I was talking with a group of women recently, and one of them shared her story with me.
She’d lost her son to an incurable heart condition when he was only four years old… Not only that, her other son has suffered from severe psychotic episodes throughout his life. He has schizophrenia.
She’s seen unbearable tragedy and heartache as a mother.
Yet every time I see her she has a warm smile on her face. Every time the topic of God comes up, joy and affection for her Heavenly Father radiates from her.
After finishing telling me about her pain and loss, she said something surprising.
She told me:
“I’m thankful for my trials, because I’ve been able to see how much God loves me. The people who’ve helped me along the way have all shown me God’s love in some way. If I hadn’t gone through these things, I wouldn’t know his love so well…”
I responded with a smile and a kind comment. But inside I was wrestling with her words.
I do know the clichés about trials bringing us closer to God and all that. But here was a woman who’d really suffered… who’d experienced more pain and loss than most of us will ever deal with… And she was smiling at me, saying she was thankful…?
I allowed her words to sit with me all afternoon, turning them around in my head…
Was I willing to accept a trial-filled life if it meant seeing God’s love more vividly?
Was I willing to suffer for the sake of showing others His glory?
Was I willing to take the harder path of growth instead of easy, shallow living?
Did I even have a choice?
Our eight-year-old son was diagnosed with autism (Asbergers) last year. Often I wake up thinking: “Buckle up. If you survive this day you’ve done well.”
His tantrums and meltdowns and mood swings are so out of control sometimes that I think I’m going to lose every ounce of joy and hope and faith I ever had as a Christian.
But I don’t. Only by the grace of God do I buckle up again – the next day and the next day and the next. And I realise my Heavenly Father is in the driver’s seat.
And he’s got this. He’s got my life in his hands.
And he has my friend’s.
He helped her navigate her grief and pain and fill her with a hope and joy that I never thought was possible after such heartache.
And she thanks God for it.
Thank you God, for your love.
It is vibrant, rich and penetrating.
It shines in the darkness through the light-giving people you bring us.
It rouses us from broken slumber, enlivening again.
It reminds us we’re never alone and wraps itself around us, warm.
Your love is the sunshine after the rain, our new hope in the morning, and the star that leads us home…
“Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.” (Psalm 136:26)