Monday, November 25, 2013

With Suffering Comes Opportunity

Recently, I took my car in to get an oil change and while I was there the mechanic asked me if I remembered when I had last changed my air filters. I thought, 'I have no idea!' I had never handled the car issues before--that was Jay's department. But after hearing the mechanic say this, I realized that I better learn what this car care stuff was all about and told the guy to go ahead and just give everything a quick check up. It turns out that it didn't need oil at all! How was I supposed to know that? I just saw this little light thing go off in my car and I assumed it meant 'get oil'! I guess I have a lot to learn about car care, but the trip wasn't entirely in vain. He did discover that the air filters I had in place were the wrong size. When he said this, a little light bulb went off in my head because for the longest time Jay and I couldn't figure out why the air conditioning was so weak in our car. In fact, we finally had just surrendered to the idea that the air system just didn't work well; now it seemed the problem may have been solved!

I told the mechanic to go ahead and replace the filters with the proper sized ones, and sure enough when he did, the air worked great! In my excitement I reached for my phone--since I'd of course want to share this discovery with Jay--but within the very second I thought to call him, I realized yet again that he was no longer here. I often think to myself, 'how many times do I have to go through this'? I suppose it's a knee jerk reaction that will take some time to fade. Thirty years of reaching for my phone, calling him, and expecting him to pick up is a habit that will be hard to break. It makes me think about what a precious gift we had together. These were the small moments that would be so unimportant to anyone else but to us; they were ours to share.

I find myself having to beat those moments back throughout my days so that I can press forward without feelings of heartache overtaking me. Eventually though, they catch up with me and I hit my emotional wall. When that happens I find it to be a bittersweet experience. Yes it's hard to crash, but when I do it feels good to be forced to stop and let myself have a good cry. I'm aching inside and it feels right to let my body express it. I'm also able to allow my thoughts to melt into my memories of Jay with no need to ward them off to avoid upset. I can just go with it and feel all I want and feel him all I want, too. But the most important purpose that those bittersweet days serve me, are that they remind me that I have to be completely reliant upon God because I can't endure any of this without Him. Seasons of suffering have a purpose, and in my suffering I'm gently and lovingly reminded that He is my sole strength and hope, and by the power of His Holy Spirit He will rise me up again.

Philippians 4:13 says I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. It's a scripture said often and sometimes too loosely. To tap into this supernatural power of claiming such a magnificent promise, we have to be solely dependent upon the one who promised it. Pain and suffering can not be avoided in a broken world, but with suffering there is opportunity to be that much more dependent upon a God who's refining his children for glorious things. Through the redemptive power of the cross, He lifts us up from the floor and makes steady our feet, so that we can take to the heights where our ankles do not give way. How wonderful is that? And how wonderful is our God?!

"Father, thank you for showing me in my pain how much I need you. You are my strong shield. You protect me when I'm weak, and in my weakness you supply me with the strength to stand again. How blessed are your children to know this depth of love and redemptive power? Thank you for the cross that makes it all possible and thank you for the gift of your son Jesus".  Amen.

God is good... 

2 Samuel 22 31-37
31 As for God, his way is perfect:
     The Lord's word is flawless;
      he shields all who take refuge in him.
32 For who is God besides the Lord?
     And who is the Rock except our God?
33 It is God who arms me with strength
      and keeps my way secure.
34 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
      he causes me to stand on the heights.
35 He trains my hands for battle;
     my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
36 You make your saving help my shield;
     your help has made me great.
37 You provide a broad path for my feet,
      so that my ankles do not give way.

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