by Gloria Furman
“It sure is sandy out,” one might say when making small talk here in the Arabian Desert.
On days that I sweep our apartment, I come up with a dustpan of sand, crushed cereal, and glitter. Except for this morning, when it was filled with glass and candy.
Our oldest child had sauntered into the hallway carrying the jar that I kept on my desk. She held it above her head and made an announcement. “Norah’s diaper was dry this morning again so everyone gets a piece.” (Per our potty training traditions she was right.) Before I had a chance to open the jar, she fumbled it onto the tile. The imported American candy wrapped in brightly-colored paper squares mingled with shattered glass from baseboard to baseboard.
Oh, the collective grieving and hopelessness that was shared by all three children!
The shattered glass on the floor brought to memory a recent season of stalled plans and broken hopes and dreams. Four years ago when we moved here, a series of circumstances rocked our family and rendered us helpless, depressed, and in physical pain. My husband’s health dramatically deteriorated, our language learning was halted, and ministry doors seemed to be bolted shut indefinitely.
From the vantage point of God’s loving-kindness, the shards in the dustpan were our shattered idols. He was after our whole-hearted worship in the midst of suffering.
But I didn’t see things that way at first. I cried bitter tears of self-pity and imagined myself a victim of God’s neglect rather than an undeserving recipient of his sovereign grace. On occasion, I would feel bad for feeling bad. I mean, things could always be worse, right? Cue the tears of guilty shame. These were not the thoughts and emotions of a woman who understood how God in Christ had placed her smack dab in the middle of Romans 8:32 forever.
God often uses our friends when teaching us to breathe during a spiritual asthma attack.
One day as I sat in my rocking chair nursing our newly-born second child, I listed my anxieties aloud for my friend Keri. She listened sympathetically while folding the clean clothes piled on the bed. With wisdom steeped in Scripture, she reminded me of God’s good intentions to conform me into the image of his Son (Romans 8:29).
I recall the testimony of Dr Jim Allman, a dear professor at seminary: “God did not bring you here to destroy you.”
From the moment I woke in the morning to the last fleeting thought before sleep, I was fixated on the painful circumstances that I wished God would change. But there is a hope that is more enduring than the trite, “This, too, shall pass.”
Hope that endures the storm is anchored in the fact that “God’s faithfulness will never pass.”
So where are you today?
I know one certainly doesn’t have to be in a literal desert to be in a spiritual desert. Are you white-knuckling your idols, fearful to relinquish them? Are you enjoying the lingering aftertaste of peace that comes from having tasted and seen that the Lord is good in the midst of suffering? Do you feel like you’re the victim of a cosmic joke? Are you feeling bad for feeling bad? You can humbly confess any and all of these things to your loving heavenly Father who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for you.
Whenever I share about our difficult experiences, I’m tempted to wrap up our story with a neat little bow. I struggle to believe Jesus when he says that the truth sets people free, so I fear their responses. Will they say, “Aha, see. This is another reason I will never serve in cross-cultural missions?” Will they despise the doctrines of God’s sovereignty which I have come to cherish? Will someone give Job’s wife’s recommendation to: “curse God and die?” These insecurities feel so real to me because they are the lies that had assaulted me day and night. My mind needs to be continually renewed in God’s truth, even now.
When you hear stories of suffering, don’t look for the neat little bow. Look for evidences of God’s hand at work in refining the faith of his children. Praise the Lord with those who suffer, and marvel together with them at how he beautifully and painfully makes his strength perfect in our weaknesses. Sing songs to the Lord by faith, even when the words put a lump in your throat and the thoughts bring stinging tears to your eyes:
“Praise the Lord, all nations!
Extol him, all peoples!
For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
Praise the Lord!”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gloria (@gloriafurman) is mostly from Texas. In 2008 she moved to the Middle East with her husband Dave to plant Redeemer Church of Dubai. They have three fun kiddos and Gloria enjoys serving the ladies in her community as a doula. Gloria is the author of Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home (Crossway 2013). She blogs often and is editor of Domestic Kingdom.