Reconciling tragedy with praise

I know a woman who has endured some tragic circumstances in her life.

For the most part, her childhood was ideal.  She grew up in a small town with married parents, three brothers and a sister.  They didn’t have a lot of money, but they always had enough.  They went to church every Sunday, and God was very central in their family life.

At the age of 17, she survived a tornado while lying in a ditch at an amusement park.  The twister went right over the park, causing a lot of damage in its path.  This was not her first encounter with tornadoes, but she had never been outside in the middle of one.  It was the first traumatic experience of her life.

She married at the age of 20 and had her first child just shy of her 22nd birthday.  Three years later, her second child died at birth of unknown causes.  Her first child was nearly attacked by a mental patient while recovering in the hospital from dehydration, and her third child nearly died from pneumonia.  Her husband was diagnosed with epilepsy and suffered serious injuries after seizures brought on by being prescribed the wrong medication.  All these medical issues led them into thousands of dollars in debt.

Seven months after losing her baby, her father (who was a pastor) announced he had been having an affair and left her mother after 41 years of marriage.  She did all she could to help her mother through the shock and devastation, but her once-close family was never the same.

All of the stress took its toll on her marriage, and she divorced at the age of 28.  She worked full-time and struggled to make ends meet for herself and her two children.  Although she believed in God, she walked away from the church for a long time, feeling scorned by fellow believers because of her divorce.

Eventually, an old friendship turned into a flame, and she remarried.  She had to move her children hundreds of miles away from their father, and the difficulty of visitation issues ensued.  Blended families on both sides of the situation presented new challenges as well.  Fortunately, she drew near to God and became part of a church family once again.  Her faith became strong as she grew in knowledge and wisdom of the Lord.

A few years ago, her husband lost his job.  During his time of unemployment, the woman’s father was diagnosed with cancer and died six months later.  She had forgiven her father and made peace with him, but that only deepened her loss.  Over the next six months, her husband remained jobless, and she lost four additional family members who were close to her.  Then, her beloved dog, just four years old, was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died a month later.  It was a dark time for her spiritually and emotionally, and her faith was rocked to the core.

Not long after, her father-in-law began to fail in health.  His life hung in the balance for many months.  Many times, prayers were lifted and he recovered, but eventually God called him home.  She felt as though she had lost another father.

I’m sure you’ve read accounts of other people’s lives that were much more dramatic or tragic, but this one has special meaning for me because…well…the woman I wrote about IS me.

I’m sometimes shocked to look back on my life and realize all that I have endured.  This time of year, we talk a lot about giving thanks.  And it’s true, I have a lot to be thankful for – far more than I could ever list in a blog post.  Praise is the sister of thanksgiving, and that’s where my heart is today.

When I was in the midst of a season of great loss, I meditated on Psalm 42 almost every day:
I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”
My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

I would read these words, emphasizing the word “will” as a choice to believe in God’s faithfulness to me.  It was a mental choice I had to make because everything within me felt to the contrary.  I felt abandoned by God.  Yet, the truth was I would not always feel that way, and I HAD to believe it, no matter how hard.

It’s been a few years since that season.  This summer, I found myself reflecting on all of this.  I discovered I could see God’s hand in so much of the pain I endured, but there were still some wounds that had not healed.  I could see no purpose in them – nothing that made sense.

Then I heard a pastor speak about the Wedding Feast of the Lamb and how it relates to events in our lives that seem senseless.  He reminded me of the new perspective I will have once in heaven: God’s perspective.  He quoted Revelation 15:3, where we (the saints) will sing, “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty.  Just and true are your ways.”  The pastor said, “You’re going to say it then, you might as well say it now!  Just and true are your ways, God!”  In other words, praise.  Choosing to praise what is true.

For some of the difficulty in my life, I’m already able to praise with all my being and feel truly thankful for enduring it.  For the rest of it, I say, “I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”

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2 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    Posted November 19, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    Lisa- I of course knew you were describing yourself, but felt as if you were describing my life:) God is good and will one day say to you, "Well done, my good and faithful servant"!!

  2. Laura
    Posted November 20, 2010 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    Wow, thanks for sharing that Lisa. I love the line "You're going to say it then, you might as well say it now." :) It's a tough thing to bring myself to even think that way about certain things– in reference to that verse.

    Thanks for telling about your life. I'm so glad you've let God make you who you are. I love who you are :)

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