Last time I wrote about days that come along and blind like a sandstorm. Sometimes they blow out almost as soon as they come. Other times, the sandstorm rages hard and throws you flat on your face in the desert, feeling very much alone. This week I have had conversations with women who are experiencing a great bleakness in their spirit. Their stories bring tears to my eyes.
One confided in me she has been very angry with God for years but was beginning to feel his hand at work in her life and she just wanted to talk about it. I first assured her that God can take it and that I know he is really happy to see the door begin to open a crack because just like we relish time with our children, God longs to spend time with us.
So often we feel so completely alone, at least at first when the words hit our heart like a sledge hammer, the tears come hot and we are wracked with sobs. “I’m sorry; we did all we could to save her but…”, “your son has been in an accident”, “I want a divorce.”
This despair of soul is so universal, so frequently felt, that after seeing it so common we might not feel as if our own situation is uniquely difficult. The difference of course is that this time the situation is our own personal heart break. We hurt to the marrow of our bones with the feeling of being singled out and stricken.
When I am at a loss for words, I am so grateful for a wise voice that comes along to fill the gap in my own wisdom. Did I say gap? I think I meant chasm. I am so thankful for the words of those who have suffered and triumphed and grateful that the messages seem to miraculously appear when I am struck dumb for comforting words of my own.
This very week, in my email feed it arrived. “One Secret Weapon Everyone Needs for Every Battle.” It was written by Margaret Feinberg, a guest blogger on Ann Voskamp’s site. Her most recent book is entitled Fight Back with Joy. In describing her harrowing year-long battle with cancer she refers to the way Jesus went directly from being dipped in the refreshing water of his baptism to spending 40 days in the desert where Satan was tempting him and he was with the wild beasts and “the angels were ministering to him”, Mark 1:11. She writes, “There, amidst the harsh dehydration, God’s presence remains.”
Margaret suggests that whether we are currently in lush land or lonely desert, God awaits, ready to minister to us in surprising ways. Often, it is through these harrowing stretches of our life we find true joy in the suffering but none of us ever willingly signs up for the lesson. Ever.
It is easy to feel joy in life when things are going well. When we trust that God is at work and sending his angels to watch over us through the hardest of days, we find a deeper joy, a joy that always triumphs over our suffering. In John 16:33 we find his promise. “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”