The darkest season of my life happened when I lost all faith. I did not believe. If there was a God, I didn’t trust him. Because it felt like He had left this sorry world to figure out stuff on its own.
My journey back to faith is not a tidy one. It is tear-stained, riddled with questions, pock-marked with red-faced doubt. God first appeared to me as a flicker — like a flame atop a candle — at the end of long, very dark hallway. And I followed the light until it got big enough so I could see again.
Most days, the light gets brighter still, as I walk forward each day, toward the doorway to another world — a forever world.
But like almost everyone I know, along come those days where circumstances try to block out the light.
Yet I will not lose hope. I have been in this hallway enough times to know that the light is always up ahead, even when I cannot see it. And getting there requires the discipline of putting one step in front of the other.
Faith doesn’t make life easy. It makes life possible.
I talked to a friend the other day who has been stuck in a dark hallway for a while now. To her, God isn’t even a flicker of light. She can’t find her way, and on top of it, she feels terribly guilty because of her faithlessness.
Maybe you’re like my friend. Maybe you’re in a dark hallway, too — groping along the edges to find your way, hoping that up around the corner you’ll see a glimmer, like some shaft of light at your feet. Life makes no sense. Prayers have gone unanswered. Someone turned out the lights, and ran off with the only shred of faith you had left.
You perhaps wonder:
1 – Does God love me, the faithless one in the dark?
2 – Does He condemn me?
Scripture reveals that the answers are these:
1 – Yes, He loves the faithless one.
2 – No, He does not condemn you.
Let these words bring you comfort:
“What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all!” (Romans 3:3-4)
At our lowest, Jesus bent down — all the way from heaven — to find us and save us. Jesus is more than a flicker at the end of the hallway. He is more than a light at the faraway door. He is not Someone whom you have to strain to reach. He is at the doorway.
It was Ash Wednesday, 2014. My pastor thumbed a black ashen cross on my forehead, and in that moment, I determined that I would cover every mirror in our house. I wouldn’t look at myself again until the trumpets sounded under my country church steeple on Easter morning.
I gave up my reflection for Lent because I was tired.
I was tired of the self-degradation that we engage in as women. We tell ourselves that we’re not enough—or let our bathroom scales tell us that we’re too much.
I was tired of the photoshopping. And yet I have a confession: I was just as guilty. I justified my own sort of airbrushing when my face filled the iPhone screen. I deftly wielded Instagram filters so I could magically take five years off my face.
Maybe I gave up mirrors because I was plain tired of being a hypocrite. And maybe I knew that my daughters, ages 12 and 9 at the time, were old enough to know when I was talking a good game and when I was actually living what I believe.
Children are mighty fine accountability partners. They are also mirrors themselves, reflecting what they see in their parents. I had to ask myself, What am I really reflecting?
We’ve all seen news reports about preteen girls and eating disorders. Nearly 80 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being overweight, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.
Of course, we’re quick to point an accusing finger at the glossy covers on magazine stands. But what are we modeling in front of our own mirrors while our children watch?
I wonder how many times our children see us suck in our post-baby guts, scowl at our reflections, run away from cameras, or shake our heads in disbelief when someone pays us a compliment.
And then comes this study, conducted by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. The study reports that increasing numbers of people are going under the knife as a result of their dissatisfaction with “selfies.” The study found that “one in three facial plastic surgeons have seen an increase in requests for surgery due to [patients] being more self-aware of looks in social media.”
I haven’t considered plastic surgery to remedy my flaws, but I do have to ask myself, What message am I sending to my daughters about body image in more subtle ways?
As Christian parents, we are the main (or at least the first) influencers in guiding our children into having a positive self-image and developing a healthy understanding of their identity in Christ—loved and accepted, as is.
But now—perhaps more than ever in human history—we are being bombarded with opportunities for literal self-reflection. We feel the constant temptation to put our best face forward.
As Christians, we subscribe to the belief that we all bear the image of God. Our best faces are already put forward—not because of Clinique but because of a divine Creator. As parents, we have the responsibility to model what it means to be secure in our identities, not only spiritually but physically as well.
