“I’m so thankful for the place God has provided for us to live. I could live here comfortably for quite some time.”
Those were my words on a peaceful evening in May as I sat on the couch in our little living room with my husband. The duplex we had been renting for almost two years felt just like home in that moment, and I truly was comfortable. I was a month away from giving birth to our baby boy, and I was looking forward to the perfect postpartum period I had planned in our little home. Everything was as it should be; or so I thought.
Just two days later, sitting on that same couch, we took a phone call from our landlords. They would soon be listing our home for sale. The response of my heart in that moment was anything but spiritually mature. I was angry, not at our sweet Christian landlords, but at God. Why would He allow this? Why now, when we were about to bring a new baby home? Would we even have a home to bring our new baby to?
If I had known in that moment all that God was going to allow us to walk through this summer, I know I couldn’t have handled that knowledge. But God in his mercy handed us one challenge at a time and gave us exactly what we needed to come out victorious on the other side.
I’m not sharing the story of this summer out of a love for sharing personal stories, but out of a deep conviction that God would have me to publicly give Him the glory for what He accomplished in our lives this summer. My desire is to share the areas in which the Lord grew me spiritually so that you will be encouraged in your faith as well. Although this summer felt too painful to bear at times, the strength, security, and sanctification I found in the midst of some of the longest days and nights of my life are priceless treasures that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.
THE LORD IS MY STRENGTH
We had been anticipating teen camp with excitement for months, but we left town on that June morning bearing the burden of knowing that our house was listed for sale, and we had no control over whether or not we would be able to continue to live there. It was during one of the sponsor sessions that the Lord used the camp speaker to give us the answer to our burden.
1 Peter 5:7
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
Whenever the worry began to surface, we started giving it to the Lord. Little did we know, we would return from camp with more burdens to cast on the Lord than the burden we came with.
If you know my husband, you know he has a reputation for being a pretty strong guy. So it probably comes as no surprise that he was selected to be part of a lumberjack competition. You know; log tossing, axe throwing, etcetera. The event he was selected to participate in was arm wrestling.
I don’t know if you know this, but you can actually snap your arm in half while arm wrestling. I didn’t know. But we found out the hard way. Apparently when you have two very strong and determined men arm wrestling who are evenly matched it becomes a test of bone density rather than muscle strength.
Steven’s humerus did snap in half, and in that moment it seemed as if everything in the world was silenced and we were all alone in a vacuum. A thousand questions ran through my head. How would Steven work at his very physical job? What would we eat? (If you don’t already know, Steven is the chef in our family. I can cook, but I assure you it isn’t great.) How would I take care of our two year old and our new baby that could come at any moment? I was 37 weeks pregnant, and I suddenly felt the weight of the world on my shoulders even as Steven was feeling the intense pain of a broken bone.
As I quickly packed a bag for the hospital (although not the hospital bag I thought I would be needing at 37 weeks pregnant), I wanted to call someone. I needed someone to be strong for me because in that moment I wasn’t strong at all. I lean on my husband’s strength so much, but in an instant his strength was gone both physically and mentally. But it was so late, I knew there was no one I could call. My panicked thought was, “No one is awake!” The Holy Spirit’s gentle reply was, “I’m awake.” And that was His gentle reply many more nights this summer when I felt all alone.
Although the little country emergency room in North Carolina assured us Steven wouldn’t need surgery, a second opinion on our return home assured us that Steven most definitely needed surgery. While Steven was in one emergency room getting a second opinion, I found myself in another emergency room because I had started running a high fever. That’s never a good sign at 38 weeks pregnant. The diagnosis was COVID. That was the last thing I was expecting, but our baby boy was completely healthy, so I returned home relieved.
My case of COVID was mild. I ran a fever for about a day and a half, had a little sinus congestion, and felt very tired. But was I tired because I had COVID or tired because I was 38 weeks pregnant? I guess I’ll never know for sure. Somewhere in the fog of my days with COVID, Steven went in for surgery. He was finally on the road to his long recovery.
Exactly one week after Steven’s surgery, our baby was born. I’m thankful much of my physical strength had returned by that time, and the Lord blessed me with an easy delivery. I believe He did so because He knew I was in for a marathon of baby care for the next few weeks.
Steven couldn’t even hold the baby. With great effort, he was able to take care of our two year old’s needs. People from our church provided food for us. My mom helped with cleaning and meals. She would have done more, but she’s in a season of taking care of her own aging mother. So all of the baby care fell to me. Looking back, I can’t believe I took care of our newborn for an entire month with virtually no help. All the feeding, all the diapers, all the night wakings, no one to even hold the baby while I ate. I don’t say this to say how strong I am; I’m not strong.
