Up to the Challenge
Growing up, life seemed to go pretty smoothly. There were the usual ups and downs but nothing very serious. I got the first summer job I applied for, I had my choice of universities to go to and I even got accepted for a summer dietetic internship against pretty steep odds. While some things like finding a husband and having children took longer than I planned, eventually I got most everything that was really important to me.
Difficult life blows
That is, until my husband and I made plans to go overseas to do relief work. Everything seemed to fall into place perfectly. All our bags were packed and ready to go when we got a phone call informing us that they no longer felt we were suitable for the assignment. No matter how hard we tried to reverse the decision, the door stayed closed. It was the greatest disappointment I had ever experienced. In the past, everything had eventually worked out, but this time it didn’t.
About three years later, my husband’s older brother told us that he was dying of AIDS. Again, it was so final. Nothing we could do could change the diagnosis. The next eighteen months were very difficult ones for our whole family. It was hard to let go of a brother-in-law we all loved and who was so gifted.
The anguish was so great that my father-in-law never did recover from the hurt. Four months after his son’s death, he died of a stroke. Although my brother-in-law’s death was difficult, Dad’s was even harder. We had been very close and he was an incredibly wonderful grandfather to our three girls.
The next major blow in my life was when I miscarried our fourth child. This baby was to have completed our family. Having had three healthy children, the thought of losing this baby never crossed my mind. So when I miscarried at the end of my first trimester, I was devastated. We all struggled with the disappointment of losing this precious little child. I cried for weeks, even after I discovered I was pregnant again.
As I reflect back on these events, I sometimes feel sad, but I don’t feel angry or bitter. In fact, there’s a real sense of peace and contentment. I attribute that to the relationship I have with God that began when I was a child.
Although I’ve always known about God, He hasn’t always been in my life. As a child, I went to church and learned that God loved me and had a plan for me and had a plan for my life. I also learned that God was holy and perfect and because of the wrong things that I had done in my life, I was separated from Him. It was like there was a huge gulf between us. I could feel His love but I couldn’t get close to Him. Growing up, I remember thinking, “Today, I’m going to be good – I’m not going to fight with my siblings,” (of which I had six). But if I made it to lunch time, I usually had failed by supper. No matter how hard I tried to be good, I couldn’t live up to my own expectations let alone God’s. I guess subconsciously, I though if only I was good enough then He would accept me and I would feel His love.
When I was almost ten years old, I went to a special church service with my mom. During the service, I finally admitted that I couldn’t do it on my own. I realized that because of my sin, I would not spend eternity with God if I were to die that day. But the good news was, that I didn’t need to stay separated from Him. God had bridged that gulf between us by allowing His Son Jesus to die on the cross for my sin. I only needed to accept God’s forgiveness.
So at the end of the service, I went and talked to an older lady. I’ll always remember her reading to me a familiar Bible verse – John 3:16. But she read it differently, she inserted my name into the verse: “For God so loved JOAN that He gave His only begotten Son, that if JOAN believes in Him, JOAN should not perish but have eternal life.” It made everything so clear and personal to me. Right then and there, I prayed a simple prayer:
“Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I have sinned. Thank-you for dying on the cross for me. Please forgive me for all of my sins and come into my life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be. Amen.”
And He did come into my life, just as He promised He would.
As I look back over the difficult circumstances of my life, I can see God’s hand in each one. No matter how out of control I felt, in time, it became evident that God was in control. At the time, we were very disappointed that we couldn’t go overseas, but now we know that if we had gone, we wouldn’t have been here through my brother-in-law’s illness and our girls wouldn’t have known their grandfather. And even though my brother-in-law’s death seemed like such a waste, it was through his terrible illness that he committed his life to Christ. There’s such a peace and joy knowing that he is in heaven with the Lord. Someday we will see him and Dad again. And my miscarriage? While we all struggled with the loss of our little one, we have that wonderful hope that someday we’ll get to see him and hold him again.
Over the years, I’ve found that if I focus on my problems I can get just as frustrated as anyone else. But when I keep my focus on God and allow Him to direct my life, then I can experience His peace and contentment in the midst of crises experiences, as well as the day to day challenges of being a wife and mother.
Are you struggling with life’s challenges? Is peace elusive? It doesn’t have to be. You can find peace and contentment through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Does this prayer express the desire of your heart? You can pray it right now, and Jesus Christ will come into your life, just as He promised.
If you invited Christ into your life, thank God often that He is in your life, that He will never leave you and that you have eternal life. As you learn more about your relationship with God, and how much He loves you, you’ll experience life to the fullest.