Right around this day two years ago, Michael and I walked into our monthly Domestic Church circle meeting at the home of some close friends in the circle, the Romeros. We came in the back door, and everyone was chatting about the big new playset that the Humble Handyman (my hubby) had just recently finished helping to renovate in their backyard. Michael and our friend Jason had really done a wonderful job with it. My dear friend Lauren was telling the other ladies how much her three children were loving it.
And suddenly I burst into tears in front of everyone.
Since selling our small business and moving back to Louisiana, we had been living with my parents for almost year and a half at that point, with no clear end in sight. We had just spent our second Christmas in my parents’ home. Michael was plowing through the early months and years at a tough new job in a brand-new field, and I was staying home and raising our young children. We continued to struggle with discernment on finances, on being open to another baby after a surprise pregnancy that ended in miscarriage, on our living situation, on marital tension, and on his job, we would get into bed at night and feel…so tired of waiting for things to turn around for us. We felt like we had prayed the exact same prayer for guidance, discernment, and provision every night, for hundreds of nights. We had spent time in adoration together. And that’s not counting each of our personal prayer for the same intentions.
We had done all that we could to commit our way to the Lord, and in the worst moments of that waiting-with-no-end-in-sight, it felt…honestly…like it was difficult to see where He was holding up His end of the bargain.
But it’s not a bargain. It’s not a contract. It’s not “I pray and be a good girl, and He blesses me within a reasonable time period with prosperity and the desires of my heart.”
It’s a covenant. He will be our God, and we will be His people. He has a plan for us that is more perfect, more blessed, more effective for good in us and for others in the plan of eternity, than anything we could dream up ourselves. That plan necessarily permits suffering and uses suffering on earth, as well as our faithfulness, for good. That plan and His wisdom are far, far above what we can understand. He uses our messups and other people’s messups sometimes too, and He works it all together for our good, for His glory, if we only trust and cooperate as much as we are able, more and more all our lives, with His grace.
Michael recently finished building a big playset in our backyard. He knocked this one out of the park, ya’ll. (#Itlooksbiggerinperson #myhusbandlikestogoallout) We still need to stain it, buy another bucket for the pulley, and screw in the rock wall pieces, but it’s basically done.
Every time I look at it, I feel a little signal grace in my heart. God is faithful. God has a plan. God will amaze you. Just wait.
Also, I think to myself: Remember this, Erin. Don’t ever forget how He amazed you. Our spiritual memory is so important. Because more times of doubt and suffering and waiting will come into my life, as surely as anything.
It’s an overwhelming task to actually thank God in the middle of our trials. I credit my Gran, who passed away last fall, for teaching me how to pray like that through my struggles. She was a wise, stylish, vibrant, devout Catholic woman with a wonderful, charismatic style of prayer. And she loved Jesus.
All my life, in the very middle of me telling her about some problem or another in my life, she would interrupt me, take up my hands, close her eyes, and thank Jesus in advance for how he was going to work out my problem. I remember being surprised every time at her confidence in God, but even more at her lack of anxiety. To thank God in the middle of a trial was such a revolutionary idea!
“Thank you, Jesus,” she would pray out loud, “for how you’re going to resolve this conflict in Erin’s life! Thank you for how you’re going to bless her abundantly in your perfect will and timing! Please help her to trust you! Amen.”
She was an incredible woman. I’m so thankful for her. And I miss her.
I’ve clung to praying with thanksgiving about my problems during long times of waiting. Many times, I’ve prayed through gritted teeth and tears as I prayed for what felt like the seven-hundred-and-ninth time about something.
At one point, if I was having a particularly hard time in prayer, I started to simply pray, “Jesus, I trust in You!” and ask the Holy Spirit take the reins from there with his “groanings” (Romans 8:26). I had read somewhere that St. Pope John Paul II was affectionately called the “Old Lion” by friends in his older years, because he would groan so much when he was deeply in prayer. Sometimes that’s all you can do–groan I mean. I’ve been there, ya’ll. God knows what’s in your heart, what you need, how you feel, what you’re going through. And your very effort to pray in the middle of your doubt and tiredness and barely-clinging-to-your-faith is grace, and it’s so pleasing to Him. He will multiply that. He will deepen your faith. He will work all things together for your good. Just wait.
And know that God can still be pleased with what feels too small to you. You don’t have to be a saint before God is pleased with your efforts! You can never make Him love you more than He does at this moment. His love never changes; we do.
And just a tip: the Psalms are such a helpful way to pray during times of waiting and struggle! Try praying with these short (easy to memorize) gems that have been such a comfort to me.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” -Psalm 51:10
“Wait for the Lord. Be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” -Psalm 27:14
“Commit your way to the Lord. Trust in Him, and He will act.” -Psalm 37:5
Also, Laura Story’s beautiful song “Blessings” nails this waiting stuff on the head.
May God show you that He is near today!
My first baby and my fourth baby (on earth)…both perfectly timed, and perfectly wonderful.