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.
Thank you for sharing your gift of faith with those who need a reminder this season. I am grateful for your words and heart of encouragement and vulnerability.
Thank you, Julie. I agree that the holidays can be a time when we need to be reminded of the gift and grace of faith.
Thank you, Jennifer.
I’m going through a breast cancer journey myself at the moment and have been lifted through it by way of the power of intercessory prayer. When my family and friends show their care and concern, God frees me to not be concerned. I trust Him. He has demonstrated over and over He knows me and what I need.
Care taking can be a lonely and challenging journey and while I don’t feel equipped to be very good at it, I trust that God will fill in for me in some way. He loves you and how you even now are using that dark time that He allowed you to pass through. People who get angry and struggle against the circumstances He allows into their lives run the risk of missing the beauty that comes from the ashes. I hope I’ll always be open to the next thing God allows and lean into Him for whatever I need to have joy in the midst of it.
The value of faithful prayer partners can not be overstated. Thank you for sharing your experience.
May God bless you and splash back on you the joy and encouragement you’ve given to others.
In His faithful love, Laura
Dear Laura, I am sorry for your troubles with breast cancer–and happy you have faithful friends and family to see you through. I believe that every curse has a blessing and holding onto that belief has helped me endure difficulties. God is so faithful!
Living in gratitude has been a journey for me… until I really got rooted in God unmerited love for me… receiving His undeserved Mercy and Grace… could I begin to relax in that love… and there I could let go of my grip to situations… and let Him change the lens in which I was reading my world. His Love and living in gratitude have been so freeing in these aging years!!! Thanks for your words of encouragement!!!
I love your phrase, “…let Him change the lens…” Perspective and outlook matter so much. I wish you continued blessing of relaxing into God’s loving embrace.
Hello Madeline. Thank you for sharing your tender story of loss and faith with us. I loved the line, “I knew that to be true and I held onto that truth like a life vest hugging my body.” Sometimes it feels like faith is that thing we are grasping for as we bob about on the stormy seas of life – hoping against hope – that we make it to shore without drowning.
I just returned from a Hawaiian cruise. On each of the five flights there and back as well as on the ship we got instructions for using life vests, and as the instructions are being given, I imagined myself bobbing in the ocean. I can so easily relax into that image. Your comment, Barbara, made me smile at the memory of those life-vest instructions because I had not made the connection with faith and hope. It is all about letting go. Thanks for making the connection so clear to me.
Reblogged this on Madeline Bialecki.
I always pride myself on remembering to be grateful and then I forget to remember.
Thanks for this reminder on a day when I needed it.
My pleasure, Hortensia.