Are you weary, as I am, of inhumane treatment in Afghanistan, an overwhelming hurricane in Louisiana, a devastating earthquake in Haiti, political unrest here at home, and hurting friends? Where do we find hope when all the news seems bad? More Covid variants; more Americans possibly left behind in Kabul; friends dealing with loss, illness, surgeries and ongoing treatments.
Sometimes it all feels overwhelming.
But God …
- has told us to cast all our cares on him;
- has promised never to leave nor forsake us;
- came to give us life eternal; and abundance of joy.
I’m reminded–and I need to be–of when my first husband, Jerry, and I, flew to Gainesville, Florida where Stanford doctors believed he would get the dual liver/pancreas transplant he needed sooner than in California.
During my Jerry’s terminal illness, we experienced repeated hospitalizations. Invasive medical tests. Ongoing insurance conflicts that festered financial concerns. And yet, we experienced many “but God” moments, reiterating our Father’s faithfulness in dire circumstances.
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Ps 73:26 TLV)
But God…led us to Gainesville, a city whose teaching hospital had a strong organ transplant program. Jerry had to be available for surgery on very short notice whenever organs became available. Our lives became more complicated as we booked motel rooms for only a few days at a time, and moved regularly. We had no idea we would have to wait three and a half months for that phone call from the hospital, saying “Come now”.
But the constant relocating was hard on Jerry. Living in motel rooms without a kitchen, desk or extra chairs became tiresome and costly. I felt overwhelmed, supporting my husband in his fight for life while juggling bill payments, managing rentals back in California, and looking for low-cost motels. And we both knew Jerry’s need for a transplant was becoming more critical. So we prayed, and waited.
But God had some deep lessons for me.
1. God loves us and wants us to rely on Him for every need (I Peter 5:7). I asked friends to pray for longer-term housing in Florida. Our minister in California introduced us to Richard, a Gainesville pastor, who graciously shared our need with his church. I contacted more than twenty apartments, trying to find a place without success. Discouraged, I left a message on Richard’s voice mail. “I can’t find a place to rent for a limited time. Do you know anyone who might be able to help us?”
My cell phone rang an hour later. Richard’s voice was animated. “Carol, I listened to your voice mail and not more than 4 minutes later, opened my email. A family going on a summer mission project wondered if their home would be a possibility for ‘the couple from California!’ I don’t know about you, but that timing sure seems like God to me …”
We lived in that home for two months.
This housing provision was one of many but God…experiences as we journeyed into the valley of the shadow of death.
2. God shows his love through others. We were “strangers in a strange land.” But God…loved us through people we’d never met before. On arrival at the Jacksonville airport, I went to pick up our car rental.
“How long will you need the car?” Maria asked as she pulled our Hertz reservation.
“I don’t really know,” I replied. “My husband is here for a transplant, so it depends on when organs become available, and on his recovery time.”
Maria glanced over the contract. “Hmmm…you probably have more luggage than will fit in this compact car. Why don’t I upgrade you to a van. That’ll give you lots of room.”
When I told Maria who my employer was, she wrote up the contract, charging us $15/day for a van that normally ran $75/day. I renewed our contract month by month for seven months, and the agency never once raised the price!
Family and friends came to visit, and to serve, letting us know we were not alone. And new friends in Gainesville visited, cooked for me, sang to Jerry in the hospital, and met other needs.
3. God’s perspective is bigger–and often different–than ours. Our life was on hold. But God … showered us with ‘divine appointments’ almost daily as we sat in restaurants and ice cream parlors and explored antique shops. Waiting for the hospital’s call, we had nothing but time. As we shared out of our pain and hope, those we met often opened their hearts and shared their unique stories with us. We prayed with a hurting mother whose teenage son was in juvenile hall, and shared our hope with a rodeo clown. And I heard later that God had never been discussed as much among my workplace circle of influence as during Jerry’s hospitalization, when I sent regular updates sharing God’s grace in our lives during this difficult time.
4. God often shows up when our hearts and minds desperately need to know he still cares.
Our life had lost its rhythm, any sense of normalcy.
But God…Jerry had just been moved a step down from Intensive to Transitional Care.
Entering his room, I drew the privacy curtain between the two beds and sat beside Jerry, holding his hand. Looking out the window, I saw Bonnie, whom I’d met briefly in the Intensive Care waiting room the day before, walk around, checking room numbers. She turned into our room and walked past me to the second bed.
“Is that your husband?” I asked in surprise.
Wanting to encourage Jerry without intruding on their privacy, I began to sing quietly. My heart warmed in awe as I heard Bonnie’s sweet alto join my soprano from the other side of the curtain. I had no idea God had placed us in a room with another Christ-follower.
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee.
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Great is Thy faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.Lyrics by Thomas Obadiah Chisolm (1866-1960), tune by William Runyan, published 1923
5. In the toughest of circumstances, God is there. I was exhausted. Every night for five months, I left the hospital dispirited and weary. Settling in at the apartment, my eyes were dry. Every muscle and nerve in my body ached. My mind felt overwhelmed. I sent an email update to colleagues and the many who were praying for us, then sank onto my bed to fall into dreamless sleep.
But God…renewed me daily. Each morning I wakened with new hope and joy, ready to face another day with my beloved. I learned the truth of Lamentations 3:22-23, the scripture that is the basis for the hymn above:
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Proverbs 16:9 says “We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it” (MSG).
Living out of motel rooms, searching for housing, and caring for my husband in a hospital on the other side of the country were not in my plans. God has not promised to spare us from the hardships of life, but He has committed to being with us in every situation. When our heart and strength wane, He is faithfully present.
My prayer for the crises we face in today’s world is that those suffering will experience his grace in unexpected ways; and that we who grieve with and for them will lean into and rely on those but God…moments as He cocoons us in His love.