The large manila envelope crammed in our mailbox caught me off guard. The return address from our doctor’s office only increased my suspicions that this wasn’t the kind of package you look forward to opening. A sizable bill and a five-page checklist of injections, scans, tests, and additional medication left me reeling. As someone who had lived through a similar course of treatment, I thought this go around would be easier. I thought the list would be shorter. I thought my resolve, seasoned by the past, would be stronger. Instead I flipped to the last page and lost it in the driveway.
“How are we going to go through all of this again?” I tearfully asked my husband. A closer reading of the document alerted me to the days that would likely be the hardest. The days you somehow drive to an office, make yourself get out of the car, sit on a cold table, and hold your breath. The days you wait all morning for a phone call you’re not sure you want to answer when it comes through. The shots that bruise the worst, the medications that historically provide the harshest side effects. The next few minutes were spent calculating all of the ways things could go wrong, all of the ways things could hurt worse than they already do.
What does it mean to walk with God when life hurts like this? Perhaps your manila envelope is for a diagnosis far more challenging than mine. Maybe you only wish your doctor could give you an excel spreadsheet, that you were still in a position to wait for a hard phone call. Maybe your mailbox has an envelope of divorce papers you don’t want to sign, a report card reminding you of the ways you don’t measure up, a paycheck or lack there of that isn’t going to cover the bills. What do we do when life is hard, when our faith is tested, when the future is unknown and daunting?
Over the next several weeks, I’m going to share a few different things that God is teaching me about walking with Him in a hard season. Many of these things are in direct response to doubts and temptations I’m currently battling and all are things I’m very much in process with.
- God gives the grace I need for each day, not a one-shot lifetime supply.
Flipping to page five of a medication regiment is my M.O. Left to my own devices, I find myself living in the future rather than the present. One concern snowballs into a list of “what ifs,” often in the middle of the night. I pick out the day that will likely hurt the worst, play out the worst case scenario, and wonder how I’ll possibly get through it. From a young age until now, anxiety and worry have chronically plagued me.
My doctor’s office often encourages their patients to take things one day at a time. The document they sent has a place to check the box once completed. They try to avoid giving you more information than what you need in the moment, in part because things can change but also in part because in the words of Matthew 6:34 quoted by my favorite nurse, “Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
I think this is an example of the world recognizing something that is true about living in God’s universe even if there isn’t always an agreement on why. There is something quite helpful about taking things one day at a time.
In her book Seasons of Waiting, Betsy Child Howard writes,
If you feel like you don’t have the fortitude for a lifetime of waiting, that’s because God doesn’t give grace in a lifetime supply. He provides it one day at a time. If you doubt that God has given you the capacity to endure your trial for a lifetime, you can rest assured that he hasn’t. But he has given you exactly what you need to flourish today. Jesus sought daily strength from his Father (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:15-16). He expected God to provide what he needed day by day (Luke 11:3)…God has promised to supply what we need, when we need it. He hasn’t equipped us for hypotheticals. As C.S. Lewis wrote in a letter to Mary Willis Shelburne, ‘It is seldom the present and the actual that is intolerable. Remember one is given the strength to bear what happens to one, but not the 100 and 1 different things that might happen…’
You see, once you start walking in daily dependence on God, you have to keep walking in it. God’s desire is to be in fellowship with us, and one way he draws us into that fellowship is by meeting our needs one day at a time. He doesn’t just give us what we need; he wants to give us himself. He gives us himself through his Word. The trials of our life that make us crave the life-giving sustenance of the daily nourishment of Scripture are like the hunger pains that drive us to the daily food our bodies need to survive…The Israelites lived on daily manna for forty years, and if your particular season of waiting lasts for forty years, God will supply your daily needs.”
When I’m tempted to worry about a future event, to let my mind spiral out of control with “what ifs,” this simple reminder has helped, in no small part because it has reminded me of my own moment by moment dependence. In fact, a portion of this quote now hangs above my checklist. This neediness, as Paul Miller says, is the heartbeat of prayer and has turned into prayers like these:
God, I can’t do this without you. I can’t take my own thoughts and worries and cares captive, I need you to help me. Apart from you I can do nothing and that includes walking with you through this trial and walking with you today. Help me to trust you with more than my eyes can see. Help me to trust that you’ve given me everything I need for life and godliness today.
God you are the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I cannot live in the future, but you are already there—You are the God who was and is and is to come. When I bump up against my limitations, when I try to figure out how I’m going to manage the next few months or the next who knows how many years if this goes badly, it crushes me. God when I feel the weight of it, use it to draw me back to you. Remind me that you are the Bread of Life, the manna that I need today. Help me to trust you to be my daily bread in this wilderness.
God I’m so guilty of thinking that I can handle things on my own. Though I would never choose this, thank you for using it to teach me how dependent I am on you. Don’t waste this hard thing. Use it to make me more like Jesus who relied on you every single day. Amen.