This week my dear twin daughters, Amy and Charity celebrated their 18th birthday. Wow! How the time has flown! They went from bouncy, bubbly toddlers to full-grown, godly young women while I blinked.
Looking back brings a flood of memories--many, sweet; some, incredibly painful. Nearly losing them in the womb in a high-risk pregnancy kept my heart up at night interceding for them, for God to show mercy.
Their safe arrival at 37 weeks--even though Amy's tiny 2 lb. 13 oz birthweight required several weeks of intensive care--was a visible expression of God's miracle power. Amy should never have lived, and we were told if she did she would be significantly mentally and physically handicapped.
"O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days." ~Psalm 90:14
My songs in the night during that pregnancy voiced my pleas for help from the Lord. He created these two precious lives and only He could save them from death. Even though sung through tears, however, those songs were ones of joy as well, not because of our circumstances, but because of God's amazing grace. The doctors' predictions were grim--10% chance of survival at best for Amy, and in the event of her premature death, Charity also might not survive if Amy died too early in the pregnancy.
Now looking back I didn't have much to hang onto in earthly terms, but I could sing with authentic joy because of the sustaining power of God's Word. Ask anyone who knows me well--it would've easily taken much less than Chris's rapidly declining health with early onset progressive MS and my high-risk pregnancy with our twins to overwhelm my heart with paralyzing fear and anxiety. Remarkably though, I wasn't. Humanly speaking, this was impossible.
What kept me out of the roaring, devastating winds of that hurricane and in the eye of the storm was the promise of God. His intangible, spoken Word was more real to me than the bed I crashed into each night as a very pregnant, exhausted homeschooling mom of four children, seven and under.
The ability to believe in the face of fierce adversity can only be described as a life-sustaining gift of God. His overflowing lovingkindness toward me was, and has always been so very great. In His perfect wisdom, He kept the storm raging all around me, and in His mercy He calmed the heart of His child.
"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." ~James 1:2-3
Though God is the One who gives us faith to believe His Word, what part do we play in believing Him? In the middle of the night, in the midst of the storm, what can we do to draw near to Him in trust and hope? I have found several things to be particularly helpful when I am discouraged, overwhelmed, doubting, fearful or anxious:
- Be real with God - The starting place is identifying what's going on in your heart. Ask yourself not just, "What am I feeling?" but also, "Why am I feeling this way?" Then, take those feelings and anxious thoughts to the Lord. If you are afraid, doubting, or discouraged, be open and honest with Him about that. Our frailty doesn't threaten God. He doesn't need our strength; He wants to give us His. He loves for us to come empty-handed, broken-hearted, that He might fill us with Himself.
- Search for Treasure - The Word of God is a treasure-house of promises. God longs to comfort and build up His people, to ground them in what is true about Himself and our relationship to Him. Getting into the Word gets the Word into us, which has the effect of informing our minds, influencing how we think, and consequently, how we feel. Authentic joy is shaped by truth; we need to get the treasure of God's truth in, so joy can come out.
- Dare to Sing - Okay, so maybe your songs don't sound like joy. Maybe they sound more like desperate cries for help. That's okay. I have permanent tear stains on both my pillow and the pages of my Bible verse meditation notebook. God stores every tear in His bottle, and in the darkest, hardest places of our lives He meets us with strong, open arms. It's here, in my weakest moments and through the broken, tear-infused songs of my life offered up to a faithful, loving and powerful God, that the beginning notes of a joyful melody are formed as He minsters His grace to me.
This is what holding on to a promise looks like, and authentic joy is possible when we cling to His Word. God can give His children the grace to believe Him, even in the most challenging circumstances. My dangerous, high-risk pregnancy with my sweet Charity and Amy 18 years ago was just one of many places in my life where the power of promise - God's inerrant, infallible promise - took center stage and sang out loud and strong, all to the glory of the One who is faithful to His Word.
"These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full." ~John 15:11
There's no place like home,