Sunday, March 2, 2014

The fear of suffering dispelled by surrender to God's grace...

Wow, it has been a long time since I have sat down to write.  In many ways, I thought this part of my journey had ended.  On June 23, 2012, the Lord graciously heard my prayers and gave me my Adam.  Well, I was wrong. Shocking, I know ha!  The journey in widowhood has changed, but it has not ended.  Let's see if I can explain the lessons God is drilling into my life these days….Fear and anxiety are my enemies and lately constant companions.

In order for my struggles today to make sense, I need to rewind a bit and do a quick recap of some things from the beginning of this journey.   Before 2009, I always thought bad things happen to other people.  I saw and even attempted to grieve with others who walked that path of loss or tragedy.  However; that was for others.  I was immune from anything like that happening to me.  Why I thought this way?  I don't know, but it was my own "blissfully unaware of true loss reality" that I lived in.  It worked for me.  To be honest, it made perfect sense.  I really hadn't had any real loss or tragic thing occur in my life. September 30, 2009 changed that reality.  I came face to face with significant loss and it forever changed me.  God led me to the valley of the shadow of death and in the valley re-shaped my life.  He taught me so many lessons about true joy in loss, patience, trust, who He was, faith, living for eternity, and so many more.  Many of the previous entries are about those lessons….God healed my broken heart, but there is a scar that remains.  A loss of that significance can never leave a person unchanged.  I am thankful God used the loss to make me more like Him….

Fast forward a bit…It has now been five years since that day. Many things have changed.  The Lord answered my prayers for a family.  I am now re-married and have an almost six month old.  I am truly thankful and blessed!!!!  Let's see if I can make sense of the lessons that are continuing from my journey that started five years ago.  Initially after Troy died, I struggled with fear and levels of anxiety.  However; God lovingly guided me into His presence through His word and gave me victory.  I spent the next few years struggling with many things, but those were not on the list.  When Adam came into the picture, the fear returned a bit.  I knew and trusted God's sovereignty.  I rested in knowing that nothing could happen outside of His will.  However; I knew that He was in control the day Troy died too.  So I had to dig deeper into truth more than just God is sovereign.  I had to remember other characteristics of God.  He is love.  He is kind.  He will give grace.  I also was learning to not live in "what if'ville."  I had grace when Troy died that I do not have right now for my married life with Adam.  These are the truths I preached often to myself when Adam and I first got married.  When we reached fourteen months of marriage (a month longer than my previous marriage), I reflected a lot on how different things were between the two marriages.  Troy and I did not have God at the center of our lives.  In losing Troy, God shook me to my core and radically changed my life.  Today, I can look back and see the beautiful tapestry that God was weaving in that loss.  However; I don't have that perspective on all aspects of my life.  I can look back and see God working in that loss, but that may not always be the case.  Adam and I are by God's grace living a life for Him.  We are far from perfect, but God is working and we desire His work in our lives.  Here is where lies began to creep in and take root.  "I'm living right now so God should not bring suffering or trials into my life." Or another lie that frequently runs through my head, "When is something going to happen because life can not be this good?"  I try to fight these lies with truth.  However; they are there somewhere in my mind.  Fast forward a little more….God answered and gave me a son.  I feel truly blessed and now I'm waiting for the shoe to drop.  I have now had frequent thoughts since Brogan was born, "When is something bad going to happen?"  My idea of God has been shaped by my previous loss, but that doesn't mean it is true.  It is my perspective.  I have often wondered if people who walk through tragedy struggle with waiting for it to happen again.  I know I have….The joy of being happily married and a healthy baby has often been followed by fears of when is it going to end.

These fears have been following me the last couple of months.  Fear has not been a constant companion, but it has been definitely been a companion.  

"I know God is in control.  
I can't do anything to keep me, Brogan, or Adam alive.  
I must rest in Him.  
I know He is trustworthy. 
He loves me.  
He sent His Son to save me.  
I can't even begin to comprehend this love."  

