Editor’s Note: We received so many comments about the three testimonies shared at our recent women’s meeting that we asked the ladies for permission to share them here on the blog, which they graciously granted. This is Sheri’s story, as shared at the breakfast.
Often we Christian pilgrims hear from the Lord in unique and precious ways as we go through deep valleys, difficult trials, and dark times. It’s not so much a lifeline thrown to us from God as it is His lifeblood pulsing through our minds and souls as we walk on and keep going. Through trial, our awareness of God and His kingdom is sharpened.
This past COVID year, in particular, I’ve experienced an uptick in my sensitivity to the Lord and His deep love for me and all of humanity.
O the deep deep love of Jesus vast unmeasured boundless free. Roaring like a mighty ocean in its fullness over me. This hymn lyric has uniquely anchored my soul in Christ and Christian doctrine these past several years. As numerous trials have swept over my head and I feel like I’m drowning in sorrow, Jesus tilts my face to His and speaks these lyrics over me. I am not alone. Never alone. Sometimes though, my eyes stay in a perpetual sort of puffiness, as tearful days turn into weeks. In these times the deep, deep love of Jesus is no less real, it’s just not nearly as visual, nor tangible. I just can’t see or feel His love, like how dark storm clouds obscure the sun. The sun is still there, of course, giving us bits of light even on a gray day; it’s just impossible to see its brilliance or feels its warmth.
During COVID, most of us were experiencing bouts of despair, sadness, and “trial fatigue.” It seemed like the whole world was groaning under the weight of this invisible, microscopic foe. Our everyday tedium turned into weighty issues, and larger trials further suffocated. In the course of last year, I found myself needing Jesus not just for daily bread, but daily breath.
Early in 2020, we had a dear Chinese high school student living with us. As COVID heated up, our relationship with her became strained and tedious due to her fears. She was paralyzed with anxiety over COVID, and her parents advised her to quarantine in her bedroom from March into May until she could return to China. Nothing we could say or do helped to ease her fears. She left her room only to use the bathroom. That’s it. She ate packaged food sent from China and would not speak to us except through her bedroom door. She wanted no help, no advice, no interactions. Our once healthy and fun relationship with her deteriorated quickly. Despite all the ways we had loved and served her in the prior six months, she became skeptical of our motives towards her, and bitterness towards our family set in. This is how our 2020 year began.
In May of 2020, we had to say goodbye to our dear, healthy Labrador retriever who died unexpectedly. Anyone who has loved and lost a pet can relate to our sorrow. Added to the COVID strain, it seemed cruel of my Heavenly Father to suddenly take away our family dog who we all adored.
As the COVID-19 fallout continued, many people were wracked with varying degrees of depression and desperation. For one of my children, it was horribly difficult to walk on and keep going. All of the normal routines of college life that helped her manage her symptoms in the past were taken away. After severe mental and emotional pain threatened to end her life, she courageously and wisely chose to enter an in-patient treatment center. We were not allowed any contact with her except a brief phone call once a day using a facility phone. I felt out of control and further assaulted by COVID regulations and restrictions.
Furthermore, during this same time, our beloved oldest daughter who lives in another state underwent gender transformation surgery. Several years ago she left home to actively pursue a lifestyle that we could not support in our home. This was yet another step towards her desire to express her identity as male rather than female. In spite of all the countless monumental events canceled in 2020, her complete mastectomy went forward as planned. God felt far away, unconcerned. My heart felt like shattered glass. It seemed impossible to mend my brokenness. The amount of “deaths” to self, to my dreams, to my hopes, to happiness, even to my prayers …was overwhelming.
My husband and I “grew up” a lot last year. We grew up in greater dependence on our God and learned how to navigate trials together. Although we were no strangers to significant trial, once again we had to purpose to work together, not independent of one another. We worked hard not to lose our First Love, and we fought hard to keep our marriage from fraying apart.
It is not cliche to say that God kept us from sinking in the sea of trials and pain. It is not wistful or naive to say that Jesus Christ and His church kept our marriage and family from chaotic destruction. It is not “religion” that made us feel better and overcome our odds. And it is no accident that caused COVID-19 to span our globe. God’s sovereignty never changes. He is never not in control.
How do I know? Because I know that My Redeemer lives, and in the end, He will stand on the earth. Nothing, absolutely nothing, escapes His pure purposes, His boundless love, and His compassionate control over all of His creation. And that, dear sisters, is the comfort of all comforts. Not “religion,” but my relationship with Jesus Christ is the only reason I can stand and say: Underneath me, all around me, is the current of His love. Jesus Christ lived the perfect life I could not, died the death I deserve, and gave me new life by crushing death under His feet when He walked out of the tomb. These truths fueled by God’s Word (which backs every truth) are my source of life and hope and help. This was true prior to and during the pandemic, and it’s true always. God simply used COVID to magnify my need for Him, for His Word (consistent Bible study), for my family, and for my precious brothers and sisters in Christ, His church. The local church and the church universal cannot die. Nothing, nothing, nothing can separate us from our Father.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus!
Love of every love the best
Tis an ocean vast of blessing,
Tis a haven sweet of rest.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus!
Tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory,
For it lifts me up to Thee.