This is Chapter 1 of Discovering Joy, a book that I'm writing and posting chapter-by-chapter on Wattpad. Enjoy!
Two thousand years ago, a fiery man named Peter wrote a letter to a church grieving their losses and pains. I have to wonder whether God, looking down the corridor of time and seeing the losses and pains of His children in many places of the world, in many eras of human history, specifically ordained that my church in Virginia, would be studying 1 Peter when the coronavirus changed our lives. Unlike Nero and other tyrants who brought deliberate death and destruction to the people of God, our enemy is something we can't see, with invisible allies called Isolation, Depression, Economic Loss, and a host of others.
But the words that speak so poignantly to suffering and our faith in the midst of it burn into me every Sunday as we study through as a congregation, each of us in our own homes but united in purpose and in the Holy Spirit.
My notes on the sermon are a mingling of the pastor's main points, specific quotes he shares, and my own thoughts as I process through his words.
See also: Why I Love My Life (Even When It's Hard)
Recently, someone asked me if I would consider myself happy, in general. I didn't even have to think about it. I consider my life the best life possible and I love it! Now, if you think that means I've had an easy life, then let me add a little to that story.
When we learned that I was pregnant, I cried. My husband Paul held me in his arms and we prayed and thanked God, amidst overwhelming feelings of inadequacy, joy, anxiety, love...
After years of chronic pain and tick-borne illnesses, I had also been diagnosed with a Functional Neurological Disorder that involved non-epileptic seizures and periodic weakness and paralysis. I also faced debilitating panic and anxiety attacks--something that made me feel like everything was "in my head," even though I knew it wasn't.
Paul and I had questioned whether it was safe or wise for me to get pregnant, but after a year of marriage and many doctor visits, we realized that we trusted the Lord with the risks. We wanted to begin a family.
Today I am waiting. Waiting to know if my baby is still alive.
Paul and I prayed for this baby long before I saw the doctor's note: "Your test was positive. Congratulations!" I was so overwhelmed that when Paul prayed over me and our new little one, I sobbed on his shoulder.
When we deal with painful things, do we pull away from our Lord or lean into Him?
“You’re feeling yucky today, aren’t you?” My husband asks, seating himself next to my quivering body. He reaches out and pulls me in to a warm, close embrace. I cry out in pain.
Some years ago, I read a parable of three women that became my guide for how I wanted to live Christian womanhood--but, unknown to me, that story poisoned my vision of womanhood.
This was the parable, as I remember it.
But our eyes are on you.
The Judeans were a desperate people. The kingdoms of Ammon, Moab, and others were marching against the people of Judah.
"A great multitude is coming against you..."
This was no secret thing. All of the people knew it. Imagine the panic. Work postponed for the day as the people gathered tensely to hear what their king would say to comfort, to rally. But as he looked out over the assembled families--even the children! the children!--he felt only the sick acid knot in his heart. He had to stand and he had to speak and he had only one thing to say.
It first showed up in November. I felt exhausted, crippled with aching flu-like pain, and edged with the threat of tears. At some point during the worship service, my fiance leaned forward and whispered, "Do I need to take you someplace more comfortable?"
Torn between my desire to be with the people of God, but aware that I was unable to actually enjoy their presence, at last I acquiesced.
My legs had turned to jelly and the cacophony in my head made sight difficult, so my fiance led me. As soon as he opened the outer door of the church sanctuary, a wall-blast of light assaulted me. My legs crumpled.
Paul picked me up and carried me to the closest couch. For the next hour, my entire body spasmed violently, alternating between tremors, full-body whiplashing, intense contractions forward and backward. It was the first time anything like that had ever happened to me, and yet, as my soon-to-be-husband prayed quietly over me, I felt perfectly calm. Even as a prisoner of my body, my mind felt utterly relaxed.
"She is a brave woman."
My husband spoke the words thoughtfully, knowing full well what he said, but my heart was still breaking for my friend.
"But over twenty miscarriages!" I sobbed, unable to stop the tears. "No woman wants to be brave for that reason."
He was right, and I was right. No one is ready to be brave, because bravery demands so much more pain than we ever think we are capable of enduring, and so much more trust than we dare to give. And yet we are called to be brave.
When I broke my nose playing high school soccer, my whole game changed. Up until then, people had commented that I was an aggressive go-getter. My coach assigned me as a striker because, even though I couldn't really kick straight, I could move the ball up the field so that a more accurate teammate could score for the team. I wasn't afraid to get into a tangle with an opponent in an attempt to steal the ball.
One day, I approached an opponent who had the ball and prepared to swipe it from her. She kicked--and the ball blasted right into my face.
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.