When a gift comes wrapped in beautiful packaging, we eagerly rip into the wrapping.
But what about the times when we are entrusted with unfamiliar gifts? Gifts wrapped in disappointment and confusion, sorrow and pain?
If we know how to remind ourselves of the goodness of the Giver, He will grant us the courage to slowly unwrap the gifts and discover His purpose a little bit at a time.
As most of you know, I travelled the road of singleness for a good while, and many times, that road did not seem like a gift. I fought to believe that God was the Giver that He claims to be, despite circumstances that painted Him as a Withholder, the One Who snatches at joy.
And then, out of the blue, into the relational desert of my life, God brought me to David. Both of us were so ready to leave the path of singleness and start out on a life of companionship. What an exciting gift!
We planned a wedding, pledged our vows, and drove off to the mountains for our honeymoon, anticipating a week’s breather from the insanity of life.
Two days later, we found ourselves in the emergency room of an unfamiliar hospital, where the doctor shocked us with the news that David had cancer and needed surgery within the next 24 to 48 hours.
This news sledgehammered through our plans, stirred our fears, stole our honeymoon, and left us reeling. Surgery and bloodwork, pain meds and waiting became our new reality. This cancer package seemed a most frightening delivery, set on top of the joyous gift of marriage. Moreover, the timing seemed downright cruel.
How thrilled we were when the post-surgery bloodwork indicated that the operation had removed all traces of the cancer! But since our lives had been turned upside down from the very start, finding a normal routine also meant battling through stress and exhaustion, dealing with that unwelcome package of illness and fighting the lies.
Each of our personal fears had been triggered in specific ways through this valley.
There was no opportunity to coast through the first weeks of our marriage. Satan’s discouragement and fearful whispering was loud, and we needed Jesus and His people to help us fight the lies.
And slowly, I had an epiphany; I realized that God was calling me to the same response that He taught me in those many years before David came into my life: He was asking me to speak the truth to myself. This is what David learned to do as a single man, as well. And I discovered that there are moments when you come to God as a couple, but there are many moments when you must fight fear’s inner monologue in a very personal way, with Jesus alone.
I discovered a new thankfulness for those years when God trained me to discern the lies and make the choice to speak the truth to my shaking, angry, confused heart.
Because even though my left hand wears now a ring, the fight of faith is never over—and it still remains very personal. While David and I can pray for each other, with each other, and speak truth aloud to each other, neither one of us can fully take on the other’s fight for faith. That remains a very personal battle, one in which Jesus will always be our number one partner, calling us to choose the truth over the lies.
So, this scary valley called cancer brings with it a whole lot of fear, stress, change, and unknowns. I cannot say that either one of us knows God’s full purpose in allowing this package to come to our door within the first two days of our marriage. And I will not pretend that it has been easy, or that we have always opened this package with faith, patience, and hope. But I find myself with at least one small takeaway as I think back on these last two months. One good thing that God delivered in that horribly wrapped package was a tangible reminder of our dependence on Him, of our desperate need for Him. He reminded us that we still needed Him to come into the secret places of our souls and speak truth in the midst of lies. We need Him as a couple, but we also need Him personally. Those years of walking with Him before marriage actually prepared me for the personal part of this valley as a newlywed.
I have learned that one of the greatest ways God arms us for the next phases of our lives is by teaching us to speak His truth to ourselves in our current situations.
Whether our future holds marriage or illness, childbirth or a career change, the disciplines that He has taught us and the truths we have learned in the “now” will not be wasted as we step into the future. When God allows a difficult situation, we feel overwhelmed, scared and angry. He extends His compassion to us, while calling us to the very same modus operandi that He taught us during the last trial. “I will choose to trust You now despite my feelings just like I did back then. Because You haven’t changed. And somewhere in this package is Your everlasting commitment to my wholeness.”
I am reminded of Jesus’ reassurance to Peter, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.” John 13:7 (NLT)