We have the responsibility to model what it means to be secure in our identities, not only spiritually but physically as well.
A few days before I began my mirror fast, I stumbled onto a lesson on self-image, quite accidentally. I was visiting New York City with my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law, and though I’m not a regular viewer of The Today Show, some of the women in our group wanted to stand outside the studio during the live taping.
As we entered the spectator area, I was surprised to find a row of iPads, with which we were asked to take our selfies, filter-free. The photos would later be shown on national television as part of a weeklong series called “Love Your Selfie.” Dressed like Eskimos with fur-lined hoods cinched tightly around our heads, we mugged for a few self-portraits. And sure enough, we ended up on TV.
But it wasn’t the willingness to pose for unpolished selfies that surprised me as much as the signs. A few dozen women showed up outside the studio with Sharpied signs declaring their weight—150, 165, 185, 200.
I remembered then how, when my girls had asked me innocently a few days earlier how much I weighed, I had refused to tell them.
Standing outside The Today Show, I admired the freedom that the placard-holding women embodied. They seemed to embrace their whole selves, rather than cursing a series of parts.
I wanted that for myself, and I wanted that for my children—and for all of us as women.
There’s freedom in this place, where moms see our pouched midsections as proof that the gift of motherhood stretched us; where we admire our fine lines as marks of the years that have made us who we are.
A few days later I was back home in Iowa, looking in the mirror for the last time until Easter. I really took my reflection in—the whole of myself, not the parts.
And this time, I didn’t frown at the woman in the mirror. Not at all.
I didn’t chide or criticize her, and I resisted the urge to fret over the fact that she had a rather large pimple on her nose—at age 42.
I felt more tender about her than I usually did. I thought to myself, I need to love that woman better.
A day after I covered my mirrors, my younger daughter brushed up beside me in the bathroom while I was fumbling around with a flat-iron. She was watching her mother, as children do, and this time, I had given her an image that she wanted to reflect.
“Mommy,” she asked, “can you cover my mirrors? I don’t want you to do this alone.”
And like me, she didn’t look at her reflection until our Hope rose on Easter morn.
See this stack of hardcover books and Bible studies for It’s All Under Control? This is just a fraction of the books that have been sitting in boxes in my office for the last several months.
These are extra copies that were given to me by my publisher after the book released, to be used for publicity purposes. I sent lots of them to bloggers, podcasters, radio hosts, and more. But still, there are many more!
And then I had an idea: What if I gave them away as gifts to the amazing women who are planning to lead other women through It’s All Under Control?
You see, for the last several months, I’ve been so tickled to get emails from women all over the USA who are going through the book AND the Bible study:
A group of 250 women in Arkansas.
42 women in Minnesota.
10 women (and 2 men!) just up the road at my very own country church.
8 women meeting together in a home in Illinois.
And on and on …
The thing is, while I’ve talked about the book quite a bit publicly, I’ve not talked much about the Bible study. Yet, people are finding out about it, by word of mouth. Already, thousands of people have taken the study and are watching the free videos available on my site. THIS IS THE POWER OF WORD OF MOUTH, PEOPLE, which is quite often even more effective than the most intentional advertising efforts!
So here’s what I’m going to do. While supplies last, I’m going to give away a set (book + Bible study) to EVERY WOMAN who commits to lead a group in the near future. I will ship these at my cost. This is my tangible way to thank you to women’s ministry and book club leaders.
This is based on the honor system. If you say yes to this gift, I’m counting on you to really commit to leading a group, because I need to be a good steward of these extra books. So if you aren’t sure about leading a group, please bypass this opportunity so others who DO plan to lead a group can get the free book set. Is everyone cool with that? You guys are awesome.
So, if you commit to leading a study, please fill out this form, by clicking here, and I will send you your hardcover book and a copy of the Bible study. (Limited supplies available.)
I also have all kinds of graphics that you can use to publicize your study. You can click here and sign in to access all of those, and you are free to use them at no cost. Below are examples of the graphics you can use, sized for social media, PowerPoints and more!
