If you had told me last December that 2020 would be the hardest year of my life, I would have looked at you, laughed, and said, “no, 2016 was,” and carried on with my day. Now, four months into 2020, I would unfortunately have to tell you that you were correct. In a matter of weeks, I moved across my college campus and away from all my friends, lost relationships, started failing a class, and got turned down from multiple jobs. My family life that was once full of joy was suddenly full of sorrow, and my granddad’s health started failing. About eighty percent of the days have been filled with tears, and not the silent tears that you can brush away and carry on with your day, but the kind that break you and leave you in a crumpled heap wondering where God is. More often than not, I have cried myself to sleep crying out to the Lord for help and have woken up the next morning just to find myself crying again. My arms have been tired from being lifted, and my legs have been sore from being bent at the knees. Puffy eyes and salt deposits on my face have seemed to become the adornment of my head. This year has caused me to say with David,
“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day.”
To only be two decades old, my life has been full of heartache and anguish. While most of my heartache has been caused by my sin, some have been caused by the sin of others, and still, some have not been caused by sin at all. Nevertheless, I have seen both beautifully good and horridly bad things go through my hands, knowing that was the Lord’s purpose (Job 2:10; 10:13). This year has been no different. I have been left hurting, wanting, and questioning what the Lord’s plan is. I have seen the gravity and ugliness of my sin and the sin of others. I have seen pride, selfishness, lack of forgiveness, and outright forsakenness of the gospel. I have questioned the Lord’s goodness, earnestly desiring to see some glimmer of hope and have asked the Lord to bless me. And in return, like Jacob (Genesis 32:26,31), I have been given a limp.
But the limp is the blessing. The limp is a reminder that the Lord has spared my life from the depths of Sheol and let me see the morning (Psalm 30:3). This season has reminded me to look back and see the Lord’s faithfulness, and just like in past seasons, remember that when I felt most forsaken, the Lord was weaving everything together for my good (Psalm 77:11). When the Lord allows trials, he does not allow them because he is punishing us, but because he is accomplishing something in us that cannot be accomplished by any other means. The Lord, in all of his sovereignty, is shaping and preparing us through the afflictions and sorrows for an eternal weight of glory that we could not even dream of (2 Corinthians 4:17).
This does not mean I have not gotten on my knees and faithfully asked the Lord to change my situations; I encourage you to get on your knees. I believe that the Lord restores and redeems broken situations that seem impossible to us. When we pray for situations in our lives to be changed, we should pray with hope and confidence that the gospel of God’s grace will be proclaimed in situations that are without. The Lord delights in giving his children good gifts and delights in them coming to him and asking (Matthew 7:11). The Lord might say “yes” to our prayers, but he could also say “no.” And if God says “no,” if the worst happens, we can proclaim with Habakkuk that we will rejoice in the Lord, and we will truly find joy in the God of our salvation (Habakkuk 3:18). If we receive a “no” to our prayers, we can rest knowing that the Lord is indeed working things for our good and his glory in ways that we cannot see or fathom (Romans 8:28).
We Have Been Given More
The Lord withholds no good thing (Psalm 84:11), and that is because He is every good thing. And in this season, he has given me more of himself than I could ever ask for. What bigger blessing can we be given than receiving more of God himself? I have grown to be thankful for the trials because the trials are where we find hope, where our faith is strengthened, and where we learn to trust where we did not before; the Lord will not put our hearts to shame (Romans 5:5). Walking in the valley with Jesus is just as precious as walking with him in the light, and sharing in his suffering will do far better things for us than sitting in comfort (1 Peter 4:13).
As has been my anthem since the day the Lord saved my soul, I can say that Jesus is enough for me. Some days I have to fight to proclaim that more than others, but it still holds. Friends, we can say with David that the Lord is our portion and cup. We can rejoice in our beautiful inheritance to come. We will not be shaken, because God is at our right hand sustaining our every breath. Our hearts can be glad because we are secure in him. He has made known to us the paths of life, and in him, we can experience fullness of joy (Psalm 16). The Lord has granted me peace I cannot understand. He has aligned my heart’s desires with his will: wait and pray faithfully that hearts will be changed, and his glory will be magnified, even if the answer is “no.” It is a humbling experience knowing that when we pray for the Lord’s will to happen and for God to be glorified, the answer is always “yes” in Christ; it is a guarantee (1 John 5:14, 2 Corinthians 1:20).
Turn Your Eyes to Jesus
As I look back over the past few months, I would not trade it for anything. The Lord has shaped my heart in ways I did not know it could be shaped and has given me grace for every moment. He has shown me his kindness, forgiveness, and love and has equipped me to extend it to others, reminding me all the while that I am the chief of sinners. This season has made me long for heaven, earnestly asking that the Lord complete his work in me and take me home, for that would be my greatest possible gain (Philippians 1:21). Trials shape us in a lot of ways, and one way is to remind us that this world is not our home, further reminding us of the victory bought by Christ’s blood (Hebrews 13:14).
The Lord has held every one of my tears in his hand, just as he holds yours, and I know he will not stop now (Psalm 56:8). How amazing is it that we serve a God that groans and intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8:26)? When God brought the Israelites out of Egypt to wander in the desert, he did not lead them there to forsake them. Instead, he provided for their every need and brought them to a place of abundance (Psalm 66:10-12). The Lord will not forsake you, and he will supply your every need (Philippians 4:19). May we be a people who, when stricken with sorrow, rejoice (2 Corinthians 6:10) knowing that Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33). Oh, brothers and sisters, taste and see that the Lord is good; sing for joy, and know that the trials are for your glory.