PLUS OR MINUS?
It’s amazing, isn’t it how many minuses life dishes out and how few pluses by comparison, so it seems. When you look back over your own life, as I do over mine, what stands out for you? Hard times, tough experiences, bitter memories or reverses of one kind or another? Dark shadows across the landscape of your life?
I can think of the many days, weeks, and months of hardship and suffering I endured which I would have exchanged for better ones any day. After my marriage, I had four sons in quick succession, four in four and three-quarter years, all single births. For a while, we lived in a new area where we had no telephone. I had no car – we could only afford one – and I was housebound with four young children.
My husband not only worked all day but he spent most evenings, and often deep into the night doing his “ministry” which left me alone with my children and unable to make contact with the outside world if anything went wrong.
My fifth pregnancy, a longed-for little girl ended in a stillbirth at thirty-five weeks. In a fit of rage during which the umbilical cord went into spasm and formed a clot, my baby died in my womb. Shortly after that, we moved to another town where my husband had accepted a call to pastor a small church.
For a while, things went well but the unfinished business of my husband’s childhood haunted our relationship. During our stay in that town, I lost two more pregnancies; my husband was voted out of the church and had to seek secular employment; we sent my eldest son to boarding school because he was unhappy in the local dual-medium school and we as husband and wife became more and more estranged because of the anger which masked his emotional pain.
Once again, we had to move because my husband had alienated himself from his work colleagues. He was excellent at his job but his emotional pain from early childhood kept him from forming meaningful relationships. A post became vacant in the town where my eldest son was in boarding school. We moved there and were able to bring him back into our family circle.
Unfortunately, his years away from home had alienated him from us and he, too manifested a great deal of anger. Our family life was turbulent, to say the least. It was painful for me as a mother to watch unresolved anger eroding the family’s bonds, one child damaging another through anger and aggression and to see a father slowly destroying any hope of true father/son togetherness because he did not know how to be a father.
The outcome was inevitable. When three of my sons were out of the house and the fourth close to completing his schooling, I was thrown out of my home, leaving my youngest son in his father’s care. I filed for divorce but I had no home to which to take my son. I lived for a while in the nurses’ home near the hospital where I worked and for six months house sitting for a doctor who worked at the hospital.
This sounds like a bleak picture, doesn’t it?
The Apostle Paul made a statement of ringing assurance to which I can say, “Amen’” with all my heart.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).
As painful as many of my life experiences have been, with hindsight I can say with confidence that God turned them to good. He is in the business of restoration, from the reverses in our individual lives all the way to the restoration of all things at the end of the age.
How could I have felt and known the greatness of God’s love in the midst of my loss had He not allowed me to go through it? How could I have experienced the many times He provided for me when I had nothing if I had not gone through tough times? Even the property I prayed for, debt free, to run a Bed and Breakfast and the expertise to be a business woman with no training or know-how were miracles of God’s loving provision. He turned my minuses into pluses.
He turned every tragedy into a blessing which has enriched my life, given me ever-increasing confidence in His love and goodness and enabled me to minister to others in their pain. The mountain peaks of suffering, pain and loss have been transformed into vantage points from which I now view the panorama of God’s greatness – love, mercy, compassion, miracles, healing,and renewal.
My sons are now husbands and fathers. God is taking each one on his own journey of restoration – fathers learning to father their own children as they respond to the revelation of God’s love for them; brothers experiencing reconciliation and the joy of being a family again. My life has been renewed as the Father has loved me and revealed that love through a loving family, both my own blood family and the blood-bought family of His children.
How much richer our lives would be if we anticipated good things to come out of our painful experiences instead of becoming hard and bitter when our lives go “pear-shaped!” I am learning, instead of sitting down in a bundle of misery and bewailing my hardships, to declare with confidence, “God will turn even this to my good and His glory.
And, best of all, I know that in the end, His plan is to restore in me and in you the beautiful image of His Son, Jesus.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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