Several months ago, my friend Michelle DeRusha sent me an early copy of her new book, True You. I spent hours on our deck devouring it. Michelle is a fantastic writer, but not just because of her way with words. It’s because of her honesty. She says the things we feel, but are afraid to say. She makes us inspect what’s under our motives and deepest desires. In the end, she draws us closer to our truest selves, and ultimately, straight to God. True You is now ready to make its way into the world. This book releases January 1, 2019. What a fantastic way to start the new year.
The High Cost of Hustle
By Michelle DeRusha
“Hustle!!!” I hear my father’s voice over the clash of shin pads and the scuffle of cleats. The command comes at regular intervals, regardless of whether I’m lagging or not. “Hustle, Shelly, hustle!!” And I do, I hustle, springing after the soccer ball, challenging defensive opponents twice my size, refusing to flinch when the ball is kicked square at my face.
Truth be told, I hustled on the soccer field and off all through my childhood and young adulthood, and not just to please my father. I don’t know if it’s a product of nature or nurture or a combination of both, but I’ve been driven to produce, achieve, and succeed for as long as I can remember.
“Make it happen” was a directive repeated often in my house when I was growing up, and it’s a mantra I’ve chanted in my head ever since.
I was one of those teenagers who was involved in everything – sports, clubs, social events, work – and still earned good grades, not so much because I was academically gifted, but simply because I hustled, studying hours every night after getting home from work or soccer or track practice. I “made it happen.”
My parents had high expectations of me as a student, but my motivation ran deeper than their approval. I was driven to achieve because success made me feel valuable and important. I liked the awards I racked up. I enjoyed seeing my name listed as an Honor Roll student in the local newspaper every semester.
I kept myself busy, motivated, and focused because the results of my efforts – success and achievement – filled, at least temporarily, a seemingly insatiable desire not only to be known, but to be recognized and admired.
I graduated from high school 30 years ago, and although a lot about me has changed since then, in many ways, I am still very much the same person, driven to achieve and succeed. I’m Type A through and through – or, to be more exact, Triple Type A, as my husband jokes. I’m a Three on the Enneagram personality typing system – “Achiever/Performer: success-oriented, pragmatic, adaptable, excelling, driven, and image-conscious.” According to Gallup’s StrengthsFinder Assessment, my top five strengths are Achiever, Activator, Focus, Discipline, and Responsibility.
You get the picture.
Hustle, productivity, busyness, and striving to achieve have taken up a lot of space in my soul over the years. I’ve hustled so long for my self-worth, it’s become a habit deeply ingrained in me.
I had no idea how destructive this habit was to my sense of self and to my relationship with God. I walked to the drumbeat of busyness for so long, I didn’t realize it was detrimental both to my self-identity and to the well-being of my soul.
What I’ve come to realize, though, is that I’ve used busyness, hustle, achievement and success not only as a way to feel valuable, but also as a means to avoid what lies beneath the surface. I was afraid of what my own soul would tell me about myself if I stopped long enough to listen.
Over time, as I began to integrate short periods of silence and stillness into my daily life, my soul began to speak. It revealed the wounded parts that needed healing and restoration. It revealed the false selves I’d crafted and hidden behind over the years. In time, my soul began to reveal my true self, the one beneath the hustle and striving – the one created by God, made in the image of God, beloved by God.
The whispers of my soul weren’t always what I wanted to hear, but they were always what I needed to hear. The truth is, we are always on the edge of becoming.
This journey toward a clearer understanding of my true self, toward the person God created me to be, is one that will take a lifetime to complete. As the author Sue Monk Kidd once said, I am “on the edge of becoming.” The truth is, we are always on the edge of becoming. And yet, God is here, too, in the thick of it and on the edges, coming alongside as we stutter-step, two steps forward, one step back, toward our truest self.
