Awhile back I was told to choose one word that would be my goal… a word that I would keep striving for. It was a challenge something akin to making a New Year’s resolution but more general and easier to pursue without the proverbial toppling off the wagon that usually goes along with resolutions. Just choose a word and keep it in your mind all the time. I chose “heal.” It was an obvious choice. After the past 3 years of painful loss, it was definitely time for some healing. I was all like, “Bring it on! Let’s be healed this year!”
Very quickly, I realized there was a much better word for me. God dropped it into my lap one afternoon, and it has stayed in my mind daily. It’s for those who are going through a season of grief… A season where nothing makes sense, and things didn’t happen they way they were supposed to…. A season of pain or loss… A season of winter.
One little word… But unbelievably powerful.
Jesus says it repeatedly in John 15..
“I am the vine, and you are the branches…. Remain in me, and I will remain in you…”
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.”
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you…”
“If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing…”
8 times he repeated this word in the same chapter. Over and over again. And then he dropped it into my lap during the winter season I found myself in.
I have experienced the power and game changing nature of this one simple word.
After experiencing a major loss last year I found myself more than once on the bathroom floor sobbing uncontrollably and didn’t feel like I could get through it. It was more than I could bear. I couldn’t understand why God had asked us to walk through something that would leave us so hurt, broken, and empty-handed.
I made a choice that day on the floor that I would honor God despite my swirling emotions and heartbreak. A choice is not a feeling… Let’s be clear on that. What I FELT was raging anger, confusion, devastation, loss, humiliation, and depression. I didn’t FEEL like honoring God. I didn’t FEEL like being in a relationship with Him or even speaking to Him. But I have decided to follow Jesus, and that decision is not based on circumstances or feelings.
I chose to REMAIN in my relationship with God. I chose to remain steadfast in my faith and to believe in everything I know to be true of His nature, power, goodness, and wisdom. I decided to plant my feet and remain.
It was so hard. I had to drag myself through the doors of my church every week. I didn’t want to be there, but every week I would stand and say, “You are God, and I am here for no other reason than to acknowledge who you are.” I would cry the whole time. I cried every single Sunday for 4 months. Every. Single. Time. I even stopped wearing mascara on Sunday mornings, because I knew what was coming.
I would sit and read my Bible and feel nothing, but I kept going. Every day I would talk to God and hold nothing back. Angry talk. Sad talk. Irrational talk. Emotional vomit. You name it. But always in the end, I would bow my head and acknowledge that His ways are higher than mine, and I would continue to trust Him. He is big enough to handle all that I threw at Him. I remained in conversation and dialogue with Him and chose not to shut down or block Him out.
I remained His child through my season of winter. I kept showing up at His doorstep like a helpless worn out ragamuffin and plopping down to say “I’m here. I won’t walk away from you. I’ve got nothing to offer except a whole bunch of shattered pieces and broken dreams. But I refuse to walk away. Where else could I go?? Who else in the universe is worth one second of my allegiance?”
I felt like Peter in the Bible after many of Jesus’ followers got a dose of the reality and truth about following Him… The truth that it isn’t all roses and involves a great deal of pain and sacrifice. So many of those followers couldn’t accept it or swallow that bitter pill and ended up walking away from Jesus, refusing to associate with him anymore. Jesus asked his 12 disciples if they would do the same, and Peter humbly blurted out, “Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We’ve already committed ourselves, confident you are the Holy One Of God.”
There I was every day with my Bible open in front of me saying, “To whom else could I go? You have the words of life.” Every day I reminded myself of what is true about God and what He says is true about me. On days when I wasn’t strong enough or sank into mud pits of clouded emotions, my precious friends would remind me of these truths and refuse to let me wallow.
I remained and refused to let go of my anchor of hope. When my tiny ship of emotions was tossed in a sea of grief or stormy despair, God would gently reel me back in, because I remained anchored in Him and never cut loose from that anchor. He kept me centered and held. I could never stray too far before He would draw me back.
One Sunday, I stood in church feeling low as usual, and a gentle voice breathed into my spirit, “It’s going to be ok. Everything is going to be ok. I’ve got you, and it’s time to let go of the pain. It’s time to live again.” I didn’t cry… For the first time in months, I didn’t cry. I felt complete peace like a healing ointment cover me entirely. I haven’t been the same since then. I still have sad moments sometimes, and I still have no answers or understanding of why things happened the way they did. But I’m ok with that. He’s got me, and He holds the answers in His hands. I trust Him.
I feel the winter wind subsiding. In the quiet, I know spring is coming. I wait expectantly.
Following God will lead you into hard places… sometimes heartbreaking places… sometimes confusing places…. sometimes unthinkable tragedy. You might not even get the answers to why things happen the way they do. You might not get your version of a happy ending. But I promise the happy ending will be better than you could have imagined on your own… If you REMAIN.
This weekend, I had a rough moment while driving home from the store. I heard of other happy endings that made me angry and full of self pity. I said to God, “I can’t help but feel like you just don’t want me on your team.” God said, “Sweet child. You obeyed me and did what nobody else would have done. Thank you.” The tears streamed down my face as I hoarsely whispered, “But I got hurt.” He gently replied, “But you are letting me heal you while so many others get angry and bitter and run around trying to heal themselves. You stayed with me.” When God says “thank you,” the ONLY thing you feel is the desire to pull over on the side of the road and fall down on your face in indescribable reverence. I was overcome completely.
Plant your feet in the midst of your winter. Remain!!
Remain in conversation with your God.
Remain in His house.
Remain in your Bible.
Remain anchored in hope.
Remain in your decision to follow Jesus.
When you don’t feel like it at all… when you really don’t want to… Remain!
I can’t tell you how worth it that choice will be. I can’t tell you how beautiful the horizon will look when you wake up one morning and see spring on the way. It may take weeks, months, years, or even a lifetime, but one day you WILL feel the sweet gentle breeze of spring touch your face. REMAIN.
My healing is happening. I don’t need it to be my word of the year, because I don’t need to strive for it. I don’t need to run around trying to heal myself. I only need to remain planted and rooted in my God, and He does the rest. I know my spring is coming. I feel the shifting air…