Last winter was tough. It was long, never-ending, with one hard blow after another. My sister with epilepsy was hospitalized with stroke-like symptoms, my dad was diagnosed with acute kidney failure and began dialysis, and we were told by our community’s management office that they may not let us renew our lease this year. We scrambled desperately to try and qualify for a mortgage and purchase a home in the middle of the worst inflation this country has seen in decades.
In the midst of all of that was the waiting. Waiting for my husband’s long-talked of, perpetually delayed promotion. Waiting for God to heal my sister, to heal my dad. Waiting to buy a house, like we have been for years. Waiting for job postings as I prepared to re-enter the workforce at full-time status for the first time in seven years.
During this bleak, difficult winter of 2022, I was part of a small prayer group at my church. We met once a week in January and February to pray over each other. A lot of us in this small group were struggling with waiting, with feeling fruitless, with asking, “My God, where are you? What are you doing?” We struggled with feeling abandoned. One week, our group leader, Margaret, shared a wonderful analogy that helped me through.
hard, barren, and dry...
Right then, it was winter – literally and figuratively. The ground was hard, barren, and dry. There was no sign of life, no sign of hope, or any indication of when this desolation would end. Yet God was working beneath the surface. He was strengthening our roots, preparing us for new growth. Soon – this very year – life would burst from the ground. That long-hoped-for new growth would occur; life would return, and we would see what God had been doing all this time. This I remember very well: she said that this new life may not be what we imagined. It may not look like what we had planned or what we had thought, but nonetheless, God would be faithful and show us in His time.
this new life...
Oh, was she right! Spring approached, then summer, and slowly – very slowly – everything began falling into place. In May, our office sent us lease renewal paperwork: we could stay! A huge blessing after being denied a mortgage and wondering where on earth we might end up. In August, I accepted a second adjunct position at the college of my dreams – a small, Christian university right down the road called Concordia. Shortly afterwards, my husband’s promotion was finalized, and the raise was even more than we had hoped for!
God proved Himself faithful! But this new life? This new life looks nothing like I imagined. There is still so much I am waiting for. My sister is still struggling with epilepsy, my dad has been on dialysis most of this year, close friends of ours that we’ve been praying for – for a miracle in their situations – we are still praying. My new job is an amazing blessing, but my anxiety has become so intense, it is debilitating at times. Imposter syndrome has stolen much of the joy that I should be experiencing in this wonderful blessing.
All last winter, through the barrenness, I was expecting new life to burst forth in a flawless, beautiful, perfect formation. Like at the end of Moana, when TeKa becomes TeFiti again, and the flora springs anew and spreads over the dry wasteland, covering everything in lush, green vegetation, so would my “new life” spring forth. All of the waiting, all of the darkness would be over.
But Margaret was right. It’s not what I expected. This new life is more like a labor, a long, difficult child labor that has only just begun. The first time I gave birth, I was in labor for over twenty hours, and I pushed for 120 grueling minutes. It was traumatizing. This “new life” right now is much more like the memory of giving birth. It’s long, it’s ongoing, it’s painful, messy, and I’ve often been ready to give up. There is so much I am still waiting on, amidst the new.
We have blessings, yes – better income, amazing new jobs – that I am so very thankful for. These things and more have come to fruition. But we are still waiting on several other prayers to be answered. Plus, many more things – many hard things – have also sprung up. My uncle has just been diagnosed with an aggressive, stage 4 brain cancer, and we’re not sure how long he has left. When I visited my parents last weekend, my dad was in a lot of pain and could barely walk. Meanwhile, owning a home is still a dream that seems so far off, our friends are still facing obstacles, and my sister still has seizures.
Life is messy right now. New life – giving birth to new life – is messy…
Yet there is still hope. Just because life hasn’t turned out as I thought, doesn’t mean that this is how it ends. It doesn’t mean that God isn’t good, that this is where He leaves me. I am asking you to not give up just because your “new life” isn’t what you expected (or maybe it still hasn’t arrived yet). His thoughts are higher than our thoughts; His ways are higher than our ways. There is a lot that I cannot make sense of right now. Just within my own life and those closest to me, I see a lot of injustice, a lot of suffering, and a lot of pain.
Jesus and Jesus only...
So what happens when the waiting ends? What I’ve learned is that the waiting hasn’t ended. Because what could end all of the darkness, all of the tragedy and corruption in this world? Who can bring an end to the trials we walk through? Jesus and Jesus only. It is Him that we are waiting for.
We may never understand on this side of eternity why all these horrific things happen. I know I cannot understand right now. Instead, I cling to the promises in His Word – whether or not I can make sense of them. Regardless of what my eyes see or my ears hear, I know that He is good. He is working all things together for the good of those who love him. We have the promise of heaven, the promise to one day see Him face to face. I have full faith that then – and perhaps only then – will all of this pain and labor make sense. We will finally see the fullness of His goodness and what He was doing through all of these troubles.
Cheryl is a wife, mother to two little girls, college professor, and Christ follower. She pours herself into serving her community through her church, and spends her free time cuddled up with a good book or baking a sweet treat!