A Massachusetts native, Michelle DeRusha moved to Nebraska in 2001, where she discovered the Great Plains, grasshoppers the size of chickens … and God. She’s the wife of an English professor who reads Moby Dickfor fun and mom to two teenage boys and the laziest Corgi-beagle in the world. Michelle’s newest book, True You, releasing January 1, guides readers on a journey toward letting go in order to uncover their true God-created selves.
This post is adapted from True You: Letting Go of Your False Self to Uncover the Person God Created, by Michelle DeRusha, releasing January 1 from Baker Books.
He showed up unexpectedly on our front doorstep, while fat flakes fluttered down from the heavens, in moonlight.
My husband, Scott, opened the door. And a man stepped in, stamping his snowy feet on the rug. Winter exhaled a frosty cloud into our house.
I was in the kitchen, so I couldn’t see the man at the door. But his voice was familiar, and he sounded urgent.
“I need to give this to Jennifer,” he told my husband.
Was everything OK? I stepped around the corner, and moved fast toward the door. The man unfolded a yellow slip of paper and handed it to me.
On the paper was a long list of names — 28 in all. He pointed with a gloved finger. My name was among them.
God had laid it on his heart to ask 28 people in our little community to hand-deliver Applebee’s gift cards to 28 different people. He paid for all the gift cards, but he wanted them to be delivered anonymously. He asked God’s help in finding Christmas helpers to deliver the gift cards on his behalf.
He handed me one of the gift cards and then, he read detailed instructions he had written on that same yellow paper. He said I needed to take that gift card to the college where I taught journalism at the time. Still reading, he added: “You’re supposed to give this to someone and tell the person, ‘God cares for you, and so do I.’”
He looked up from his paper, and I tripped over my words when I tried to reply. “I’m supposed to, … um … what? Who do I give it to? Who do I tell them it’s from?”
He shook his head and answered, “I don’t know who. I just know that you’re supposed to give it to someone at the college.”
And, just like that, a name popped into my head, like a little deposit from the Holy Spirit. “I will do that,” I answered. “I know who the person is.”
He nodded a knowing nod. The Holy Spirit had whispered names to him too — including mine. That’s why he had come to our door.
He knew that it was more blessed to give than to receive, but he didn’t want those who received his gift to know who the giver was. So he was stopping at the doorsteps of 28 people, on a blustery December night, to recruit his army of Christmas helpers.
I asked if I could look at his list. At the top were dollar amounts, scratched out.
And then finally: $700.
God kept giving him names, he said, so the number grew and grew and grew.
“I finally put my hands over my ears like this,” the man said, laughing and demonstrating. “And I went: ‘La-la-la-la-la! I’m not listening any more, or I’m going to go broke, God!’”
This was not a rich man. This was a middle-class Iowa guy who worked at a factory, a husband and dad who worked at a factory and liked watching ESPN. He drove a used car. He wore secondhand jeans and Walmart shirts.
He won’t let me tell you his name.
“Maybe we could have gotten a new TV with the money. But this is what I’m supposed to do,” he said, shrugging. “It’s a gift from God. You can’t tell anyone who did it, because this is from God — not me.”
He knows it’s from God, because at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, God put name … after name … after name on his heart. And he transcribed. He wrote names on that yellow slip of paper.
And now, he needed elves to spread Jesus’ love at Christmas. Each person on his list would receive a $25 gift card to Applebee’s. Each one would be instructed to give the gift to someone else.
A neighbor boy down the road was supposed to give a card to someone at the elementary school. A man who sells Snickers and Doritos to stock the shelves of area convenience stores had a card to give. So did a stay-at-home mom, a teenage girl, a schoolteacher, a coach, a farmer, a nurse, a grandpa, a local business owner. I was supposed to give mine to someone at the college.
I read down the list and just shook my head and began to cry. This man’s obedient act of giving — springing from an inner happiness in Jesus — had the potential to exponentially increase happiness for a multitude of others.
And we — this little army of deliverers — got to take part in this wild act of giving, this extravagant generosity of an anonymous man.
That man, like most of us, has had some hard knocks in life. My husband and I have known him for years, and we have had a front-row seat to some of his hurts. We also saw what happened to him the year Jesus grabbed hold of his heart. That year, he still recalls, “I traded all the gray T-shirts in my dresser drawers for colorful ones because God brought color to my life.”
