As he carried me up the staircase, I gripped his shoulder for balance. It was becoming our nightly routine, another reminder of my crippling disease. Only two months had passed since I lost my ability to walk. Eight weeks of endless tests and doctor visits left us with more questions than answers.
Pain wracked my body as my husband tenderly tucked me into bed. It was going to be another long night. As he turned off the light and left the room, I felt the light in my soul growing dim.
Disappointment. Heartache. The future unknown.
Unable to control the autoimmune symptoms that ransacked my body, I worried what would happen to him if I died. On second thought, what would happen to him if I lived?
The tears came, followed by insurmountable grief over what was being lost: hopes, dreams, expectations on how life would be. Fear crashed over me in powerful waves, each one with a new unanswered question that threatened to pull me under. Why God? Don’t You see? Do You care? Why won’t You answer our prayers? Will this ever end?
I felt duped. I had expected to live a “normal” life. This was anything but normal.
I felt broken. I didn’t want my story to end this way.
I felt hopeless. In this season of Thanksgiving, I was anything but thankful.
God seemed silent. Yet He was still moving.
From the confines of my bed, those unanswered questions and endless prayers became my watershed, my turning point. That night, a spark ignited in the smoldering ashes of my soul. God whispered in the midst of my pain, bringing clarity to my confusion and grief.
Ironically, it was the reality of death that made me grateful for life. To my astonishment, I discovered that hardship, not happiness, is the forerunner of joy.
If I want to experience joy, I must embrace hope. If hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12), then hope is the key to making it whole. When I focus my eyes on God’s character instead of my circumstances, He becomes my refuge in the storm. I have hope because I have God. And joy is the heart’s response to hope (Proverbs 10:28).
I may not be able to control my circumstances, but God can. I might not have a say in the length of my life, but He does. If my heart’s still beating, then God still has a good plan for me.
If I want to experience joy, I must endure hardship. Joy, like all fruit of the Spirit, grows in the fertile soil of suffering. When I encounter problems and trials, God uses them to produce faith, perseverance, strength, and character within me (Romans 5:3-4). I can joyfully embrace hardship because it’s an opportunity for the fruit of the Spirit to grow in my life.
Weeping may have lingered that night, but joy came in the morning. A few weeks later, we hosted our very first Thanksgiving as a celebration of what God was doing in our lives.
That year was the best Thanksgiving we ever had. Not because my circumstances changed, but because I did. Despite my pain, I was all smiles. I couldn’t help it. That day, I loved and served friends and family like never before. Whether I had a little or a lot of time left on earth, I still had time. And I was going to enjoy every second of it.
Instead of focusing on what we were losing, we were grateful for the blessings we were enjoying. We still had each other. We had family, friends, and provisions. And we have an amazing God who loves us and promises to give us a hope and a future.