For all my love of surprise parties, it’s a fact that I also crave predictability. I don’t like unplanned tasks that interrupt my daily to-do list or expected timelines. A phone call to help a friend or even a requested lunch date from my hubby causes me to bristle.
“I’ve got a precious few hours between school drop off and pick up! I need every minute!” I think. I know this is a luxury many don’t have, especially this corona-year with many families doing virtual school on top of work and life duties, though I suspect many of us fiercely guard our time when we have a goal in mind (even if that goal is rest).
While having a plan is not sinful, and it’s even advisable and wise, I know my reaction is often selfish and inflexible; it’s something I’m convicted of often. However, along with my aversion to daily interruptions, I’ve alternately prided myself as highly adaptable when it comes to picking a restaurant for dinner, holiday travel plans and the numerous curve balls that chronic illness lobs at my head at 90 mph. (*pats self on back*)
And 2020 – it’s been a big lesson in the unpredictable for all of us. Pandemics, weather, civil unrest, elections, celebrations – we’ve all had to pivot, adapt or face disappointment and grief. At the height of these emotions is fear of the unknown. Frankly, many of us are wondering, “Will this year ever end?!?”
I’ve been in that season before – the perpetual cycle of confusion, loss and indeterminate endings. This time of year, in fact, my Facebook memories provide almost-daily reminders of that season.
A time to live
Our precious son was born in November 2011 – his birth brought us great joy, but also ushered in the scariest season of our lives. I nearly lost my life in childbirth, and weeks later I was diagnosed with Vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome – meaning faulty tissues, weak organs and aneurysms throughout my body. Basically, my body’s building blocks are broken.
That season had an end that was … nowhere on the horizon. Each day brought new challenges, each week scarier test results and more teams of doctors trying to figure out what to do. We literally could only focus on what was directly in front of us because thinking about tomorrow was scary, overwhelming and, at times, haunting.
Survival mode was on hyperdrive, and only slivers of grace fueled us for the next moment:
-Baby coos from our newborn who had no idea how sick his mommy was
-Loved ones visiting us in the hospital, bringing my husband food and needed bedside breaks
-Strength to walk around the hospital floor or sit in a chair for a couple of hours
Grace, grace, God’s grace.
O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit. Psalm 30:3
It was not the life we would’ve chosen, but God was sustaining us and redeeming those hard moments for His glory.
A time to wait
We’re not very good at waiting – especially when the ending is undetermined.
During my health crisis of 2011-2012, I was on strict intravenous feeding while my intestines healed. Part of my condition means a faulty digestive system, and several feet of dying intestines were extricately removed during my emergency c-section. About 5 months later as I was starting to eat soft foods again, I was days from getting my line removed for IV feeding.
We were weary, but we knew we must
stay the course to sustain my life and bring healing.
Suddenly, another hole opened up in my intestines, putting me back solely on nutrition via my veins. The clock restarted toward healed intestines.
In order to aid healing, we followed the rules: Nightly 12-hour infusions of fluids and vitamins to keep me alive. No food or drink by mouth, not even a sip of water. The hopes were to let the intestines heal on their own without surgery (oh, how amazing our bodies are!). Keep the sterile line clean and free from infection. No showers. Our timeline was at the mercy of slow healing, countless tests that included swallowing a camera, and prayers. It would be a total of a long 9 months between cups of coffee.
We were weary, but we knew we must stay the course to sustain my life and bring healing.
A time to persevere
God knows the future, friends. This is not meant to belittle the present difficulty you’re enduring right now, but to remind you that we trust a God who has gone before us.
It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. Deut. 31:8
When we read God’s Word, we have the luxury of knowing the “rest of the story” for many, like:
-Abraham who trusted God to give him a son to fulfill God’s promise to make him the father of many nations
-The Israelites who were led around the desert for 40 years before the youth of their nation entered the promised land
-The 400 years of silence for early believers between the Old Testament and the promised Messiah
In Jeremiah 29, we find thousands of Isaelites exiled to Babylon due to their disobedience and idolatry. A false prophet prophesied that they would be freed in two years, but Jeremiah steps in with a true word from God, confronting the false prophet:
“For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:10-11
The last verse, often quoted by faithful Christians as a promise, is a statement directly to the Israelites. We can use that verse as evidence, however, of God’s character, along with countless others that reassure us of His good plans for His children.
Seventy years was a long time to wait in exile. But God tells the Isaelites to build houses, live in them, plant gardens, eat the produce, get married, have children and to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:4-9).
Like living in exile, surviving off of IV feeding was never truly the right fit. It’s not how my body was designed to take in nutrition. The port in my arm was cleaned in a sterile environment weekly by a home-health nurse. My mouth would feel parched by evening because it had been 12 hours since my last infusion. My lips were perpetually dry and chapped.
The muscles in my mouth and throat atrophied, resulting in therapy to relearn how to swallow without choking. Nutrition, hydration and blood sugar levels were delicately balanced, requiring bloodwork to evaluate its efficacy. Long-term IV feeding can even lead to liver failure.
“Real faith is a letting go. A releasing of the what-if’s when everything in you wants to tighten your grip. It’s allowing yourself to free fall into the unknown because you have absolute confidence that waiting at the other end are arms big enough to catch you, help you, and make you whole.”Michele Cushatt, Author
I Am: A 60-Day Journey to Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is
My body was not designed for intravenous feeding, and we are not designed for this broken world – so we will perpetually feel we like strangers or exiles (Heb. 11:13). We long for a life of predictability and ease, but God calls us to keep living and trusting even in the unknowns and seeking the welfare of our earthly homes. We don’t know the final chapters of our here-and-now journeys: healing or sickness, reconciliation or estrangement, safety or peril.
I don’t know what your “exile” is right now, but for His children, God will restore and renew all that is good in His kingdom. Our indeterminate endings can be placed in God’s trustworthy hands. Our troublesome world, full of minor interruptions and life-altering trials, can drive us to the One whose plans for us are good.
1. Based on the scriptures above, how can we respond to the fact that God knows our future? (ex. With peace and endurance, with cheer)
2. What is one way for you to seek the welfare of your right-here, right-now life?
Each week(ish), I offer you a “Monday Goodness” devotional. I pray it will encourage you to focus on God’s goodness, His Word, and truths to help you cling to Him in life’s impossible. You can find past Monday Goodness devotionals here.