“…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair…”
The phrase “a new normal” has never worked for me. Nothing is normal when it comes to suffering. It doesn’t feel very “normal,” to have your life abruptly upended, to have unexpressed tears stuck in your throat and to see your future plans vanish. However, what I can accept is that with time and grace suffering can be a gift and a path to a life with purpose. It has been 9 and a half years since Tommy’s accident, and I am at the beginning of understanding what surrendering my will to God’s will really means.
Surrendering takes discipline, it takes prayer, it takes head and heart understanding of what surrender looks and feels like. Let’s start with the opposite of surrender, which is control. What does control look like? Something like: it is my responsibility to make sure Tommy stays healthy. I need to have everything in order legally and financially so that I am not taken by surprise, or maybe I find myself preoccupied with the family’s health whether it be spiritual, emotional, or physical. Surrender looks like…OK all of these things are important and need to be considered. I will do my part to be wise and disciplined, praying for God’s guidance with the realization that I am not in charge of the outcome. It takes time and discipline to practice this mindset. What helps me and strengthens my faith is to look back and see how we have been cared for in every one of these areas in unexpected ways and most of the time without my help!
Another area I have had to practice surrendering is accepting how much my life has changed. This is so hard, but God’s grace is sufficient even for this. What has helped me is to look at the lives of people in scripture that God used to bring Him glory. You can also find inspiring stories in the media of people who have turned pain into purpose. A scripture story that resonates with me is Moses, an outsider in his own family, born an Israelite and raised in Pharoah’s household. His anger at the way the Israelite slaves were being treated got so out of control that he murdered an Egyptian. Talk about a life being Flipped! But God had compassion and a plan for Moses. Moses went from walking the halls of a palace to tending sheep for forty years! Moses had to learn the gift of surrendering his will and his life over to God. The result of this forty-year surrendering was a humble man who reluctantly agreed to lead the Israelites from slavery to freedom. During this trek through the wilderness God gave the Israelites daily manna or bread to sustain them. This daily reliance upon God’s provision is also found in the new testament when Jesus taught us to pray, “give us this day our daily bread.” The message here is that we can trust God to take care of our needs, but we need to turn to him daily with faith and thanksgiving.
What if suffering and wilderness experiences are a path to relying on God? What if relying on God builds our faith, transforming anxiety and fear into strength? What if, once strengthened through God’s grace we are willing to step out of our comfort zone and participate in the relieving of the suffering of others? What if we stop thinking that hard times, disappointments, or flipped lives are a punishment? What if we accept all of life as a gift and appreciate even the hard times as an opportunity to become a vessel for God’s glory and not our own? I have found in my own life that the pretense of self-sufficiency tends to lead to pride, judgement and fear. I am beginning to see that through surrender and God’s grace there is a depth to life through meaningful connection, healing, purpose and peace. I would not have chosen this path for our family. However, I am eternally grateful for what I have learned so far, and I have hope that ashes will be transformed into an internal and eternal beauty for the glory of God, who DID choose to suffer and surrender for my sake and for yours.
From my heart to yours,