Faithfulness of God, Trusting God in hard times

How Far Have You Come?

My daughter will turn 8 this week. Walking down the memory lane of these past 8 years, I have been thinking that I have come a long way in raising a special child. A few months right after her birth, when her unexpected diagnosis hit us hard, I had no idea of how I was going to survive. But I did, she did and we as a family did. In one of the early years of her diagnosis, I remember saying to my husband that I didn’t want to live. The time was so disheartening and the situation was so unbearable.

The most painful and helpless time in a Mother’s life is to see her child suffer continuously and without any end in sight. It’s emotionally and physically challenging. The pain crushes your heart every single day and the worst of all is, you just can’t walk away from it. I still remember the moment, when she was born. My mother and my husband were literally crying out of happiness. The nurses were puzzled as they thought, they were unhappy with the birth of a girl child. Little did anyone of us know, that in a few months’ time the tears of gladness would turn into tears of grief.

I wonder, if she was a normal child, how would she look being an 8- year old girl today? What would she say? What sort of thoughts and ideas would she have? By now, she would be of the age to demand her wishes, likes, and dislikes. Probably, she would choose her birthday dress, and even admire herself in front of the mirror. She would be in grade 3 and would have a lot of questions for me just like her brother does. But the reality of her life is far different than we could have ever imagined in our wildest dream. All we have is her presence with us but not her relationship, her voice, her sight, her thoughts, her feelings, her demands, her laughter, her hugs, and her touch.

Before she was born, I used to admire little girls in pretty frocks. And I so wished I had a girl child. And I still admire little girls but now I see Jennie in them. I hate to admit but sometimes I also feel injustice done to her. Why couldn’t she be like other kids? Why can’t my son have his sister to play with? Why can’t she simply enjoy her childhood? The forever unanswered questions will remain and I may not have them answered on this side of heaven.

Life moves on. Tears, prayers, hopes, heartaches…repeat – this has been my life’s pattern for these many years. I have survived it. There were questions about the validity of my faith. I survived them. There were endless sleepless nights and tiring days. I survived them. There have been loneliness, anger, suicidal thoughts, and despairs. I survived them. There were judgments, criticisms, stares, and mockery for the challenges we face. I survived them. Knowingly, unknowingly or maybe on purpose, I isolated myself from people. And being almost all alone on this different path, I survived it. By falling, rising, moving, and enduring, I have come a long way…

But it doesn’t matter how far I have come, how much I have faced, or how much I have endured. What matters most, is who has brought me this far? Who has walked before me? Who has given me the strength to withstand? Who has picked me up and carried me in the valley of sorrows?

When we look back, we are tempted to focus much on the amount and intensity of our pain and how long we have endured it, often overlooking who was with us in the journey of our hardships.

In life’s unexpected storm and in the lonely paths, God walks through them all with us.

How far we have come in facing life’s storms, isn’t about our strengths but His alone. Because the more we follow Him, the farther we can go. His strength reflects through our endurance and our faith in Him. Our glory in Him outweighs our momentary pains. As our battles on earth are never ours to fight alone. They belong to God. He is victorious and so we are in Him.

A few months back, I received a book named “New in the Middle – facing hardship and moving forward” as a gift, which was sent to me by my friend Sarah Jose. She is the author of the book. It’s a book about her life journey through physical disability, chronic pain, loss, hard questions, faith, healing of her soul, and the newness of her life’s meaning and purpose. Through her brilliant artwork, she shares a profound message through the book. The title says it all – Facing hardships and moving forward.

In this gift, there was a small note written for me which reads – ” Elizabeth, you are a hero! I know you don’t always feel like one. None of us do. This book is written for friends like you who are living well despite many challenges. Keep moving forward! – Love, Sarah

I have always thought a hero or a champion is someone who always overcomes, who is always a winner, and definitely not someone like me who falls many times. But over time, I realized that triumph doesn’t mean never falling but rising up after each fall. Having faith in God doesn’t cancel our sufferings instantly but it gives us strength to keep going. Our pain becomes our greatest strength in His kingdom. Sometimes, our biggest victory isn’t about overcoming but withstanding and moving ahead. In this context, moving ahead in our faith in God despite the challenges of life, believing in His Word over the negative voices, doubts, and even the unexplainable circumstances, focusing on Him rather than focusing on the trials, seeing our pain in the light of His glory, and choosing His relationship over the benefits of it.

