Monday, January 6, 2014

Lessons from 2013

     2013 obviously will not go down in the books as the easiest year of my life. But as difficult as this year has been, I have learned so much about the Lord. Many of these lessons were things that I have known on an academic level since I was a child. However, this year I began to understand these things on a deeper and more practical level.

     1. At times life is too overwhelming to live a day at a time. Sometimes it is too hard to see the end of a day, and the only way to remain sane is to repeatedly carry my sorrows, anxiety, and anger to the Lord on an hourly or momentary basis. During Rachel's final days when we were all essentially on death watch, I never knew what each day would bring. Would she decline today? How much? Will her pain be controlled today? Will she die today? These unanswerable questions tormented my mind until I learned to frequently escape into the Lord's arms. I would pour out my heart and vocalize my frustration with the fact that I could not understand what the Lord was doing. When I was frustrated because the Lord allowed her to remain and struggle after she was unable to move and communicate, I had to repeatedly cast down my cares as I felt my anxiety rise. I learned that I have to trust the Lord in this moment, then trust Him again when the next moment arrives.

     2. God is sovereign and His timing is perfect. Clearly, I do not understand everything the Lord is doing with His timing, but He has been gracious to show me momentary glimpses into His timing. Rachel was diagnosed with her cancer just weeks after I finished my student teaching. So I was able to be available to assist my family. The Lord also provided me with an online tutoring job that allowed me to remain accessible to my family. the timing of these events provided me with flexibility so that I could spend a significant amount of time with my sister. Thus, I grew closer to her. I saw the beauty of her heart during this struggle and came to truly admire her.

     3. Joy and happiness are not the same thing. Happiness is a purely emotional state of being, and in the past month, I have not experienced a lot of genuine happiness. Sure, I have had moments with my husband, daughter, other family members, or friends that have brought me happiness, but those have primarily been brief distractions. However, joy has been much more abundant. Joy is a choice, a worldview, an attitude about life. I am joyful that my sister Rachel has been perfectly healed and is now in Heaven. But, I am not happy about it because I miss her here on earth. In combating despair, I have to choose to focus on an eternal perspective and on the things I can be joyful about.

     4. Truth is crucial. My heart lies to me on a daily basis. My heart tells me that I'm alone, that God has forgotten me, that no one cares, and so many other lies. This year, I have learned to cling to the truth because it will set me free (John 8:32). I have learned to tell my feeling they are wrong and dwell on the character and promises of God rather than letting my mind run wild. I have begun to learn to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5)

     5. Compassion is truly beautiful. As previously stated, I learned so much about compassion from my sister. In her final weeks, she was comforting others as they grieved. And it was beautiful to watch. It was a beautiful display of the strength and grace of God. In those moments, I didn't see a sick and dying 22 year old; I was Christ shining through her. I saw the beauty of her heart.

     I haven't set any resolutions for 2014 nor am I super excited about new beginnings because grief doesn't end with the beginning of a new year. This next year will be hard because each holiday and event will be my family's first without Rachel. I do not know what joys and hardships this year will bring, but I do know that God will still be good. He was good last year when I miscarried a pregnancy. He was good when He perfectly healed Rachel in Heaven. He is good. And He will still be good this year, regardless of what comes.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
Psalm 13:5-6

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