edited re-post: from March 2010
The other day I heard some news that left me breathless. After months of working toward someday adopting a child, another couple told us about the upcoming adoption of their fourth son. Jealousy tore at my insides. Real, sinful, hateful jealousy.
I could pretend it wasn’t so but it wouldn’t be truth. The truth is that I couldn’t help but rail, “Seriously, God?” But it wasn’t a question. It was a scream of protest.
After the tears scalded my cheeks and I wallowed in pain for a while, the healed, redeemed part of me took a shaking breath and overcame my flesh. “Okay, God. Teach me.” I whispered into the night as I gripped my husband’s hand while he slept beside me.
You see, this pain didn’t start in this place. It started years ago when I learned that I probably couldn’t get pregnant. It festered through the depression. It found some release as God touched me and brought healing to my sickness, though not my childlessness. Then it bloomed and deepened when I finally conceived but miscarried at just six weeks.
Interspersed through this time was our journey toward adoption. The classes, home-studies, code inspections, waiting. Always waiting.
I caught glimpses of healing. But always, somehow, the fullness of it was just out of my grasp.
Lifting my face toward the ceiling of our bedroom, my eyes still burning from my tears, I whispered again, “Teach me, God. I can’t stay in this place forever, wallowing in pain whenever someone gets something that I long for. Help me. Heal this in me.”
I lay there for some time, waiting, longing for an answer. Just a whisper. Even a barely discernable, “I’m here.” Something to let me know that God heard my cry of pain.
In the silence that followed, I felt calm descend. I heard no answer but drifted off to sleep.
After morning chores, I snuck away to my little attic room where my desk was littered with writing ideas and watercolor paints. Brushing them aside, I pulled my Bible open and turned to Hosea.
When I was a young teenager I fell in love with the Minor Prophets. I would read them over and over, delighting in the bits of joy and promise that fought through the declarations of doom. In the words of those men, I found the heart of the God that I longed so much to follow.
I often think of those years as my “golden years”. They were filled with joy. From the ages of thirteen to eighteen I bore very little in terms of sorrow and was relentless in my pursuit of God. I found a verse in Zephaniah that I claimed as my own. The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. (3:17, NIV)
I felt God’s power and his delight. I heard his love and his singing.
Then it all changed.
The feelings faded as life brought twists and turns. My infertility was simply the last of a pile of trouble that seemed to plague me, pressing me down, keeping me from hearing the voice of God. I knew that he still loved me. I never doubted his power. Yet, I couldn’t come to terms with his silence in the middle of my pain.
The pages of my Bible turned slowly and I couldn’t help but sigh at the sound of them. I reveled in the calming effect that the noise made. This was the word of God. Everything else may have changed. Life could go completely out of control. I may never be a mother. Never be a good enough friend or wife or person. But God’s word was perfect and unchanging.
Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. (Hosea 2:14)
My gaze skimmed the verse. Once again the promises poured over me like living water, making me gasp a deep breath of life-giving air. The truth descended and could not have been clearer if Jesus himself spoke the words out loud in the room. God was not unaware of my desert wanderings. He had brought me here. Not to abandon me but to speak tenderly to me.
It was not until much later that I read more. Between cleaning up from breakfast and starting lunch, I snuck away again. This time the words before me seemed to leap off the page and dance around the room, breaking the chain of sorrow that had been slowly binding its way around my heart.
There I will give her back her vineyards and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. (Hosea 2:15)
As I eagerly read and reread the words, along with the notes at the bottom of the page, I felt unrelenting joy pour through me. “Achor” meant “trouble”. This valley of trouble, the painful journeys of the past few years, the silence of God, this “life desert” that left me dying of thirst- was not the final chapter.
The promise lifted from the page. I will make this valley of trouble into a gateway of hope! I will take this sorrow that you endure and will create beauty from it. That is, after all, my child, what I do. I make beauty from ashes.
I have reason for writing this, dear friends. It is not to parade my own trials, or to show any great spiritual insights. I write and share this because I have felt a continual burning in my heart to speak God’s words to my fellow Believers who are struggling through the desert. Not as someone who has passed through the desert but as someone who is, even now, scraping and crawling her way.
A friend once told me, “God isn’t just concerned about the destination. He’s interested in the journey as well.”
Where you are today is important to him. The trials and sorrows that you are facing this very moment have meaning to him. He is, even now, shaping a “door of hope” out of your “valley of trouble”.
Come along with me, now, and let us cling to him. In the midst of confusion, pain, sorrow, fear, whatever it is that forms our own personal “deserts”, let us hold fast to our Savior.
Even when we can’t see him, feel him or hear him.
Then together, as one, we will sing as in the days of our youth. As in the day that we “came out of Egypt”, or in other words: as in the day our lives were redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
For when all else falls away, that, my friends, is what matters.