How far we have come and how far we can go always depends on how far we will follow Jesus. The farther we follow Him, the farther we can go. Sometimes, following Him means carrying our crosses alongside but the journey will be worth it.

How far have you come?

God's Dream For The World, Trusting God in hard times

Imago Dei – When God’s Image Shows Up

Our smoothly sailing life got a little bit ruffled with both of our kids falling sick at the same time. What was thought to be a common cold and cough worsened with time and both of them were admitted in two different hospitals. 

My son developed breathing difficulties and was kept in ICU for a couple of days for oxygen support and my daughter was beginning to develop pneumonia and was being treated for the same.

Things got disoriented and due to the COVID protocol, it was a bit challenging to deal with all the hospital procedures. While my husband stayed with my son, I stayed with my daughter in the hospital.

It was the first time both of them fell very sick together and we found ourselves stressed out both physically and emotionally. When my son was admitted in the hospital, his absence in the home made me saddened. The silence at home sounded louder than the noise and mess he used to make being at home. For the first time the house looked tidy, everything in the house was in its place, except him. My daughter on the other side was struggling with her health challenges. The fever and increasing cough made her too weak. When Asher was discharged, the same day she was admitted.

This was a trying time for us as a family but God was with us. Most importantly, this time we could feel Him, hear Him, talk to Him, experience His help and His compassion, His touch, His assuring and comforting words and His presence in the most authentic and real ways. In other words we saw Him……

During this challenging period, we weren’t all alone. Our loving family members stood by us throughout this difficult time. Our friends came over to offer their help for the hospital stays and other related conveniences. The Esther prayer group’s sisters offered their continued prayers for us. Asher’s home-schooling community families supported us with their prayers and calls and few of my friends whom I had never met but who were just connected with me through the blog, backed me up with their messages and prayers. Also, we met very kind hospital staff and doctors who were so empathetic, caring and relational.

During my stay with my daughter in hospital, the nurses walked the extra mile with me as I looked after her. They helped me in ways which were not part of their duty. They offered their help in wonderful ways. When I was alone in the room with my daughter, some of the nurses would just come over to ask if I was OK. They would talk with me and listen long as I told them about Jennie. Some would simply visit to see if she was improving in her health. They called her “Vave” (baby) with love. They made sure that she gets less pain as they gently inserted cannula, gave injections and took out blood for the tests from her fragile hands. Every evening, a very graceful and softly-spoken catholic nun would visit the patients to pray for them. When she would visit us, she would run her fingers through Jennie’s hair and talk to her. She would spend extra time to know about her health.

Through these supportive, loving, kind, helpful and caring people, we experienced God’s constant presence with us in our hardships. He showed up through the people whom He put in our lives. 

I am a “let me carry my own cross” type person. I hesitate to take help from others. I am like that drowning man who trusts God for his rescue but refuses to take help from the people who are willing to help him. He believes that God will save him but He doesn’t realise that God is helping him through the people He has sent for his rescue.

In the creation narrative in Genesis, we read that God made man in His own image and likeness.

“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27

As I think deeply about this verse, I understand that God has endowed His attributes upon humans as He created them. Man is to show God’s invisible image through his visible life. It’s not that God possesses human-like features but it’s more about God’s Spirit which dwells in humans. God is invisible, He is a Spirit but He surely manifests himself through humans – His unique creations. Humans are the visible reflections, the imprints of the invisible God.   

In Asher’s English grammar syllabus, I was confused in classifying “God” as a concrete or abstract noun. Concrete nouns name a physical object which can be experienced with the five senses while abstract nouns are a concept, quality or condition which can’t be experienced with the five senses. We can’t sense God through five senses. We can’t see Him, hear Him, or touch Him. So how can we put God in the concrete noun category? We can…because the world He made is concrete. His Son Jesus whom He sent was in the human form and the human beings He created in His image and likeness are concrete too. Through them we can definitely sense God, His touch, His healing, His voice, His comfort, His assurance, His love, His kindness, His compassion and His blessings too.

I have no answers to the question, “why are sufferings there and why does God allow them?” But I am beginning to realise that it’s only in the midst of pain we can fully experience His healing touch; only in need we can fully experience His provision; only in brokenness can we fully experience His love; only in loneliness can we fully experience His presence; only in hardships and emotional upheaval can we fully experience His comfort and only in the life’s storms we can fully experience our faith in Him. When there is pain, there will be love, mercy, compassion, comfort, care and empathy and we as His image bearers are called to demonstrate them to the suffering world through our lives.

