Sometimes we need to be reminded that God actually does follow through on His promise to redeem our pain.
In the midst of loss, disappointment, grief, divorce, change, death, and questioning, we are invited to press on, to press INTO Him, and sometimes we do. But we still wonder if He will hold up His end. Will He really turn all of it into something good? Or will I be left suffering forever?
Throughout my grieving years, I wondered when THIS post would get to happen, if ever. When would I have something to squeal and cheer and shout from the top of the coffee table? After so many sad corners, when could my story finally turn a happy one? When could I write light-hearted words?
In the midst of the darkness, it seemed impossible to imagine it.
But today is the day!
To all who mourn in Israel,
he will give a crown of BEAUTY for ashes,
a JOYOUS BLESSING instead of mourning,
festive PRAISE instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
that the Lord has planted for his own glory. (Isaiah 61:3)
When the Lord RESTORED…
it was like a dream!
We were filled with LAUGHTER,
And we SANG FOR JOY.
And the other nations said,
“What amazing things the Lord has done for them.”
Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us!
Restore our fortunes, Lord,
As streams RENEW the desert.
Those who plant in tears
Will harvest with shouts of joy.
They weep as they go to plant their seed,
But they sing as they return with the harvest. (Psalm 126)
Surely the Lord has done great things!
Don’t be afraid, O land.
Be glad now and rejoice,
for the Lord has done great things.
Don’t be afraid, you animals of the field,
for the wilderness pastures will SOON be green.
The trees will again be FILLED with LUSCIOUS fruit;
fig trees and grapevines will FLOURISH once more.
Rejoice, you people of Jerusalem!
Rejoice in the Lord your God!
For the rain he sends demonstrates his faithfulness.
Once more the autumn rains will come,
as well as the rains of spring.
The threshing floors will again be PILED HIGH with grain,
and the presses will OVERFLOW with new wine and olive oil.
(from Joel 2:20-24)
“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…” (Joel 2:25)
Can we even believe it?
He does repay us for the devastated years, just like He said He would.
Some of you knew this day would come the whole time. I know who you are, you dear people. Others, like me, just clung tightly with crossed fingers hoping that I wouldn’t look foolish at the end as I continued determinedly to Hope. But that’s what faith is, isn’t it, clinging fiercely and continuing to Hope?
Many of you, sweet and faithful readers and friends, have followed this whole, treacherous journey. You have chosen to allow yourself to feel my pain. You’ve cried with me, prayed fervently for me, and sent thoughtful gifts to remind me I am never alone. You’ve shared my story of pain and Jesus with the hope of encouraging your loved ones. You’ve been beside me the whole time, cheering fervently, even if we’ve never met.
And now forever, I am spilling over with gratitude for you. You‘ve been the glitter mixed in with the mess.
How could I invite you into my grief and not also invite you to the celebration?
So today, we cheer! Together through this screen between us, we raise our hearts and our hands, pump our fanatic fists up and down, and giddily squeal, “Lord, you are amazing! There are not words to describe you!”
Because He did it, you guys.
He has done what He said He would do: beauty for ashes, blessing instead of mourning.
As the verses above promise, so it is. He redeems our pain and rewrites our stories to be more beautiful than we could have ever imagined in our childhood dreams.
The story of restoration He is writing in my life is beautiful. The dark, menacing storm cloud has passed, and His praise pours from my lips. Look at what He has done! Look at how He has revealed Himself to be who He says He is. Because of this man in my life, my husband, my lips are full of smiles and my mouth is constantly filled with laughter. Because of these girls, our daughters, I get to sing many new songs and giggle at God’s goodness. Their abundant and extravagant love is filling in the cracks and holes of the past, and again I am in awe of the Lord’s care and compassion for His people. What gifts He has given me in these three people!
“The LORD has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Psalm 118:23)
And before I continue, feet to the ground and on to the next year, I must stop.
Today, before I go forward from here, I imagine I’m in the end scene of a long, dramatic movie: With husband and daughters ahead of me, I stop. And I turn around to see Him, behind me cheering me forward. I drop the things I carry, run back to Him, and fall at His feet. I look up at his brave, fierce and tender eyes, and He bends down. He grins with a calm sparkle in His eye because we both know what just happened. Then, we see them. He reaches His hand to me and gently rubs His fingers across the scars that I will always bear from these years, though now they have begun to fade into the flesh of my soul. We both know the pain from this battle, but I never fought alone. Every second He fought beside me, behind me, and before me. It was a doozy, and we both know it. Slowly, He stands to His feet, outstretching a hand to pull me up when suddenly my eyes see His wrist and my heart remembers: His body bear scars, too.
He knows this pain, and He knows the redemption. He knows what He’s doing, and He has all along.
When my mom died, I thought, “How will I live without her wisdom and love?” But God said, “I will comfort and guide you.”
As I left the grave side of my 8 month-old son, I thought, “How will I ever have strength to keep going after today?” But God said, “I will give you a strength that you will only find in Me.”
When I heard the words, “I’m done,” from my husband, I thought, “But who am I if I’m not a wife? I never dreamed I’d be ‘divorced!’” But God said, “Let me show you who you are in My eyes, Molly.”
As I handed over the keys to my house, moved into an apartment, and later moved to a new state, I thought, “Where is Home now? Where is my place to ‘put my shoulders down?’” But God said, “Come and see how you can find rest and security in Me.”
He has shown me how He is enough. And now I can say like David:
“The suffering You sent was good for me,
For it taught me to pay attention to Your principles.
Your law is more valuable to me
Than millions in gold or silver!” (Psalm 119:71-72)
This is not The End. This is not “…and they all lived happily ever after in Morehead, Kentucky.” The journey to here has taken years, and I know if I’m still on this Earth, He’s not done refining me.
But today, in this moment, I want to pause and remember where I’ve been and what He’s done. And when I do, I can shout with certainty, “The Lord is faithful! Oh my gosh, He really is faithful, just as He’s always said! All the words He says are true.”
I can say like Job, “I had heard about You before, but now I have seen You with my own eyes” (Job 42:5).
I don’t know what’s going on in your life today. Perhaps you’re like I have been, wondering if you could REALLY trust God’s promises. You have read how He’s restored people in the Bible, but you are unsure if He could really do the same in your situation, or if He even wants to.
Perhaps you are turning many difficult corners with no end in sight. Perhaps there are dreams stirring in you, but a path to their fulfillment seems impossible. Maybe you’ve lost someone. Maybe you’re losing someone.
Maybe the locusts have destroyed everything that matters.
My friend, just keep clinging to His promises above. Write them down. Post them in your home and in your car. They are TRUE. He will not fail you as you seek Him in the midst of your pain.
Right now, it may seem that you’re looking at death. Dead relationships. Dead dreams. Dead plans for your future. But with Christ: after death comes life. Always.
And then, we celebrate!
… and there will be heard once more the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord, saying,
“Give thanks to the Lord Almighty,
for the Lord is good;
his love endures forever.”
For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,’ says the Lord.
Thank you, Lord. You are good, and Your love endures forever.