Like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, that middle-class guy on our doorstep — with a drawer full of colorful shirts and a pocket full of gift cards — might just be the richest man in town.
I wish you could see how he lit up with joy that night in December, like a candle flickering atop a Christmas cake. It’s true what they say about candles — they lose nothing by lighting another candle. They only add to the light, in a world that feels so dark.
That year, that man at our front door taught me this: The best way to find happiness is to create happiness for someone else.
If you liked the story, you’ll love my book The Happiness Dare, where I tell this story as a part of “The Giver” chapter.
Feet dangling in patent-leather, I sat on the polished pew while the Christmas pageant director assigned parts. I held my breath, waiting as she called names. I dreaded this moment, for I knew I’d be instructed to serve as a sheep or cow. Each year, the director would assure us that those lowing, humble barn-dwellers were “important” pieces of the story.
I didn’t buy it. I wanted to be Mary.
As I grew older, I was upgraded from beast to human. In this more esteemed role, I had the opportunity to deliver real lines, beyond the scripted moo-ing. We didn’t have enough boys in church to fill all the male roles, so I regularly stood in as a king or a shepherd, wearing an itchy gunny sack. One year, I did get to wear white wings, proclaiming into the church microphone: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people!”
But even as an angel of the Lord Most High, I secretly pined to be tapped as Mary, Mother of God. This was every Sunday School girl’s dream. Each year, the highly favored one would ride down the red-carpeted aisle on a cardboard donkey. She wore a flowing gown, which the director ceremoniously retrieved from the church’s costume vault only once a year. Mary never had lines to memorize. Her only job was to look good.
Each year, Mary seemed to glow, outshining even the glittery star overhead. She radiated in that magical moment when, at the end of the play, everyone in the pews would rise up, gripping candles, to sing “Silent Night” in a circle.
I watched Mary as I mouthed the words to the song. She sat center-stage by the wooden communion rail, while gazing upon the babe in arms. Some years, we had a real-live baby as our Jesus. Mostly, though, we used a doll from the nursery toy-bin. We wrapped it in swaddling clothes — threadbare dishtowels from the church-basement kitchen.
Often, a pretty blonde was christened as Mary. Even at a young age, I knew this was historically inaccurate. But no one seemed to mind in our town, where Swedish descendants bore names like Larson and Anderson. Mary usually matched our toy-box Jesus — a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl doll with magic marker drawn on the back of her head.
Then, behold, in 1982, the heavens opened, and I witnessed my very own Christmas miracle: I was called forth from the pew.
“Jennifer?” she asked. “Would you be willing to serve as our Mary this year?”
I nodded a shy yes, but on the inside, I belted out the Magnificat.
I remember it still, draping a white cloth around my brunette head, then walking down the aisle of my dimly-lit church. I remember cradling the baby in swaddling dishtowels, and hearing everyone laugh when one of the wee kings in a cardboard crown shouted out: “Hi, Mom!” A shepherd stretched out on the step for a long winter’s rest. Beside me, the cattle were lowing and adjusting brown-felt ears. And behind me, I sensed a great company of the heavenly host—all dressed in holey bed sheets. Or maybe they were holy.
Then came the moment for the final number, the hallowed singing of “Silent Night.” A great hush fell over the room, as the congregants rose to their feet and lit candles by passing a flame around the circle.
The pianist began, then voices rose in unison:
Round ‘yon virgin, Mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
And that’s when it happened. At the front of a tiny Iowa church — where I sat in a sheet-covered folding chair — Mary’s story was becoming my own. I looked at the cradled babe, with bits of hay snared in blonde locks. I was beginning to realize, right then, who the real star of this Christmas show was.
I turned my head a bit, bowing my chin lower as voices swelled higher. I hoped no one would notice a single tear sliding down my cheek. I — the holder of the Christ-child — was discovering what those words in the story meant, about a young girl treasuring up all these things, and pondering them in her heart.