We are the “Imago Dei“, His image; the concrete reflection of Him to the world. Let others see Him and experience Him through each one of our lives! 

Faithfulness of God, Trusting God in hard times

When You Can’t Have Your Own Way!

A few weeks back, we as a family, shifted back from Maharashtra which is in the northern part of India to Kerala in the South. For safe and swift travel, we considered flying, as it takes just 2-3 hours. Also during this pandemic time, it felt more convenient to fly – especially for our 7 year old daughter who has special needs. 

But, sadly, our flight kept getting cancelled for some or other reason. This happened three times in a row. It was very frustrating the third day. Every morning when we would do all the preparations for travel and announce that we are leaving, the very next day the notification of flight cancellation from the airline would pop onto my husband’s phone. It was a puzzling moment.

Continue reading “When You Can’t Have Your Own Way!”
Faithfulness of God, Trusting God in hard times

When The Perfect Comes…

On 9th April, I received a voice mail from my friend Sheetal in the morning. A couple of months back, we were talking about God’s healing and about the same topic, she had shared her beautiful and deep insights with me. I listened to the mail and thanked her for her thoughtful message.

But little did I know that I would need her words in the next few weeks; or maybe, the voice message was preparing me in advance for the worst that was headed my way.

The very next day, my parents and my younger brother were tested positive for Covid -19. And within a few days’ time, my husband too was found infected by the virus. My biggest fear came true as the deadly virus had reached my dear ones when I least expected it.

Continue reading “When The Perfect Comes…”
Blog Post by Guest, Faithfulness of God, Trusting God in hard times

Because He Lives

Today, I am inviting my dear friend Sheetal Thakker to share her story of faith with us. She lives in Banglore, India. She is a wonderful person and a woman with a strong faith in Jesus. She will be sharing with us about her journey of her life’s unexpected storm and her experience as she chose to trust God amidst all the challenges. Welcome Sheetal!

Continue reading “Because He Lives”
Faithfulness of God, Trusting God in hard times

When Denial Comes After Resurgence

As I was making her sleep around midnight, looking at her innocent face in the dim night light, my heart melted. I felt a sudden heartache and I cried for my daughter as I held her close to me and kissed her on her forehead. I recalled all the struggles and pain she has been through in the last seven years of her life. I felt a deep pain for her remembering about her diagnosis. I thought, I was much stronger emotionally but I was not. The pain seemed still fresh for the situation my child is in.

According to the Swiss-American psychiatrist named Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, there are 5 stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

When we go through grief of a certain kind, our first reaction will be denial. We will be shocked and won’t be accepting the realities.

The second stage will be anger. We will feel angry at the situation, at people around us and sometimes at God for allowing the crisis.

The third one is bargaining. Secretly, we may make a deal with God in an attempt to postpone the crisis and the related pain.

The fourth stage is depression. The reality slowly sets in and we often feel sorry for ourselves and wonder why something like this could happen to us. The feeling of depression is often accompanied by the feeling of self-pity and of being a victim.

The fifth stage of dealing with grief is acceptance. We come to terms with the grief and begin to look to the future.

Once we have reached the acceptance stage in dealing with our grief, we move towards resurgence. In this phase we take full control of ourselves, our emotions, and the situation and begin to think about what we can do next to move ahead.

In relation to my daughter’s medical condition, I have been through almost all these stages and I was pretty much sure I was in the resurgence phase, as for quite a long time I could maintain my emotions, keep myself motivated through each day and keep my constant faith in God for her life. But a few days back, I had a relapse and it felt sudden and severe. I couldn’t hold myself anymore in the resurgence phase. I felt shattered.

My heart pained for her to the extreme that all I wanted to scream was; “God, why does my child have to suffer? why does she have to live such a difficult life? What is her fault? It isn’t fair that she is suffering? Why she gets to have such a dependent life and struggle every day?” As I held her close to me, I let my tears flow for her. For a moment, I couldn’t accept the hard realities of her life and I kept crying through the night. It seemed like I had almost gone back to the denial stage – all the way back….

However, in the midst of this sudden surge of grief, as I prayed for her, I remembered Jesus on the cross and the agony He had to go through. Was it fair that God had to send His son to die for my wrongdoings? Nope! It wasn’t fair that Jesus’s innocent blood to be shed for me, it wasn’t fair that He was mocked, stripped off His clothes, whipped, beaten and crucified on the cross ruthlessly. But it’s God’s love for me which caused Him to see the painful sight of His child suffering on the cross. His heart pained just the way my heart pains seeing my child suffer. But this was the way I was going to be accepted, forgiven and loved. God definitely cared for my pain and understood how I felt. This insight into my heart made me surrender to His sovereign plans for Jennie and to know that He loves her more than I do. Though I don’t have all the answers and can see only the half picture but I know the ONE who sees the full picture of her life. I just need to have faith in Him.

