Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Best and the Worst

It was the best six months of my life. It was also the worst.

My dad had a brain tumor removed that was metastatic from lung cancer. My mom was rapidly deteriorating from Parkinson’s disease and dementia. My own kids graduated; moved out-of-state; moved back to the area; got married. My two youngest daughters left for out-of-state colleges—within two days of each other!

And during that time I also took a new leadership position at my church.

Now all this was normal stuff, most of it even good stuff. College and graduations and weddings are times to celebrate. But they also mean change, and even good change takes a lot of energy to process. This much change happening all at once knocked me for a loop. It was like being in the water at the beach when one of those huge waves catches you by surprise, churning and tumbling you in somersaults so quickly that you can’t figure up from down. You end up swallowing too much seawater and getting sick to your stomach.

big waves for best & worst

That’s how I felt. Out-of-control, sick to my stomach, and not sure which way was up.

As a believer in Jesus I knew there was a firm foundation beneath me, but I just couldn’t seem to find my footing. I knew the importance of spending time with Jesus. Every time I did He faithfully restored my perspective. But inevitably another wave, another change, would slam into me and I would go tumbling off-kilter all over again.

It took time, a lot of prayer, and a lot of surrender before those waves let loose of me, and equilibrium fully returned.

As I look back, I realize that I learned a lot from that time in my life.

I learned that you can’t learn to swim if you don’t go out into deeper water. While we might prefer otherwise, sometimes the Lord deliberately puts us in situations where we are in over our heads. He wants us to learn things there that we can’t learn any other way; things like how to trust that He won’t let us drown, or that His grace truly is sufficient in our weakness (2 Corinthian 12:9). Spiritual depth is often cultivated most deeply in those times when we hurt and struggle and desperately seek Jesus’ help.

I learned that there are times when, no matter how much we love Jesus, we get surprised by one of those huge life-waves that knock us down and disorient us. It is not sin that causes it to happen, nor sin when we struggle with it. It is only sin when we give up, doubt our Father’s love, and quit seeking help from the One who can best give it.

I learned that it is the daily habit of prayer, surrender, and time in the word that sustains us when life is chaotic. Those truths that we meditate on and the unchanging reality of God’s presence and care are what stabilizes us and rights our world.

I learned that regardless of how I felt, the firm foundation never moved. I’ve heard it said that the only constant is change. I disagree. Change ebbs and flows. There are times when life moves along placidly, and it’s easy to remain on an even keel. Other times, like that summer, change slams into you, leaving you reeling. Yet Jesus never moves away from us, nor does He cease to hear us call to Him for help. He always works in our lives in response.

No, change is not the only constant. Jesus is.

No matter what challenges we are facing, Jesus has promised to never leave or forsake us(Hebrews 13:5).  He reassures us that all things work together for good, even the changes we neither sought nor wanted (Romans 8:28).  He is our lifeguard who sees us struggling in the deep, turbulent water and comes to rescue us, tenderly keeping our head above water, and helps us regain our footing on the firm foundation of His love.

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my foes, who were too strong for me….He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because He delighted in me.         Psalm 18:16-19

Further reflection:

  1. Has there been a time in your life when you experienced overwhelming change?
  2. What are some of the lessons you learned?

Father, You alone are constant. You are my Rock. Thank You that even when my world seems topsy-turvy, Your presence and Your word are unchanging. You always hear me, and You always provide the only firm foundation that endures.

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