I began the year on a cloud that carried me for many months. We were still tan from a trip to Disney World. My dad’s January surgery went great and if April’s went as well, he would be cancer free by May! I had a book released about finding our identity in Christ, then was allowed to speak to over 100 women at my church on it one night, then teach it through a 10 week study. My husband was doing great in his school, and we entertained thoughts of all the different places we could move once he graduated.
But by December 31st, I felt as cold and hard as the weather. It was only a few weeks since I had stood beside my father’s casket willing it all to be a bad dream I could wake from, my mind yelling that I was only 29 and still very much needed him. We had moved to a new city, and though we love our home, going back “home” to deal with doctors, hospitals, and then a funeral had left us still feeling new and uprooted even months after all the boxes had been unpacked. I would go weeks without speaking to anyone face to face except my family and grocery store cashiers. Grief for friends and watching the tragedy and hurt in their lives but feeling helpless to comfort overwhelmed me so many times. Several other smaller things all added together with those larger things and mixed together until I could hardly start to pray without crying immediately. I felt like Cain crying to the Lord that it’s too much for me to bear, except instead of my burden being caused by my own sin (this time), it was just a sad side effect of living in a fallen, broken world.
Each year, I participate in the One Word idea where you pray and ask God to give you one word that will serve as a banner leading you through the year. It usually takes several weeks for me to finally discern a word, so by February of last year, it was settled. My word would be “renew.” It was a happy, exciting word. What would He make new? I had verses about God doing new things, but more often than others, He continually whispered to me the story in Ezekiel when the prophesying of what the Lord would do brought life back to a valley full of dead bones. (Ezekiel 37: 1-14) But, by the end of the year, I didn’t feel renewed. I felt crushed. An entire year passed, and yet, I still laid there in that valley, waiting for that breath of air to blow through by the Spirit, not made new like I’d expected.
But God…(those are two of my very favorite words together.) “My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73: 26) But God stepped into that valley of death all those years ago. Just as the Spirit once hovered over the water before God spoke order and existence into our world, He hovered and blew through the valley pulling bones together and adding muscle and tissue until the soldiers stood before Ezekiel. I often wonder if those soldiers would have full memories of what happened before their deaths. Was their skin flawless and new? Did they carry scars from their wounds?
Like those men in that valley, God hovered over my heart and brought back life and order with a new word for 2016 received earlier than any other word of the year before: Hope. Hope is everywhere lately. It’s in every song, in commercials, even throughout stores on clothing or home décor. He has tuned my heart to notice it as if it’s a neon flashing lights. And with each sighting or hearing of it, I feel like another bone just joined another bone. Another muscle came back with strength and purpose. He whispers to me that His love is forever and His faithfulness is eternal. He reminds me that He wept in compassion here on Earth for the death of a loved one, and He still has compassion for those of us grieving. But He also wants me to remember His purpose for me, for us all. That this world is only temporary (praise Him for that!) and before we know it, we will sit at a table with all those we missed so badly talking about His glory and telling one another of the ways He stepped in for us while we lived in brokenness.
The lesson God had for me was a year-long lesson, but it ended up being the greatest lesson I have learned to date. I have found that when I fall and hit rock bottom, I will always fall on Him because He is my foundation. And from the bottom of a pit, I can look up to my hope who is my God.
Heather Patterson is a wife and homeschooling mom of three. She’s a lover of nature and an avid coffee drinker. She also loves ministering to women from all walks of life.