A couple nights ago Ben and I went to a concert. In between sets, I hopped up to go to the bathroom and noticed the girl behind me in line had a shirt on that read, “It is well.”
Smiling, I told her I loved her shirt and that I couldn’t read those words without singing the hymn in my head. While the other ladies looked back and forth at us, as if trying to decipher a secret code we were sharing, the woman told me the t-shirt was a fundraiser from a friend whose child had a terminal disease and had passed away (and yet they had the hospital bills to pay).
It is well.
How do we get to this point?? How do we get to the place where, like this family, we can trust God so deeply that even through great loss, our message to the world is still, “It is well.”
I was chatting with a friend recently after seeing a photo of a beautiful vintage embroidered chair she had posted. It was so similar to one my grandma had made long ago that I was immediately taken back to her beautiful home in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle.
My dear Farmor (the Swedish word for Father’s Mother, and the name we called her) loved art, music, and Jesus. Her home was a fusion of all three as she combined these things with Scandinavian inspired hand-embroidered cushions on her piano seat, beautifully painted hymns and Bible verses framed upon her walls, and an overall feeling of Christ’s love infused throughout every room.
Farmor loved to talk and sing and laugh and was my favorite travel buddy. Turning down offers with friends, I instead chose to spend many spring breaks with she and my sweet mother. We traveled to places like Victoria and Vancouver BC or shopped around in Portland, Oregan. We'd jaunt off to tiny antique towns near my hometown of Seattle and play tourist, stopping at little bistros and used bookstores, always with coffee hot in our hands.
When I lived in England and attended Bible school, Farmor even met me in Norway and off we went, gallivanting around country after country taking in museums, shops, cafes, and shows. One time while in London, we even snuck into Christie’s Auction House and roamed around with a group of big-wigs on a tour.
Ohhhh how I loved her (and her Swedish pancakes she was so-known for).
My grandfather (we called him Farfar, which is Swedish for Father’s Father) died decades before she did, so when Ben got a promotion and he and I moved to San Antonio, she began talking abut joining in on our adventure. A year or two later, movers packed nearly 80 years worth of her belongings into a big truck and she headed down south to join life with us.
My eyes are tearing up as I remember all the precious things bubble-wrapped safely in boxes, making their way to the adventure she looked so forward to.
My mom flew in to help get her little cottage painted and settled. The happy lemon yellow walls and big windows made Farmor want a new couch, so off we ladies went in search of one while we waited the days needed for all her things to arrive.
The moving truck seemed to be taking days longer than expected, but we spent our mornings and afternoons playing with baby Anton and shopping for that new couch she so desired.
And then one day we found why her life’s possessions hadn’t arrived.
There had been a fire.
Everything was gone. Everything.
How do you tell someone that her husband’s 200-year-old books, cherished awards, and Purple Heart have all been destroyed?
How do you tell her that all those hand-embroidered chairs and footstools and wall hangings were gone?
How do you tell your grandmother that all the family heirlooms she had held onto after both sides of the family came over from Sweden were nothing but ash?
All her photos. Her precious sheet music.
Some adventure, right?
What she thought would be the first definition above, ended up being the second. How often is that how things end up in our imperfect world?
How do we handle life when our adventure becomes more ache than elation?
Know what my Farmor did? She kept moving. Her response as the knowledge that everything was gone and she could never get it back was,
“Well, God is still good…and now I get to buy new things!!”
She didn't say it flippantly. We all knew she didn't actually want all new things.
She said it with a spirit of trust.
Knowing her wedding photos, letters from her deceased husband, portraits of my dad as a baby, and all the other irreplaceable things were literally up in smoke, how did she react?
She remembered God was still good and she looked toward the future.
What adventure have you gone on that didn’t pan out to be what you expected? How have you gone through seasons of despair? Could you still say that He is good?
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did.
Do you remember who they are? Daniel 3 tells the story of these three young men who were thrown into a fiery furnace for worshiping God rather than King Nebuchadnezzar. Before being cast into the furnace, they told the king:
In other words, “Even if not, He is still good.”
Could we say that of our dreams, plans, and goals?
Do we hold onto our own desires with such a tight grasp that if things don’t go how we want, our whole life falls apart?
I’m not saying we cannot mourn the loss of a person or of a dream…but if we have true faith in our Lord, we also have a sort of quiet confidence that He will turn our mourning into dancing as he brings joy from our pain and beauty from our ashes.
I can tell you firsthand that the darkest times in my life have strengthened me in ways I never could have grown otherwise.
God certainly didn't bring about this horrible thing...and yet, He'll turn it around use it for good. Perhaps we are reminded that we cannot do life without Him. Maybe our pain will be used to help others in theirs.
When one of our Ethiopian children lied and told our social worker that I was abusing him and I went through a full-blown investigation with CPS (Child Protective Services), I felt like life was closing in on me. But every time I prayed, I heard the Lord whisper to my heart,
"I'm allowing you to go through this for a reason. Do not fear."
There was a chance that CPS would believe the lie told by our son, and if so, the possibility that all our children could be taken away from us was real. Knowing this, I realized I either had to cling to Christ or completely turn my back on Him and run toward the idea that He actually wasn't all that good.
Would I give into fear and despair or would I make the conscious decision to put 100% of my trust in my Lord's hands?
God was right though (as He always is). We did have to go through that horrible time. Why?
Because our dear child was struggling to heal from past trauma. And because of this, he thought if he made life hard enough for us, we'd put him on a plane back to Ethiopia. Every person in his past had given up on him, so he figured we'd give up on him, too.
But because I trusted the Lord and believed that even through this horribly painful situation, beauty could rise, God allowed truth to prevail.
The painful season did need to happen because from it, seeds of love were planted in our son's heart...and soon these seeds began to take root and grow.
Now, several years later, our sweet child knows what unconditional love means for the first time in his life. He understands that when I say "I'm here" and "I'll love you no matter what", I mean it. It is from that situation that his trust in us, his new (forever) family, began.
When you've gone through incredible difficulty, how have you clung to God?
How do you remember that He is good?