I fell asleep and woke up the next day with swollen eyes and a headache but relieved and consoled heart. And I no longer found myself in the denial stage but the resurgence stage again with a renewed hope and His just enough grace on my life for the very day. I am not sure if I will ever be fully in the resurgence stage. I may have the emotional relapse from time to time but this is where I will always need God’s mercy to carry me through. With Him by my side there will be His hope in between all these stages and no matter which stage I slip back to, I will always come back to the resurgence stage and see my pain in the light of His glory!

I pray, you too find His strength and assurance in those most hurting and questioning moments of your lives, experience His deep and abiding hope when you are weak in your burdens and see your pain in the light of His glory. And when you question ” why me Lord, it isn’t fair?” Let God’s mercy carry you through revealing each moment His greatest & painful sacrifice and selfless love for you!

“Weeping may remain for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning”. Psalm 30:5

Encouragement, Trusting God in hard times

Chrysalis – A place of death and a new life

As a part of my son’s 3rd grade curriculum, he was to learn about the life cycle of a butterfly. So, the other day I was doing a little bit of research on it to teach him in a better way. Even though I knew the four stages of its life cycle, I never had a detailed probe into knowing much about butterflies. And most importantly, to teach him better, I needed to first understand it better 🙂

So, as I searched for some videos and pictures about the different stages of this tiny, beautiful creature, I was mostly fascinated with the 3rd stage of its growth. It’s the pupa which is also called “chrysalis”. Well, we all know that the caterpillar is to remain in the pupa for few days to be transformed into an adult butterfly. But there’s still something else interesting I have found about it.

If you open the chrysalis in the middle of the process, there is just some sticky liquid substance in there and not a caterpillar which is having a cosy nap inside the shell until it gets its wings. In fact, during this stage, the caterpillar’s old body dies and a new body begins to form. The caterpillar has to fall apart completely. And from this liquid state, it starts to put itself together to become the beautiful being it is designed to be.

And another amazing thing is the word “chrysalis”. It is derived from Greek which means “golden” because of the golden threads which surround the green of the chrysalis.

Chrysalis – The tough times of life

You probably have heard in many inspiring messages about this chrysalis stage and how it represents the tough times of our lives which are actually the transformation times for us. But most often, when we actually find ourselves in this phase, all we want is to come out of it, assuming that sufferings aren’t meant for the believers of Christ. Often times, we tend to devalue our chrysalis stage. But in reality, the very sufferings of our Saviour was the only perfect way for us through which we could know God and have a personal relationship with Him. There is a Cross right in the centre of the Gospel we believe in.

Chrysalis is the place of deep transformation

While stuck in the chrysalis stage, we keep on asking God to remove the uncomfortable and ugly looking shell of our hardships and grief from our lives. We want Him to change our circumstances but He wants us to be changed in the process of it.

Because, the deeper work within our souls takes place only being in the Chrysalis.

Our faith is refined being in the Chrysalis.

The most crucial life lessons are learnt being in the Chrysalis.

Our relationship with our Master Creator is deepened being in the Chrysalis.

The inessential parts of our character are shredded being in the Chrysalis.

And just the way the caterpillar is made into a beautiful butterfly being in this uncomfortable, dark and inactive place, you and I are best prepared for the very purpose of our lives being in the Chrysalis.

Do you find yourself stuck in the chrysalis?

I don’t know which metamorphosis stage you are in at present. If you have got your wings, praise God! but if you find yourself stuck in the Chrysalis, the place where you feel nothing is happening, where you see the darkness of your pain and hardships, where you feel like you are falling apart each day and where everything feels so stuck, dead and inactive, I want to encourage you to trust the process, surrender to it, embrace it and wait until the process works its best, re-creating you into everything you are meant to be, giving you the glorious wings of your purpose and reflecting the majesty of your Heavenly Father in and through your life.

And no matter how your chrysalis feels to you, remember it will always be covered with the golden threads of strength, assurance, love and grace of your Master Designer. He will be watching you throughout the process and trusting His ways, His plans and His heart of love in the midst of your chrysalis will be the ultimate way to your metamorphosis.

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5