Yesterday afternoon, I read the Women of Faith blog post about God’s faithfulness, and had a “been there, done that” moment! The post cited a quote from Sheila Walsh—who incidentally, happens to be one of my favorite Women of Faith Speakers, because of the way she connects so personally with everyday women like me! Sheila wrote that during difficult times, her faith increases when she recalls how God has provided for her in the past. God has established a track record of faithfulness in her life, and remembering it gives her confidence when she faces new trials, to which I said, “I am so totally there!”
Today I have the great pleasure of linking up with the Women of Faith blog, not only because I’d like to share how God has shown himself faithful in my life, but also to share how some of his provisions have come in the form of Women of Faith conferences!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with our story, I will give you the Reader’s Digest version. In 2003, I was admitted to the hospital with a collapsed lung. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason for it, and the doctor told me that sometimes the lung collapses for no apparent reason. (oh, that’s comforting..) Following a few days in the hospital with a chest tube, I was sent home. The following month, my lung collapsed again. During thoracic surgery, holes were found in my diaphragm, which were allowing air to get into the pleural space and collapse the lung. The diaphragm was repaired and I was sent home again. The following month, my twin experienced a collapse of her lung, and also underwent thoracic surgery to repair holes in her diaphragm. We were both diagnosed with catamenial pneumothorax (CPT), a rare form of endometriosis. While recovering, we learned about an upcoming Christian women’s conference. Given all that we had been through, we thought it was just what we needed.
A few weeks later, we were in the arena giving our ticket stubs to the usher. The tickets had an odd designation, so we had no idea where our seats were. The usher directed us to the bowl area, and we proceeded down the long staircase toward the center of the arena. When we got to the last stair, we followed a second usher, who motioned us toward two seats. We sat down and looked at one another. We were in the second row from the stage. “Wow, these are really good seats!”
The music started, and for the next two days we were enthralled. We had never been to a conference like Women of Faith. The speakers were a dynamic group of ladies from a variety of backgrounds. While they were all good at speaking, their openness is what kept our attention and touched our hearts. They didn’t set themselves up as women we should emulate. Instead they shared personal struggles from their own lives and described how God met them where they were. They provided real examples of God working in the painful or difficult circumstances of real life. One of the women had been an agoraphobic, afraid of open spaces and confined to her house for many years. Another speaker had struggled with clinical depression. Another had lost a baby daughter to spina bifida and then a husband to pancreatic cancer. The speakers didn’t just talk about how God provides and sustains through crisis, they had experienced his provision first-hand, and they shared those stories with the ladies in attendance.
The theme of the conference, The Great Adventure, was summed up perfectly in the opening song by Steven Curtis Chapman. “Saddle Up Your Horses” illustrates how our lives can be an adventure when Jesus is our traveling companion. We don’t have to be afraid of the unknown when Christ is with us.
“. . . I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10b).
At the time, we had to admit that our life’s adventures seemed to be more like misadventures. We found that trusting God when things were going well was easy, but became more difficult when things were not going so well. We learned the only way we could face the unknown of the future, was to trust God with the outcome.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Heb. 11:1).
The messages were timely, and we were encouraged. God knew that we needed this spiritual reinforcement and during the lunch break, we realized just how much he had arranged for us to be there. A woman seated in front of us turned and asked if we were friends of one of the speakers. We thought this was very strange since we purchased our seats in the normal way and used the tickets that were mailed to us. She then told us that we were in VIP seating, so she assumed we must have known somebody associated with the organization. We were stunned and had no idea how that happened. The location of our seats made us realize that we were not at this conference by accident. God had wanted us there, up close, to hear what he had to say to us.
While we did not know what the future held, God knew, and he promised to sustain us regardless of the events that would unfold. Our hardships were not random. He had a purpose and a plan to use our pain. Could it be that the CPT journey was part of the Great Adventure God had planned for us? The following year we brought our mom, and the three of us began our tradition of the Women of Faith weekend. The conferences showed us that we were not alone in our struggles. Thousands of other women just like us had burdens, fears, and problems and in that arena, we were all sisters. Each year, God spoke to us through the messages, through the music and most importantly through his Word.
Over the next few years we would continue with our own medical issues, eventually needing hysterectomies to solve the lung collapse problem. My twin would be diagnosed with renal artery stenosis, after which she would lose a kidney. We would then accompany our mom through the most difficult challenge of her life. Those years were not easy for our family. They were fraught with uncertainty, fear, hopelessness, and anger as well as some significant physical and emotional pain. There were times when the memories of life the way it used to be seemed far away. Sometimes we were overcome with moments of envy when we saw happy people whose carefree lives were filled with fun. Life was hard, and in the midst of our suffering, we experienced despair.
Some people may say that Christians are not supposed to have feelings of despair or hopelessness. That kind of sentiment is not Biblical nor is it practical. While we do have the assurance of salvation in Christ and look forward to heaven, we still live here in the meantime, and life on this planet is hard.
At times we found it difficult to keep a hopeful perspective. That didn’t mean that we had what some like to call a crisis of faith. What it did mean was that we had to make a conscious effort to remember God’s truths and to stand firm on his promises. The fact that we belong to Christ doesn’t exclude us from experiencing difficult circumstances and heartbreaking emotions. The Bible is full of faithful believers who had bad things happen to them, and, during their times of trial, they experienced the same feelings that we do today. Suffering is a part of life. In fact, Jesus told us to expect times of trial.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Christ tells us that bad things will happen. However, he also encourages us to remember that in him, our suffering need not overwhelm us. He promises us a measure of peace in the circumstance.
His promise to be with us and to provide for all of our needs is what keeps us going when life gets difficult. When we recognize the evidence of his provision again and again and again, it gives us hope! In our situation, God knew we had fragile emotions and were easily distracted by our pain, so he coordinated events to help us. He brought along people to support us. He spoke to us through his Word to encourage us. In short, his promise to provide for all our needs was demonstrated in practical and tangible ways. Through those tumultuous years, we learned the valuable lesson of making a conscious effort to look for the hand of God in our circumstances and last year, we published our story in an effort to share that hope with others. Our book, Held by God: Finding Hope by Recognizing His Provision in the Midst of Suffering, gives a first-hand account of God working directly in our lives. It is our hope that others will be encouraged as they recognize the hand of God in their own lives.
Remembering God’s faithfulness gives us the strength to face the unexpected challenges life throws at us and gives us the courage to face the future without fear.
On the journey toward Home,