The eight years preceding this last year were the most difficult in our lives, but this past year including the present day has been, and is, sweet. My husband and I say something about it to each other every day. And every day, we are profoundly grateful.
Why were those eight years so difficult? Because of normal situations that countless people in this fallen world face every day: fathers who have heart attacks and eventually die of congestive heart failure; mothers who lose their identity and their will to live when their husbands die; husbands who lose jobs; caring for elderly parents who are depressed and take their toxic unhappiness out on their grown children; dealing with the stress that wakes you up like a vice-grip in your chest in the wee hours of the morning. Stuff like that.
Although those years took their toll, they also granted us incredible blessings in the midst of the difficulties. We learned God’s faithfulness to provide everything that we need: enabling grace to do the seemingly impossible; the promise and experience of his presence; the love of spouse and friends; the hope of heaven. In caring for our parents, we had the satisfaction of “laying their heads gently down,” as my husband would say, to their final breath.
And in the year and a half since, we now have gainful employment, both of us doing work that we like and enjoy. Our health is still excellent. We still think we have the best marriage on the planet—being together is still our favorite thing ever. We’ve been able to travel without having to ask my brother to come and be here for my mother. So we took a 5800-mile, 19-day driving trip across the West to a family reunion. We both have opportunity to serve the people of our church, whom we love dearly.
Do I still wake up in the middle of the night with a stress vice-grip in my chest? Sometimes. Old habits die hard. Only now I’m stressing about the election, or the national debt, or all the work I have to do. Yes, I know that’s stupid, but emotions can be stupid. So, in those wee hours, I pray. And I meditate on Philippians 4:6-7. And before long, I’m back to sleep. Most of the time.
But God is still faithful. In difficult times and sweet. And the difficulties will return. I know that. We live in a fallen world. And we’re not getting any younger. But today is…sweet. The strength for tomorrow’s difficulties will be there when we need it. Part of that strength will come from the sweetness of today, from the rest that God knew we needed—which is even more evidence of his abiding faithful care in Jesus Christ.