The other day, I randomly texted a friend who consistently goes out of her way to bless other people. It was a lengthy text, in which I told her how much I appreciated her, and saw the love of Jesus shining through her.
A few seconds later, my iPhone beeped with her response: “Well thanks, but where did that come from?!? We love and appreciate you too!”
In another season of my life, I might have felt ridiculous for gushing so profusely in my text to her. But I have learned that I never want to withhold my love and appreciation for people in my life. Here’s what I told her in response:
“I sent it to you ‘just because.’ I believe that if you see something good in someone, you shouldn’t withhold it. I don’t like waiting for funerals to say nice things about people. I rather enjoy telling the living. Love you, girl!”
I have learned the hard way, how it can feel like a punch in the gut, when it’s too late to tell someone how you feel. I have stood over too many caskets, at too many graveside services, and beside too many hospital beds regretting that I hadn’t said more.
We always think we’ll have more time, but if you’ve ever lost someone tragically, out of the blue, you know that we don’t always have that luxury.
I don’t want to wait until tomorrow to say what needs to be said today.
Let’s not wait.
What words do you need to say? Find the strength to say them, today.
Let someone know you love them, now.
Make amends, now.
Send that letter, now.
Stand up for what you believe in, now.
Speak your dreams aloud, now.
Take the challenge: Don’t wait until tomorrow to say what needs to be said today.
My father-in-law was a rugged man, a man of duty and honor. He wore Levi jeans and scuffed boots, dirtied from years of chores on the family farm in Iowa. He had no romantic notions about farm life, or about his years as a decorated Army Ranger captain.
There were hard years, really hard years. There were foxholes. And death.
He didn’t talk much about it, and though we wished he would have, we respected his silence.
He simply kept his hand on the barn door, the tractor wheel, and the hymnal on Sunday mornings.
But the image none of us will ever forget is this one: those same calloused hands held dainty teacups. The distinguished Army captain was the most gracious host of tea parties, which he held in honor of his granddaughters.
This is one of the fondest memories that my girls have of their Grandpa Paul. He’d sit cross-legged with them on the porch of his house, under the shade of a giant tree. He’d stir muddy water, and engage in polite conversation, and pretend to eat cookies, which were actually landscaping rocks set upon fragile saucers.
I was always struck by the tenderness and humility of my father-in-law. Looking back on it now, I know that the same core values motivated both his service in the military, and his impromptu tea parties: A deep love of people and of country.
I thought about all of that again these last few days, as we prepare to honor veterans on Veterans Day, as we do every year.
As I reflect on Paul’s love for his granddaughters, I remember a truth about the bravest people I know. They aren’t too afraid to make themselves small. They understand that humility and kindness aren’t signs of weakness, but virtues of the brave. The bravest people I know aren’t too big to sit in child-sized chairs and sip tea, with the sole aim of making someone else’s heart soar.
Our daughter Anna doesn’t remember much about her Grandpa Paul. She was only four when he died. Of the handful of memories that Anna does have, the tea parties are the most prominent.
Anna wrote this short essay about her grandpa four years ago. “My wonderful grandpa died a HERO,” she wrote.
Grandpa Paul died in 2009 of leukemia. He was 67. His doctors said his illness was brought on by all of the Agent Orange that he was exposed to during the Vietnam War.
Like most soldiers, he didn’t go down without a fight.
On a January morning in Iowa – one mile south of his farm, in the church where his sturdy hands held the hymnal — an American flag was draped over his casket. We walked out the back of the church behind the pallbearers. His old military buddies were standing there waiting for us.
I don’t think I’m imagining the tears in their eyes. And if I am imagining the tears, well … let me believe they were real.
Paul Lee’s tour of duty had ended. His American Legion pals – with their navy-blue hats, trimmed in gold — folded that flag into a triangle and handed it to his wife.
Those men were grandpas and retired farmers and members of the church choir. They probably hosted a few tea parties themselves, over the years.
