Trusting God through life’s sad endings and new beginnings.
Sleep eluded me. Tears slid down my cheeks as I tossed and turned.
Two days before, my husband died from a sudden heart attack. My world shattered, my heart ripped apart. Married for twenty years, two had become one; half of me was gone.
I stared into the darkness, a myriad of details about the upcoming service swirling through my brain. Then, totally clear, words cut through clamor.
I will do a new thing.
Startled, I remembered hearing these words before.
Four years earlier, I had gone to the Oregon Coast with my prayer group for a retreat shortly after my fiftieth birthday. Getting older had never been an issue for me — until this birthday.
A half a century old. How has it happened so quickly? I’d never had a child of my own. Menopause now dashed that hope forever. Hormones decreased, reality hit; depression cloaked my heart.
My prayer walk usually elicited joy, but that day tears filled my eyes as I trudged along the shore, watching wild waves crash against the rocks.
A long rod of smooth wood in a tangle of seaweed drew my eye. Pulling it from the pile, I sat down on a huge driftwood log to exam it. It reminded me of Moses and his staff. He was eighty years old, tending sheep in the desert, when God called him to lead the children of Israel out of slavery.
Hmm . . . maybe I’m not too old to be used by God.
Taking the sturdy staff in my hand, I started climbing up the steep hill toward the cabin. Suddenly, words reverberated clearly in my heart: I will do a new thing.
Back at the cabin, my concordance directed me to Isaiah 43:19, and I recorded His promise in my prayer journal. With new hope, I determined to look forward, not backward.
Now, four years later, God repeated the promise.
Surely my husband’s death can’t be the new thing God is promising. I closed my eyes and pondered the meaning. I remembered God had given Abraham the promise of a son and repeated the promise several times before Isaac arrived many years later. Joseph, too, had suffered years of slavery and imprisonment before the reality of his dream materialized and God’s good plan unfolded.
Maybe God has a new plan, a good plan, for me.
I heard the promise twice. I would choose to believe it.
Friends and family came alongside in the first weeks following my husband’s death. Returning to work kept me focused on my responsibilities and the needs of others. Still, raw pain and profound emptiness permeated my soul.
I sought help. Grief counseling sessions were provided through my employee assistance program. Reading books about grief and attending support groups brought deeper understanding of this wasteland of the heart. I was not alone; others, too, suffered and needed comfort.
Every morning I found solace in the Psalms. Scriptures that spoke to my heart and events that brought comfort were recorded in my journal. God knew my pain; He had promised to bind up the broken hearted and to care for the widows, a word I first recoiled from when I realized, I’m one of those now.
Darkness and distance
Despite my efforts, profound darkness shrouded my soul. A Christian friend reported feeling wrapped in a cocoon of God’s love and carried through her grief. I wanted to feel His presence, to hear words of comfort. But heaven was silent, and God seemed far away.
“I must face the darkness,” I wrote in my journal late one night.
Words of hope flowed from Scripture the following day: “When I sit in darkness, the Lord himself will be my Light. I will be patient . . . God will bring me out of my darkness into the light, and I will see his goodness (Micah 7:8, 9, TLB).
Regardless of my determination to be patient, a deep depression enveloped me as fall arrived with dreary rain typical of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Smothering darkness obscured the future and cloaked my world in gray. I felt confused and bone-tired; tears flowed often. Still, I was aghast when a friend gently suggested I might benefit from medication.
Is it that obvious that I’m not doing well? Aren’t my faith and prayers enough?
My doctor explained that grief can trigger chronic depression. She recommended an anti-depressant, and reluctantly I agreed. The medication did mitigate the pain, and the emotional tidal waves subsided.
Unrelenting, the season of grief continued, as loss after loss struck. In a span of four years, I lost not only my husband but both my parents, a dear cousin, a beloved aunt, one of my best friends, and my dog. Wave after wave of grief washed over me, and I struggled to stay afloat.
Daily I clung to God’s promises like a drowning person to a life raft in a raging sea, no shore in sight.
Hope and healing
A quote from Elisabeth Elliot stirred hope:
When our souls lie barren in a winter which seems hopeless and endless, God has not abandoned us. His work goes on. He asks acceptance of the painful process and our trust that He will indeed give resurrection life.
I prayed to accept.
As time passed, God’s sustaining hand and healing touch were evident. Finally with my doctor’s permission, I stopped the medication. A normal ebb and flow of emotions resumed.
Healing has been slow, but it is happening. It has been six years now, I thought one rainy spring evening as I turned into my driveway after work.
Little did I know that a great adventure lay just around the corner. The following month God brought a lonely Christian man into my life through eHarmony. After a whirlwind courtship, we married in May, two months from our first date. Within a few years I retired, and we relocated to Central Oregon, closer to his daughter and grandchildren.
Suddenly, everything was new. A young marriage, still growing and developing. A new home, with grandchildren only minutes away with snuggles and giggles.
A new climate in the High Desert. Instead of rain, winter brought snow and bright sunshine almost daily. Sandy trails wound through sagebrush and junipers. Sparkling mountain lakes and rippling rivers offered new adventures.
A new church home presented new opportunities for service. New friends and neighbors. A new dream of writing. New joy!
Our faithful God had indeed done a new thing in my life. He transformed me, healing a broken heart as He tested and matured my faith. And I forged a deeper trust in my Abba Father through the darkest night of my soul.