praying His word helps. Phil 4:8 “whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, good repute, if any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” Praying and singing praises to God encourages my mind to be transformed from self-pity to glorifying God. As I confess my stress and anxiety and fear, He brings peace. As I lift up others in prayer – my mind goes from self-centered to others-focused. What a joy to pray for others.
- Prayer enables us to really know Him (Ephesians 1:17-19)–His heart, His character, His love for us as daughters of king Jesus! In praying His word, He reveals so much of who He is. . . .His word is alive and active and powerful. I far too often crumble in a heap and forget the power I have in Christ. As I fuss, and lay out my complaints, then pray God’s word and think about who He is, I find my heart turning to praise and thankfulness.
- Finally I pray, because after many years of trying most of the world’s ways to peace….I’ve learned nothing works except Jesus. So I’m going to continue to pray and praise and trust God. When I’m in the despairing and discouraging times, I pull out a few scriptures. I have these at home, on my desk, in my purse . . . favorite verses such as:
Isaiah 61: “To comfort all who mourn, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”
“Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble and keep on praying.” Rom 12:12
“My eager desire and hope being that I may never feel ashamed, but that now as ever I may do honor to Christ in my own person by fearless courage.” Phil 1:20
Is 26:3 “I will keep in perfect peace, she whose mind is steadfast because she trusts in me.”
What we are learning here in our Equip Her studies is laying a foundation for us, preparing us for life . . . the joys and the tears. What a wonderful gathering . . . together connecting with God and one another. We are not alone! We have a community here–learning, sharing, praying and praising.
Our bible studies have equipped me well for such a time as this! I’m so thankful and grateful!