We don’t always experience life the way we think we should, or the way we expect it should be. Each of us at one time may have walked through the valley of the shadow of death. Many of the families we are serving have that on their minds on a daily basis. It can be overwhelming. All of us are in different places in our lives and different seasons, and if you are currently in a season of pain, this may be hard to understand or even see right now, but God has shown me that there can be joy and even purpose in our pain.
I find myself once again in that hard place. Many of you know and have been praying for my sister who was recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Her medical prognosis is not favorable and she has limited treatment options.
I was the one who had to deliver that news to her when she woke up from surgery. It was gut-wrenching for me, and yet I was very calm and she was calm after hearing this very hard news. That can only be explained because of the hope we both have in Jesus Christ.
I love how an author frames pain without sugar-coating it by inviting hope into the pain: “We must encourage one another in the assurance that, however deep the pain surges, Christ loves us and has overcome (John 16:33). God didn’t cause the pain we experience but he certainly has a plan for us as we journey through it.”
I believe God hates that we have to experience death and heartache, and He is with us. I love the verse in Psalm 34:18 that says, "The Lord is near to the heartbroken, and he saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Looking back at the past five years of doing life without the love of my life, Ken, and watching our son Sam grow up, as he remembers his Dad’s life only through videos and pictures as an 11-year-old, I am overcome just thinking about where we have been. I am at the same time overjoyed at how we have never walked alone. We recently were looking at pictures and we came across one taken a few days before Ken left this world. In it we are all laughing and crowding each other out of Ken’s hospital bed in our living room, and I look back now and wonder how that was even possible to laugh and smile at such a time. And then God reminds me and I see how it was and how it still is… it’s truly the peace of God that surpasses ALL understanding. I am still in awe of Gods power in such darkness.
So I encourage each of you, if you are going through something hard right now, to hold on to Jesus, cling tightly to the word and surround yourself with people that will speak life over you.
Friend, you are so loved. You are enough. You are never alone. God’s word reminds us in Zephaniah 3:17, “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love. He will rejoice over you with singing.”
My prayer for the families we serve at Legacy Retreats and for all those God brings into my path is that God would help us all to see the beautiful little moments where He gives us opportunities to be used by Him. To love on people when it’s hard and when we are tired. I pray that God would overwhelm us with His love and transfuse us with His strength. God please show us how to speak hope and life to others and demonstrate your unwavering love to each and every person walking in a season of pain.
Julie is Inheritance of Hope's Volunteers Manager. She attended the November 2011 NYC Legacy Retreat® with her husband, Ken, and son, Sam, as they faced Ken's cancer together. Read more Inheritance of Hope blog posts >>