Encouragement for Those in Tough Times

How your relationship with God will change and grow when you're struggling

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Posted in , Sep 25, 2014

Shawnelle and her husband Lonny with the sun on their shoulders

“Mom, may I have this old camera?” Gabe asks. He’s holding a digital camera that Lonny and I used a few years ago. It wasn’t a very good camera, and we upgraded soon after purchase. Today Gabe found it on the bottom shelf of Lonny’s bedroom cabinet – behind the plastic tub of Play dough toys he’d been rooting around for.

“I don’t know if it works,” I say. “Wait until Daddy’s home. He can change the batteries and see.”

Gabe agrees, and a few hours later, hands curled around the camera, he meets Lonny at the door.

“Can we get this working?” he asks.

And soon they’re hunkered over the dining room table.

Later in the evening I’m standing at basin of dishes when I hear a tumble of voices from the schoolroom.

“Look at me,” Sam says. “I was so small.”

I wipe my hands and follow the voices. Lonny and the three boys are jumbled on the sofa. The camera is working and they’re looking through pictures on the long forgotten disk.

Shawnelle and her husband Lonny with the sun on their shoulders“Look, Shawnelle,” Lonny says. “Pictures from the lake.”

I take the camera in my hands and peer at the screen. The pictures are from seven years ago. Lonny and I are standing close, backs to the lake’s variegated blues.

We’re smiling and my hair is blowing in the breeze. The sun is on our shoulders. Our five sons were somewhere near us, and we’re completely carefree.

I didn’t know that soon, that fall, we’d have struggles with two of our sons.

But I stood that day, kissed by summer and endless good things. I stood, in what I thought was seamless joy, having no idea of what was coming around the bend.

Oh, I wish that I could whisper to that unknowing, smiling, unsuspecting me.

I wish I could pull that mama aside and speak in tones of compassion. I’d hold her hand and share from the heart. Here is what I’d say:

Things will be tough. But you have a Savior who will understand your struggle. He’ll speak through His Word. He’ll speak into your life. He’ll encourage you. And His voice will be your sustaining grace.

Your relationship with your husband, in God’s goodness, will grow. You’ll love and understand and support one another in new ways. The struggles will stretch to the foundation of your marriage but the Lord will meet you there and will build you strong.

The Lord will also bring others to help you. To pray with you. To extend empathy and support and wisdom. His provision will be sufficient. His provision will be sweet.

Your trust in the Lord will grow. You’ll begin to understand His love for your children. You’ll cling to the truth that He will go with your children wherever they go. And slowly, in time, you’ll open your fist and release to Him what you hold most dear.

I hand the camera back to Lonny and the boys laugh as he continues to move through the pictures. I sidle in next to them and join the fun. There’s a shot of Gabe as a toddler. His hair is whiter than the sand. There’s one of Logan and Grant, giving a gun show, flexing pre-teen muscles on arms that are tanned brown.

And there’s one of the seven of us. Isaiah is a baby in a floppy sun hat and the bigger boys are making funny faces. The smile on my face comes straight from the heart.

There’s one more thing, I think, that I’d share with that mama in the photo:

Laugh when you can. Remember how to smile. Take the time to let the sun rest on your shoulders.

These things are sustaining graces.

And you’re going to be okay.

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