By Amy Wiebe
I have listened to many a sermon on how to face struggles with grace. And I get it. There is SO much we will inevitably struggle with in life. Understanding how to navigate our struggles is such an important life skill. Depending on Jesus through them is a critical faith skill.
In Jen Hatmaker’s new book, For the Love, she talks about sweet families and salty families. My family is unequivocally salty. I resonated with Jen’s salty family right away. In contrast, I started reading Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, when it was published a few years ago. Ann is sweet. There may be some salty in there somewhere, but if so, this reader hasn’t found it. I admire Ann and her beautifully lyrical language, but I cannot relate to it. As it turned out, however, One Thousand Gifts changed my life.
It was a simple story that did it for me. Ann wrote about how her son injured his hand working on their farm. After they arrived home from the hospital, Ann told her mom, “He didn’t lose the hand.” Her mom replied, “By God’s grace.”
Ann went on to question whether God’s grace would have been any less present if her son had, in fact, lost his hand.
This was a question I had never before considered.
Does that not imply we don’t fully believe and trust that God works everything out for our good, no matter how bad things look? When the Bible says God works it ALL for our good (Romans 8:28), it means everything. Even the stuff we don’t like, the stuff that hurts, the stuff we wish we could avoid.
I’m the first to admit, it’s a hard truth. And let me share: I’ve been through some struggles. Worse than some people’s and not as bad as others’, of course. My mother had brain cancer when I was in junior high. She survived, but it was a challenging road. Early on in my marriage, in my mid-thirties, I was diagnosed with chronic daily headaches. Not that this needs an explanation, but chronic headaches are exactly what they sound like. Pain. In the head. All day, every day. I had them for over five years. Many struggles surfaced in my marriage and other relationships during that time. My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage three days before we made a big announcement about it to our combined families. And then my mother-in-law passed away when our firstborn daughter was five months old. She was so excited to be a grandparent, and she only got to meet Ellie once.
What we often fail to discuss, though, is how to handle the blessing. My husband and I are in such a season now. God clearly and without question asked us to move to Denver in the fall of 2012. He has been moving us toward a church plant and has been clearly directing our steps at every turn. (I often feel like Wayne and Garth–we’re not worthy!) While the last three years have not been without struggle, it has been so minor in the grand scheme of our lives. I have been blessed with a job I love that supports us so that my husband doesn’t have to rely on support for the church plant. Our kids are all happy and healthy. We have good friends and family in our lives. My husband and I have spent many a night in our hot tub (yet another blessing, but one I think every person who lives in Colorado should have) talking about how amazing it is to know we’re in the center of God’s will right now.
In our current church context, there are big struggles. Huge. There’s cancer, abusive marriages, kids on the wrong path, financial challenges, parents passing away, and more. It truly feels uncomfortable to be in a season of blessing when so many around us are hurting or longing for the direction from God we currently cherish.
The reality is, we all have our struggles, and we all have our blessings. It’s definitely not all in proportion, and it often feels unfair.
Right now, my family is resting in the blessings. But we’re starting a church plant – for those of you feeling envious, our struggles will come again. I wish I could promise those of you who are currently in the midst of struggles that they will end. But I can’t, because I don’t know when or even if they will.
But I do know God is good. All the time. And his grace is always there.
Amy Wiebe is a Jesus follower, wife, mom of three, church planter, finance director, and lover of sarcasm and deep conversation with friends. She also loves camping, rafting, skiing, sewing, and having people over. Amy blogs with her husband at fringechurch.com.
Photograph by, foundry&co.