But my prayers for God to sustain me were desperate, and He answered.
I have several distinct memories of those early weeks being awake in the middle of the night with the baby. Steven was awake too; he couldn’t sleep through his pain, but he also wasn’t able to hold the baby. But we were both awake. In the times when it felt like it was too much, I prayed out loud. Over the course of the summer, I stopped praying for God to give me strength. That wasn’t enough. I prayed that He would be my strength. It was only in the full strength of Christ in me that I was not only able to survive the hardest nights of my life, but to thrive.
I had joy in those days. When my daughter was born three years ago, I struggled deeply. But the reason I struggled was because I hadn’t yet learned to find my strength in the Lord. It took a time of great weakness to find out just how strong He is. And so I wouldn’t trade that season of weakness and those painful sleepless nights for anything in the world.
2 Corinthians 12:9
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
THE LORD IS MY SECURITY
A couple of hours before we brought our baby boy home from the hospital, my husband said, “I need to tell you something, and there’s not going to be a good time to do it. So I’m telling you now. Our house is under contract.”
After all we had been through, of course our house would go under contract the day we brought our son home.
A little while later, a hospital staff member was getting some last minute information and asked for our home address. I started to give our address, but I couldn’t finish. I broke down sobbing. Steven had to finish it for me.
Putting on our baby’s going home outfit brought more tears. Was the place we were taking our baby even going to be our home within a couple of months? If it wasn’t, where would we go? And how would we get there? I had just given birth, and Steven’s arm was still thoroughly broken. How were we supposed to move?
In those days of uncertainty I felt anything but secure. But I continued to desperately seek the Lord because I didn’t know what else to do. And in Him I found security.
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
God was going to take care of us. I believed that. And if I couldn’t have peace in the days of not knowing if we would get to keep our home, I wouldn’t have true peace when we knew for sure where we were going to live for the next year. If I only had peace when I knew where we were going to live, my security was not in the Lord, but in a brick and mortar house.
The first month of our baby’s life was filled with house inspections, appraisals, and last minute repairs. It wasn’t the quiet postpartum period I had envisioned, but God gave mercy and grace there as well. On the day we found out the new landlord wanted to keep us as tenants, I sobbed again. God had provided. It came with a dramatic rent increase, but I knew God would provide for that as well. Day by day, He was giving us our daily bread.
THE LORD DESIRES MY SANCTIFICATION
Our summer was difficult. It would be easy to overlook God’s purpose in all of it. Some of it seemed like senseless suffering, but we know God has a holy purpose for everything He allows into our lives.
People like to quote Romans 8:28 when times are hard. All things work together for good! But where’s the good in broken bones and COVID, sold homes and rent increases? If we don’t read Romans 8:29 as well, we miss the whole point.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
The point is not that God is necessarily going to give us the material blessings that we see as good. The ultimate good that God is working in our lives is to conform us to the imagine of His Son. If I can become more like Christ as a result of suffering, I will welcome all the difficulties God chooses to allow into our lives.
My desire for this summer was to become more sanctified, more holy, more like my Savior because I know that is His desire for my life. I’ve learned to ask myself, is this desire a selfish desire or a sanctifying desire? I can assure you that there is a very selfish part of myself that did not want to be helping my husband get dressed when I was 38 weeks pregnant and had COVID. My flesh wanted to sit on the couch and be waited on hand and foot. And the world would tell me I deserved it. But the Lord has been teaching me to lose myself in a life of service to others and find joy in doing it. I can honestly say that I am glad I had the opportunity to die to my flesh and serve because I know that without the events of this summer I would not be anywhere near as close to the Lord as I am today. And that sweet fellowship is absolutely priceless.
We’re closing a chapter of our lives in more ways than one. The summer eventually calmed down. Steven’s bone has made a full recovery, and it’s just a matter of taking the time to strengthen his arm muscles again. One way the Lord has chosen to provide for our needs is by allowing my husband to quit his part time job at FedEx and begin working full time at our church as the assistant pastor. We’re ready to serve. After all the Lord has done for us, the very least we can do is offer our lives to Him.
The verse that I carried close to my heart this summer was Psalm 23:6:
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
The words goodness and mercy rang out in my mind in many of the moments that felt anything but good and merciful. But looking back I can see those words were true. Goodness and mercy were following me. They will continue to follow me all the days of my life. They’ll continue to follow you all the days of your life as well. And the reality is, this world is not our home. For those of us who know Christ, our permanent dwelling place is in heaven. But as long as we’re on this earth, we can find our strength and security in the Lord, even as He continues to sanctify us.