I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD. Psalm 118:17
A lifeguard knows how to rescue and can rescue without much thought; consider things we do by “aut-pilot.” They need to throw the lifesaver and pull the victim in. They’ve performed this ritual more times than they can number. The routine, the practiced ritual still saves lives.
April was to have been an exciting month for me, traveling, visiting churches, renewing relationships and beginning new ones. I anticipated this trip for the sake of the ministry and as another step in moving forward as a recent widow. Easter at my sister’s home, with all my family. It had been a long time and I was excited.
I believed I would be in India today.
Adapting is one of my strengths, so when I realized that there would no trip into the northeast, I adapted; I thought I did.
I devised a plan to finish the writing and first edit of a book that should have been finished a year ago. I printed out the titles of each chapter and surmised that an average of 1 chapter a day would be a great plan and momentum would take over and it would be a breeze. I knew this from past experience; my month of isolation would yield fruit.
This turned out to be a month that a fresh wave of mourning entered in. It was not missing Harry, although I continue to. Companionship with Harry was often easy after almost 32 years. He and I enjoyed being being quiet in our own thoughts; perhaps that was why conversations were good too.
April was hard for most of us, though reasons varied. The worldwide pandemic accentuated each struggle. I’d feel frustration, then anger. This was not what I planned for my life. I cannot figure how to make my new life work. I don’t want this. Uncertainty and fear slipped in and out. I felt sorry for myself, but I am not good at that because when my struggles meet truth, meet TRUTH… the God of all truth, thankfulness resurfaces and this is a great balm for many ailments.
Into the third week, I hadn’t found victory but determined that May would not be a continuation of this. I knew I could not let this month repeat itself once, and again; for how long? This month was not over.
The last Sunday of April I got a phone call telling me that my brother had been in a terrible automobile accident. I began praying as I prepared to leave soon to be with my family in Pennsylvania and to see Eddie. As I was drying off the phone rang again. My baby brother was gone.My trip to Pennsylvania would be for a funeral. The last time I saw Eddie was at Harry’s memorial.
During the return flight from Pennsylvania, hours after the funeral, I sat quietly alone on the plane, social-distancing you know, although Lois and India were just a couple of rows up. There was a truth or something that I sensed was trying to make itself known to me. A couple of days later, it began to spill out, though processing it was not immediate. It is a lifetime effort. The pain of loss and grief will never go away, but it can dwell with, take a back seat to joy. It will never completely leave. In this life, they will dwell together in the same heart.
I made a choice after Harry died to be happy and to move forward. Perhaps I skipped a few steps. Perhaps, though, I did what worked for me and that is okay. God created us differently; we will all know suffering and by God’s grace, more happiness. They both make us better people. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. Ecclesiastes 7:3
My lifeline has been my routine, and now I am fighting for this routine. Realizing this has opened my eyes to the likelihood that I have been suffering – oh, how I dislike this phrase – I think I have been experiencing spiritual attack.
Spiritual attacks are not a rare and dramatic occurrence. Perhaps dramatic. The reason I have not drowned is because it is of the the Lord’s mercies I am not consumed. But let me put this into practical terms. By the grace of God, I developed routines. My morning routine is significant and I am in a fight for this routine at this moment. Let me explain.
My morning routine takes at least 2 hours. I get up early, before the sun. During this time, I make coffee, practice some form of intentional physical movement- often referred to as exercise. I read God’s Word, usually 3 portions. I read the Bible cover to cover at my own pace, listening to it as I read. I read from Psalms and I read a Proverbs, those portions usually read aloud. Usually, I make notes about some truth I learned or was reminded of while I read. Finally, I pray, then loosely plan my day; I plan the day which the Lord has made, determining to rejoice and be glad in it. That is my morning routine.
It was this routine that continued throughout April; many days it felt like little more than a ritual. It was a struggle to keep my heart and mind engaged. It was no coincidence I believe – for I do not believe in coincidences exactly – that on the days when I felt least alive that God would encourage me from a portion of Scripture that I would never go to for encouragement. These encouragements, directly from God, renew hope and awareness that I likely have some very cool things ahead, in this life and the next. Life-giving words parted the clouds, allowing the Son to give warmth and light. This is an accurate picture. It is precisely how it felt.
Were it not for routine, I would not have been in “The Word.” My physical and spiritual health would have deteriorated in April. I understand this has been the testimony of many. Good habits kept me afloat, though little more. I rejoice though because I never lost the sense that God was in all this and would use all all of it. I never became hopeless for more than short periods of time. I yielded to Truth.
It was about 10 days ago that I began to see more clearly; there were more glimpses of what God wanted me to see. I see some, but not all. I became open to the possibility that I was under spiritual attack after allowing myself to become careless with my routine. How foolish is that? About the time we realize that something is very good for us and that we have experienced blessing for it, darkness will try to overcome it. Once something becomes a positive habit, we may have to fight to protect it occasionally.
I will not give up my morning routines without a fight for – by them I am strengthened and joy is replenished and hope for my future is renewed. I can walk that day in truth and in confidence, though never in perfection. The Perfect One thinks good toward me and promises to be with me alway. Jesus said in Matthew 28, verse 20: lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.
(Always and alway are 2 distinct words; God said He’d be with me alway, and that is more than always. Interesting study there if you have time. I will start you out: The word “always” is found in the Bible 62 times and the word “alway” is found 23 times. I assure you that the s was not inadvertently left off. God is a God of details and He cares about His Book.)
Life is a journey and this is not a cliché. April of this year was a month that every woman will always remember for different reasons. But the month can count for good. Romans 8:28 is a much quoted Bible verse, but it is not a cliché either. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. I know that it is God’s will to use April of 2020 in my life for good. Do you believe every word of this verse for your life?
I have spoken with several women in recent weeks, sharing some of what I learned in this difficult part of my journey, but I can tell you that my struggles may pale in comparison to the trials of others. God is sovereign; He knows what is needed in our lives and how to develop struggles in order for us to become all we were meant to be. Our struggles and trials are divinely sifted through the loving hand of our kind Heavenly Father. Do you believe that? What have you learned in recent trials? Do you believe that God wanted to teach you something important for your life? What routines do you have that you make yourself do even when your heart is not in them? Do they add to your sum successes in life?
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1Thessalonians 5:18
A final thought:
The Bible is God’s chart for you to steer by, to keep you from the bottom of the sea, and to show you where the harbor is, and how to reach it without running on rocks or bars. Henry Ward Beecher