Here’s what I believe about men and women like that: I believe that you don’t lose your Bravery Card when you show up at a tea party. When you hand a grieving widow a flag, with tears in your own eyes. When you take the time to be tender.
When you simply love.
Yeah, I’m just a person who watched those tea parties from a distance, while standing beneath a shade tree. But I do know this: the tenderest moments of our lives are likely the moments our loved ones will carry the longest.
And that tenderness doesn’t weaken our warrior spirit. It strengthens it.
Sometimes “let go and let God” is bad advice. Let’s all take a deep breath and not let that sentence scare us.
I understand why “letting go” becomes our default phrase when we want to live surrendered to Jesus. “Letting go” definitely sounds more Jesus-approved than “hanging on.”
But there will be times when you simply can’t let go. You’ve got to hang on tight, as if your life depends upon it. It will feel like you’ve hitched a ride on the back side of a hurricane. Your hands will get calloused and cramped. This isn’t the kind of surrender we usually hear about, is it? This kind of sweat-on-the-brow surrender is fiery and wild. It will ask so much of you that it will hurt.
Perhaps you will be able to let go later. But not yet.
Don’t let go when it gets difficult. Let go only when it’s time.
Until then, hang on.
Scott and I had to hang on tight a few years ago when uncertainty hit our farm like a punch to the gut. Scott’s father, Paul, died of leukemia. Scott would not only grieve the loss of his father and business partner, he would also care for the land alone.
Paul died in the cold of winter. That spring, we were so grateful for the mercy of God when our crops grew tall, thickening over the rows so everything green was touching. There was something so beautiful and hopeful about that. It felt like everything was going to be okay, even though Paul’s old John Deere cap drooped, sad, on a nail by the back door.
We had hope.
But then October came. Not a single plant had been harvested when we awoke to find a thick blanket of snow covering the crops. The snow stole the hopefulness we’d felt earlier that year.
Late that afternoon, a farmer who lived a few miles away tapped his knuckles on the back door. I opened it and found him standing on the doormat with his fists shoved into a thick quilted jacket with a corduroy collar. He showed up at our house on a really hard day, during a really hard year.
“Scott home yet?” he asked. “No,” I told him. “Still doing chores.”
“Well,” the farmer continued, “you just tell him that I stopped by because I want him to know something for certain. I want him to know that the harvest always comes. You’ll let him know?”
I nodded my head, feeling a catch in my throat.
The farmer had come to remind us, in his own way, what the Bible says about hanging on in hard times. “At the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9, emphasis added).
Friend, I don’t know exactly what you’re going through. Maybe it feels like the harvest will never come. Maybe if feels like all hope is lost. Perhaps you want to “let go” or give up. But what if you need to hang on a little longer?
Today I’m the friend at your back door, tapping my knuckles to see if you’re home. I’m standing on your doormat to tell you the same thing the old farmer told me: “The harvest always comes.”
And I’m here to tell you that the farmer was right. Weeks after he stood on our stoop, the harvest did come. The snow melted, and Scott drove the old green combine back and forth across a gently sloping hill and harvested the crops.
Don’t give up, friend. Hang on when God tells you to hang on. He is still in this.
Hang on. Yes, it’s hard, but it might not be time to let go.
Hang on. This might be only a season, with relief around the corner.
Hang on. When you hang on with bravery, you emotionally strengthen others who are struggling to hang on themselves. You’re showing them that it’s possible to do hard things.
Hang on. For your marriage. For your kids. For your church. For the people that your ministry bravely serves. For the hurting. For your friends who don’t know if they can hang on anymore.
Hang on. Because Jesus will meet you in the middle of your hardest battles.
This post was adapted from chapter 5 of It’s All Under Control: A Journey of Letting Go, Hanging On, and Finding a Peace You Almost Forgot Was Possible by Jennifer Dukes Lee, from Tyndale House Publishers. Excerpted with permission.
“It’s All Under Control is the gift your soul has been desperately seeking―to feel how His arms of love are under you, carrying you though it all.” ―Ann Voskamp, New York Times bestselling author of The Broken Way and The Greatest Gift