A friend recently invited me to a talk at her church about keeping faith during difficult times. I had a work conflict so I could not attend, but I commented, “I could give that talk.” “Oh, yeah,” she responded.
Nine months after my friend Jim died, I gave a retreat talk on gratitude. I shared with a group of about forty women how my faith not only sustained me while I took care of Jim when he had brain cancer, but that my faith enabled me to be grateful. “Every day, we laughed, and every day, we were grateful,” I told them.
After my talk, one woman shared that her husband had died a year earlier from the same cancer Jim had. She was still angry about it—and she was also angry with me that I could find gratitude in the midst of such a horrible thing. Nothing seemed fair to her—not her husband’s illness or death and certainly not my unshaken faith. My heart broke for her, and I could have wept for her unwillingness or inability to lean into her vulnerability. Faith requires letting go and trusting God, even (or especially) when life is unfair.
Another woman asked if I had grown up in a “perfect home” and was that why I was able to be grateful even during such a difficult time. My childhood home was not perfect, and I experienced more than my share of trauma during my early years. In the midst of trauma, though, I always knew myself as loved by God, as chosen and protected.
My physical self was not always safe, but the part of me that God cares about—my spirit and soul—was tenderly held by God.
I knew that to be true and I held onto that truth like a life vest hugging my body.
Perhaps because I learned at a young age that God cares about my innermost self, I have been able to not only survive difficulties and trauma but have come out of them with my faith intact and even strengthened.
So when I first learned that Jim had a very, very aggressive, non-curable brain cancer, I turned to God, and I continued to turn to God throughout Jim’s illness and after his death.
I had a few meltdowns—times when I was physically exhausted and felt like I could not cope or when the sadness of our situation overwhelmed me. But, always, God was there with gentle words of encouragement.
Fear is useless; what is needed is trust (Mark 5:36), God would whisper. Or on another day, See, I am doing something new (Isaiah 43:19).
Always God was with me, sharing my sorrow, encouraging me to let go and to trust that Jim was in God’s hands.
My ninety-two year old mother recently had a major health scare, and while we sat with her in the emergency room, I was transported back to sitting with Jim in the ER. “God has her,” I said to myself.
Faith allows me to believe that, to know that the doctors can do what they can do, and I can do what I can, and, in the end, God is in control.
I trust that because God continues to give me the gift of faith. It is my most precious gift.
Madeline Bialecki grew up in Detroit and recently returned after living in Philadelphia for twenty-eight years. She began writing about her spiritual journey and faith life after the death of her best friend in 2012. She likes to read, knit, bake and garden. She shares her spiritual journey here.