Our lives took a painful, unexpected turn. It became difficult to quickly transition to the Florida plan, but we were still convinced of the kingdom importance of this project. So he went.
I groggily kissed him goodbye at 4:30 last Monday morning, crawled back into bed and eventually drifted off to sleep again. When I woke up, I was determined to be a strong mom for the seven days Daddy would be gone. I would menu plan and get groceries right off the bat and orchestrate just enough activities to keep us merrily occupied.
And I wouldn't cry. At least, not too much.
As I anticipated the solitary evenings, I figured that having a list of page-turner books and sappy chick flicks on hand would be helpful. So I put out a facebook plea, asking for recommendations. I got quite a few, jotted them down and prepared to attack the week.
The next day, I saw that I had a book on hold at the library. It was a book, however, that I had placed on hold months ago. The timing was perfect and I figured that Kisses From Katie would be a good start for my quiet evenings.
It was more than a good start. It was perfect. I spent my evenings reading of a young woman who has devoted her life to Jesus by serving the broken and hurting in Uganda. Her love for Jesus was so contagious that, as I read, I found myself craving the Word of God.
My evening routine quickly morphed into a thrilling double feature: Kisses from Katie and the Bible. I forgot about my chick flicks and novels and simply couldn't get enough of God's Word. I truly knew what the Psalmist meant when he said, "His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night." (Psalm 1:2)
My friend Annie and I have been talking lately about how our lives would be different if we were to always consult God's Word first before making a decision. Or how powerful it would be to grab our Bible before heading out to run errands rather than a novel or magazine. What if the Word of God became the only Word that we truly cared about?
Around this time I was (coincidentally) reading Catherine Marshall's book, To Live Again, which tells of her journey to healing after the death of her husband. As she faced the grief and the hammering questions that engulfed her, she made a powerful discovery:
I wanted authoritative answers. If I asked other people or even read books on the subject, I would at best merely be getting other people's opinions. Therefore, I went directly to the most authoritative source I knew -- the Scriptures. And I discovered what I should have known before -- that when you and I go to the Bible out of great need to learn what it has to say to us, it is then that we get real help.
Indeed, I was beginning to see this realization take shape in my own life. Just a few days after Annie and I began this discussion, I ran smack into this gem in 1 Kings, where I just happened to be in my daily reading: "First seek the counsel of the Lord." (1 Kings 22:5)
Ahem. Sometimes my brain requires the obvious.
With these discussions and revelations on my heart, it seemed especially crucial during those long days without my husband that I purpose to seek the Lord's counsel, encouragement and wisdom.
As I did so, God's Word became my delight in a new and powerful way. And it was a good thing. By the end of the week I was exhausted. The Lord knew I would be, and He had lovingly encouraged me and strengthened me to build my fortresses for what lay ahead. Throughout the week He had brought friends and family to pray for me, drink tea with me, visit with me, and write me words of hope and encouragement. He filled me with His Word and with His Truth.
By Saturday night, however, I was a downright mess. Jamie was far away, my emotions were raw, and I needed the comfort of my husband. Again, the Lord knew this. He drew my eyes almost immediately to the book of devotions I keep out on the bathroom counter. The passage for the day? "I am married unto you." (Jeremiah 3:14)
It was a tad surreal. But it was true. Jesus was all I needed in that moment. Although I still longed for my husband's return, I was comforted by the knowledge that I got to spend my evenings with the Lord.
I slipped into bed that night, switched on my bedside lamp, and fell into the routine I had come to love: Kisses from Katie followed by time in God's Word. Katie's words that night seemed to leap from the page. I grabbed a piece of paper and copied down that which I was beginning to understand:
We must know sorrow to be able to fully appreciate joy.
I read eagerly. Hungrily. I read the Psalms and I nodded my assent as the tears splashed down my cheeks. I knew what it felt like to praise. And I knew what it felt like to doubt. I knew what it felt like to rejoice. And I knew what it felt like to weep. The Lord continued to faithfully bring passages of hope and encouragement to my heart, and that aching heart began to swell with gratitude.
Annie had shared a verse with me earlier that day that again came to mind as I finally turned off the lamp. She encouraged me to remember that it is in these times of darkness that we truly see the light: "I will give you the treasures of darkness . . ." (Isaiah 45:3) God was indeed revealing these treasures in my sorrow and loneliness.
As I tried to relax my body that night, praying that sleep might finally claim my exhausted little self, I found that I still couldn't stop sobbing. My mind was filled with faces and voices and words of encouragement from the week and yet the tears wouldn't stop. I tried to pin-point the emotion. It was different than grief. It didn't hurt in quite the same way. It wasn't loneliness. Jesus was there. And it wasn't despair. The Lord had faithfully continued to give me a spirit of hope.
And then, almost suddenly, my body relaxed. The tears stopped and I came to a realization. The light had dawned. The treasure of this darkness had been revealed and I finally knew what I was feeling. It was joy.