Peace, Joy and Hope in The Midst of Fear
This past year has been a rollercoaster of Joy and Fear and Peace. In the midst of all that I discovered aspects of our Lord and Savior that had been there all along but I had not noticed nor took to heart. I have been married 34 years. Some of those years have been filled with amazing joy, times of true peace and others with tremendous heartache and, many times, fear. This past year, I was convinced and feared, our relationship may have finally come to an end. Trust me, facing that reality after so much time, was at first a relief but was also followed soon thereafter with fear. What will I do? Where will I go? What about my wife, my children, my extended family and friends? Will I still be accepted in my faith community? Will my friends still want me around or know what to do with me? Will my wife be ok? Will my kids be able to accept their mom and I separate from one another? What about my grandchildren? What kind of legacy was I setting up for my family? This was more than just about me.
More than all that, I felt about alone as I’ve ever felt. I felt as though God had turned His back on me. I prayed, I worshiped, I dove into devotionals and, by extension, scripture – nothing, silence from God or so I thought. It had gotten so bad that, at the end of the summer, with advisement from counselors, pastors and friends, we physically separated. The height of the fear came the day I moved. When the door closed on my new living space and it was just me and the four walls. I had never felt so alone in my life. I existed, but that was about it. Went to work, did laundry (poorly), shopped (inefficiently), journaled, read scripture and prayed – prayed a lot. I had brief times of joy, but mostly it was dark.
I spent most of my prayer time asking God if He was done with me and why He was so silent. I journaled that I couldn’t understand how the God of the universe, the God that knows how many hairs are on my head, who set the planets in the place, who named all the stars, couldn’t find a way to communicate with me in a way that I’d understand. I was listening to multiple pastors and their teachings via Podcasts, in addition to the teaching I was getting from Hope.
My marriage was over, I was alone, or so I thought. But, something strange started to happen. At first I wrote it off as coincidence. What I was hearing on Sunday at Hope was in perfect alignment with what I was reading in devotionals that I (at the time) thought I had picked myself. The other pastors I was listening too, were providing teaching that supported what I was hearing on Sunday as well as leading me places I had never gone with my faith. In the silence of my living arrangements, I started to see a pattern. Further, it wasn’t just a pattern, it was a sentence. It was more, actually, than a sentence, it was an entire thought.
I tried to ignore it. Thought it to be coincidence, wishful thinking, or just my imagination. But, there it was. I had asked God to speak to me. But, instead of Him just answering me in the way I was demanding, He did so in a way that He thought best. He put it out there and waited for me to see it. Then, it continued. I started a class about grieving and the teaching in the book perfectly aligned with what I was hearing and reading. I found myself in situations that, before, would have been filled with anger – even rage – and I was able to stay clear and focused through it all.
Meanwhile, my wife, alone as well, was hearing from God on this subject as well. It caused us to sit down one afternoon and have a conversation. Could there be a way forward from where we were? Could we take all of this – the good times of our lives, the awful times, struggles, joys and make it into a solid foundation on which we could build? Build something completely new. Was that possible? The joy in that situation was that we had a conversation like we’d never had before. Up until that time there was a lot of anger, self-righteousness, stubbornness, hurt feelings, blame etc… But that day, all of that was gone and it was just two people, who had shared over 40 years together and 34 years of marriage who were having a conversation about a building a relationship out of the wreckage that had been created.
God was there, right there in that room. Our marriage started off on the wrong foot and I knew, for me, that I had married for the wrong reasons. What I’ve come to know is that God can take any situation that I create and make beauty from it. Today, my wife and I meet regularly. We concluded that, while we’re both seeing counselors individually, this was a place we’d never been. We needed more than counseling. I liken it to having driven off the edge of the map. We are lost, but are both looking to God to guide our steps. He’s our map now. It’s frightening not being in control, not knowing where we’re going. But, one thing I do know is that God is right beside me. All that time I thought He’d left me alone? That wasn’t Him, it’s not His nature. That was me not listening. That was me insisting on a conversation on my terms.
So, in this season of true Joy there is Hope. Hope in Jesus - where the savior of the world stepped off his throne and came down to become a human in the form of an infant – helpless – dependent on his human parents for everything, risking everything for me and you. He grew to become a model for us, a pathway. He told his disciples in John 14:1-6:
Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me… And you know the way to where I am going.”
“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”
I’m learning that there is always hope, always another way, always another chance. I’m grateful beyond adequate words, for the love that our Father bestows on us. He comes to meet us where we are and then seeks to reshape us into his image. Some of us, like me, fight that. I’m hopeful, in this season, that I will be able to move out of the way enough to allow him in an reshape my heart. I don’t know what the future holds but I’m more convinced than ever, that I know who holds the future. Jeremiah 29:11 - “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. That, that gives me peace.