A red-winged blackbird voiced its chime-like chortle from atop a towering white pine, and I sat with my head in my hands — a broken woman. I went to the woods because I’ve always found healing among conifers and cattails. Even as the beige fringes of winter taunted me with reminders of our very painful circumstances, the song of the blackbird seemed to speak of hope.
Our past season was the kind no one wants to endure. Storms came from every side, and just when we found our footing in the aftermath of one trial, another slammed us from an unexpected direction. I sat mulling it over as the blackbird looked for love.
In the course of five months, we endured financial difficulty, a medical scare left us trembling, both of our young, healthy dogs died, and a personal health crisis literally knocked me off my feet. We endured deep losses, the kinds that prompt friends to bring meals and send cards, the kinds that knock a woman to her knees and leave her weeping behind locked bathroom doors.
When I could no longer take the pounding of little fists on the other side of the bathroom door, I went to the woods with my broken heart, and I asked Jesus to show me His presence in the middle of my mess.
As the blackbird called, I claimed the promise Jesus made before He ascended into heaven: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 NASB). I recited the words of King David: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me” (Psalm 23:4 NASB).
I tried to make myself believe that God really would fulfill the promise to use all of my pain for good. I tried to believe that being conformed to the likeness of Jesus through my suffering would be worth it, but in the middle of my broken place, I sensed mostly darkness and despair.
As I retraced the events that led us to the valley of suffering, my reaction was simple: I wanted to fix what was broken. I wanted to make a plan that would get us through the valley as quickly as possible. I found myself looking for temporal answers like new dogs, more part-time writing work, and changes in our family dynamics that might combat our feelings of despair.
I wanted to put my hope in a brighter future or the prospect of making decisions that would correct everything that had gone so wrong over the past months. Sadly, hope that is built on worldly circumstances, even good ones, is hope that’s built on an unstable foundation.
In the midst of my planning, the words of a familiar verse streamed through my mind: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26 NASB).
These words are a reminder that in the midst of my darkest valleys and biggest messes, Jesus is my portion and my hope. My hope does not rest on my own ability to “make things right” or hurry to the other side of the valley. My hope does not rest in the expectation that there is a light at the end of this tunnel.
Instead, my hope rests in the promise that Jesus is with me in the darkest place. He is with me in the middle of the mess, when I’m crying behind the locked bathroom door, and when the doctor says the words I’ve been praying against for months. Jesus has promised that He will never leave my side, and His presence with me is my hope.
I let this truth sink in for a long while as the blackbird kept calling to the sky. As I stood to make the long walk home, I made my own quiet harkening to the sky and thanked the One who willingly walks with me through every difficult time. He is my portion in the middle of the mess.