What did you want to be when you grew up? A teacher, a police man, a doctor? As children (and even adults)...we typically have hopes, dreams and aspirations to grow up and be a "productive" member of society. We have expectations of getting married, starting a family, which may include a dog or other animal, and purchasing a home with the white picket fence. Well, we may not EXACTLY want a home with a white picket fence or a dog even...but, point is we have goals, aspirations, and certain expectations of how life should proceed...."as we grow up".
In addition, within reasonable expectation, most of us expect to lead a fairly healthy life. Isn't this the typical "American dream"? While we might have a cold here or there, "real" sickness is for "other" people.
What happens if some or ALL of your expectations don't come true? Or, if put another way...life can and often will throw us curve balls. What happens when unexpected trials come up in life? What happens then, when our dreams and expectations are crushed and MUST BE changed due to unexpected trials?
First, let me tell you a little story about me and my "American dream"; and then we'll discuss more about "unexpected trials" how they produce strength. Here is a little story about me:
I was considered "healthy" when my husband and I started dating, even though I had chronic migraines (that I had suffered and functioned from since I was a teenager). I had a successful career in social work, and when my husband (then boyfriend) proposed...we began developing so many dreams and aspirations for our life together. We were excited to embark on our new life together, as most newlyweds are.
We were married shortly after we were engaged; however, I began experiencing what is best described as "severe flu like" symptoms approximately 3 weeks after we returned from our honeymoon. For approximately the first 6 months of my married life, I was in and out of doctor's offices with bi-weekly to weekly doctor appointments, labwork, tests, etc., being poked and prodded. However, to be honest, I barely remember that time period in my life because I was so sick!!! I was eventually diagnosed with my chronic illnesses: fibromyalgia and CFS, in addition to other illnesses that tend to accompany like IBS, and of course my migraines. My road travelled since then has added some additional medical issues...but, my post is not meant to focus on the medical issues....it is meant to focus on something else.....
My focus is on the part "3 weeks after we returned from our honeymoon". I have been sick almost the entire length of our marriage!!! Talk about having to readjust your expectations of what we thought our marriage was going to look like!!! While marriage is a blessing, and I am blessed with my partner...we only know marriage basically with me and my chronic illness. (Clearly not what we were expecting when we said "I do" and "in sickness and in health" a mere 3 weeks prior). We only know how to schedule activities around "good days" as well as having to learn to adjust plans on a moments notice if for some reason I begin to start having some medical issue come up. We had to shift a complete 180 degrees in our expectations for our future. However:
Of course if I (as well as my husband) had a choice...I would not choose this path in life over a healthy one (no one would, really). Rather, I would choose one that seems to be filled with less cares, worries, and of course less pain. However, our journey "molds" us into the people we are...God does not give us more than we can handle...and I believe I was given the exact partner to walk hand in hand with as we experience this life and learn more of our Saviors love for us. Our "expectations" were shattered...and we had to rebuild new/real "expectations"....with lots of prayer, lots of love, and lots of support to and for each other.
No one is immune to unexpected trials. I share my story today to let you know that even though my illness was completly "unexpected" and has created many "trials"....relying on God and His promises through trials produces strength.. In addition, new expectations can be put in place...and, in the midst of all of it all...I can rest assured knowing that God is and will always be there to provide the strength that is needed to get me through. The following verses have been wonderful sources of encouragement and strength for reflection:
"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." James 1:12
"I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13 (one of my all time favorite verses in the Bible)
"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4: 16-18
There is a saying by Dolly Parton that I love..."If you want the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain." I love this saying because while sitting in the middle of a rain storm; it seems sad, ugly, sticky and depressing. However, afterwards...when the rainbow appears...it makes sitting through the rain worth it. The rainbow (God's promise to us) makes sitting through the rain worth it...sometimes trials in life are just that. While going through the trial...it feels like a GREAT BIG rain storm! However, once you make it to the other side and you see the "rainbow" and the "lessons learned", blessings, etc.; you understand the "rain storm/trial" that you encountered. I believe I wouldn't be as close to the Lord or my husband had it not been the rain/rain storms (unexpected trials).
Finally, I will say that I've learned many lessons due to my health "trials". I have even addressed this on my blog, Chronic Christian Crafter, in separate posts, such as my what is my purpose?, life lessons and perspective and several other encouragement posts here on my blog that address things that I've learned from my various unexpected trials. In addition, my illness has opened up a whole new area of outreach, friendship and ministry...because I no longer sympathize...I empathize (part of my blog's development and purpose is due to my illness/"unexpected trial"). And, no one is immune from "trials"...we will each face trials, big or small (and they may not just health related, which I addressed here, they come in all forms...financial, spiritual, emotional, etc). However, if nothing more is taken away than this:
While it is wonderful to have close family, friends, etc., to rely on for strength...ultimately...
WHEN WE ARE PRESENTED WITH UNEXPECTED TRIALS, GOD PROMISES STRENGTH. RELY ON GOD'S PROMISES!
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