These are truths I would preach to myself when the fear or anxiety would become too much.  The truth would pierce the fear and peace would follow.  I am commanded to not fear.  I am commanded to not be anxious.  I am told to pray. I am commanded to take every thought captive.  These are my weapons against the devil's lies.  So this has been my struggle for the last couple of months.  Ups and downs in my thought life….Then it happened.  Tragic loss again!  Last week Adam and I found out we were pregnant and a couple of days later we weren't.  How could this happen?  My immediate thoughts were: "God I have already lost a husband. It is not fair for you to take my baby too."  The fear and anxiety returned full force.  I was experiencing my fear that I was not immune to loss just because I had previously walked through tragedy.  What if God thought I needed to grow through losing Adam or Brogan?  What if more loss was part of my sanctification?  No, God I do not want that!  Fear was taking over my life after losing this little one.  What else would God require?  Irrational thoughts of death, loss, pain, and more trials became constant in my mind.  God was working.  He was showing me the heavy load of fear I was carrying and had been carrying for quite some time.  It was in this loss I realized just how heavy and overwhelming it had become.  So what is God teaching me today….

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ…. Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ….. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy…..Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed….Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good."

First thing I am learning is that tragedy or blessing God is always in control.  I think this has been one of the hardest lessons for my mind to wrap around.  How can I trust God's sovereignty when I know He may bring loss? This is where the next lessons come into play.  I am chosen.  I have been taken out of darkness and placed into light.  What mercy!  Here is where I see so clearly His amazing love for me.  If the Creator of the universe picked me to shower the blessing of being His, I can not doubt His love in anything He gives to me.   I am also being reminded of eternity.  These trials are refining me to bring my God glory.  In many ways, I can see God's glory displayed through Troy's death.  At this moment, I can not see the glory in taking this little one home like I do in Troy's home going.   When God brings other trials, I may not be able to see benefit this side of heaven.  Does that mean I won't trust that He is working just as He did in Troy's death?  God's grace is sufficient as I walk through trials, but it is also His grace in allowing that trial.  This is the lesson that God is continually showing me through His word and books.  His grace is being given to me daily as part of my growth in Him.  It is His grace towards me that saved me.  It is His grace toward me that took my husband home after thirteen months of marriage. It is His grace that took our second baby to heaven before I could hold the little one in my arms.  Grace is more than God not giving me what I deserve although that is true.  Grace is God not giving me what I deserve and giving me exactly what I need to be more like Him.  It may be through a trial or through a blessing that God displays His grace.  Whatever He gives is gracious.  After losing Troy, I would say time and time again "His grace is sufficient."  I am now learning His grace is going to bring things into my life to grow me.  The bottom line is will I entrust my soul to my Creator for whatever His will deems necessary to make my more like Him?  This is where God has brought me once again, "Sarah, will you trust Me to give you exactly what you need in this life to bring Me glory?"  For many months, the answer was "not really."  Through another loss, God has once again brought me to dependence on Him.  I must take captive these lies that doubt God's goodness and place me as knowing better than my infinitely wise Creator.   The scars of loss do not give me an excuse to fear or worry about the future.  Instead these scars are just that scars.  They are wounds that have been healed or being healed by a Father that turns mourning into joy. 

I sang these words this morning and it perfectly sums up the surrender that is taking place in my heart:
"May this journey bring a blessing
May I rise on wings of faith
And at the end of my heart's testing
With Your likeness let me wake.
Let the treasures of the trial
Form within me as I go
And at the end of this long passage
Let me leave them at Your throne."

I do not know the future.  I do not know the continued journey God has planned. I do not know whether blessings or trials are around the corner.  However; this one thing I do know, God will give me whatever He graciously sees fit for my good and His glory.  I must take captive the sinful thoughts that lead to fear/anxiety and rest in the truth: God is always good!