Relying on God

From Michelle.  1 February, 2012.

Dear friends and family,

January has been kind to us, a soft opening to a new year.  Outside my window, a blue sky and faintly rustling palm trees echo the sweetness of the season, climatically the coolest and most gentle time of year in the Philippines.  Though Steve still struggles with a weak left leg, overall numbness and general discomfort and fatigue, I have not seen that odd, stiff limp that had begun to creep into his walk in late 2010.  His weight has stabilized.  He has worked hard and somehow managed.  We continue to be the recipients of many thoughtful acts of kindness.  We are amazed by the ongoing fervent prayers on our behalf.  In short, we are counting our blessings and feeling very fortunate indeed.

Lately, Steve has been reflecting on 2 Corinthians, Chapter 1.  Among other things, it says the following: “…We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.  But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”

It seems that I cannot learn this lesson often enough, nor can I ever fully grasp the depth of God’s faithfulness to me in my weakness.  Thankfully, I have had many reminders.  Though somewhat rueful about this at times, I say this with genuine thanksgiving.  Life’s design repeatedly prompts me toward these two all-too-familiar truths: (1) I truly cannot do this on my own, and (2) God really is faithful to sustain me.  At its core, the interplay of these result in the sweetest cure for isolation.  I know an everlasting companionship whose depths I can never plummet.  The joy of this friendship runs deeper with each trial, so that it is less and less easily disturbed by the vagrancies of life.

I finished a book recently that underscored this truth.  In it, a young missionary lives out her faith in the darkest of circumstances: a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Indonesia during the Second World War.  For three years, she endures constant hunger and privation, separation from and eventual death of her beloved husband in a distant camp, and at the end of the war, near starvation, torture and months in an isolated cell with no human contact.  Somehow, God’s presence and faithfulness is apparent to her in every circumstance.  He neither removes the hardship nor shelters her from the worst of punishments.  Rather, she finds his fingerprint in the smallest and most intimate of signs, and in the sweetest of whispers in her heart.  There is a dance between her prayers and his responses that is real, bearing fruit in her weakness, bringing light to her fellow prisoners as well as to her Japanese oppressors, and elevating her to a position of leadership within the camp.  The mystery is that real life happens through that juxtaposition of weakness and strength, and her faith grows without water and light of an earthly kind, fed only by the tender promises and constant companionship of the Most High, both Father and Friend.  It confounds reason, that her heart remained soft, that hope survived, and that life grew in that wretched, blood-drenched earth.

A few weeks ago, I wrote that 2012 would be a year to grieve, not for the purpose of grieving itself, but in order to move forward toward a new beginning.  A dilemma occurs in this process, however, because hope must somehow hold its place alongside mourning.  It will be a long time before we fully know our losses.  I still believe further healing lies in our future.  Life is far too fluid to be easily measured exclusively in sorrow or happiness.  We remain unbelievably fortunate as well as deeply challenged.  In the end, what we are doing is less like burying and more like releasing.  What is released may or may not return.  With no assurance, we choose nevertheless to relax into a posture of trust.  In our open hands, in our self-declared weakness, and in the acknowledgement of what is momentarily or permanently lost, we trust that strength will continue to flow and that new depths of faithfulness will be discovered.  Life has grown and will continue to grow even here.  It confounds reason.  It requires faith.

Some of the things we are releasing are: guitar playing, running after the boys, soccer/basketball/tennis and other sports, long walks on the beach, our favorite hikes, late nights, tickling, intimacy, tireless energy, rugged adventures, heavy lifting, quick transitions, long days, hard seats, and bounding up stairs.  Friends, it stretches our faith to lay these things down, but from experience I know that God is truly faithful to answer our weakness with his strength.  In so doing, we may or may not gain our best wishes.  Our greatest desires will not magically materialize as a reward for our compliance.  But we rely on a God who is faithful through the direst of circumstances, and who brings abundant love and companionship for every step of the journey.

Last night we sat around our dining room table, singing a silly song Steve taught the boys this week.  The chorus repeats: “every single cell in my body is happy, every single cell in my body is well.”  As he sings, the boys are laughing and trying to follow the motions.  No one feels the least bit of irony in the radiant words sung with stiff hands and weak arms.  As we go around the table in our nightly ritual of thanksgiving, words of thanks come easily to us all.  We are abounding in love, we are rich with each other and with Christ.

Elsewhere in 2 Corinthians, Chapter 1 it says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”

We have been greatly comforted by your faith and love, and hope that you too may know comfort through our own.

With love and thanksgiving,


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  • shelley merritt.

    Hi Michelle,  Love your post.  I started a book club w/ some expat friends here in Manila last year.  The book you mentioned by Darlene Diebler Rose was probably our overall favorite.  So rich.  Have you heard the song “Less Like Scars” by Sara Groves?  I think you’d love it.  Hope to meet you sometime!  

  • Ammi armas

    Rejoicing with you and your family, Michelle!

  • Roger Bartholomew UCM

    Hi Michelle – Paul wrote two books to the Corinthians – each for a different purpose – yet each inspiring. I think you have started 2 Corinthians. Things have changed, memories are different, current time is approached differently, the future holds…… something that we don’t yet know. Truely God is the God of the past, present and future. Reading your heart-wrenchingly beautiful expression of living by faith, reminds be very vividly of TS Eliot’s Waste Land which I have been teaching  to my students this month. With trauma, so many things are reversed, so many of life’s usual things get discarded, so many of life’s “insignificant” thing get treasured. Carry on treasuring. God rewards, not the world. Ask for the strength to continue to see life through Christ’s eyes……for truely you do.  

  • Manilagrilla05

    The depth and width of your struggles met with gratitude is beyond anything I have ever witnessed.

  • Joyce

    “You give and take away…blessed be the name of the Lord…
    You take away and give…blessed be the name of the Lord…

  • Joanna Smith

    Thanks again for sharing, Michelle. My prayer is that, like the girl in the book you read, your hearts remain soft and your life grows despite difficult circumstances. Enjoy the ‘light’ moments. And may your already bountiful graciousness know no ends! lots and lots of love, Joanna.

  • Cindy Clapper

    Michelle and Steve,
    You are such a blessing to us.  Thanks you for sharing yourselves with us so we can better pray for you…what a privilege it is.  I love you words that you have quoted from Corinthians.  What a blessing God’s Word is and thank you again for sharing your heartfelt thoughts with us.  We love you all,
    John and Cindy Clapper

  • Sarahbeuerle

    Dear Michelle, know this that you are teaching your boys such amazing lessons of love.  Those lessons will carry them through all your hardships with you.  It is truely a gift for me to have you share these intimate family moments with us as it brings into perspective what is most important to family; love and faithfulness with God and each other.
    Hugs and Kisses and Blessings,

  • Christine Sine

    Michelle a beautiful reflection from the depth of your heart. The struggles that you have already weathered and recognize you will continue to face in the future are huge but the spirit with which you face them is a testimony to all of us. God bless and keep you and Steve & your boys as you continue this journey together.

  • Deb Meske Thompson

    “guitar playing, tickling, intimacy…”  These losses break my heart for you.  I wish you peace and joy.  Much love,  Deb.

  • Jana Raymond

    I love reading your messages!!!  Hugs to you and ALL the boys!   They must be so big now!! Love the photos and got your card!  Best in the New Year – we are missing the PI and the warm weather but have much here also to love!  The cold was refreshing at first – now just COLD (5 deg G today!! ) – we have a wonderful school and I have never been around so many Missionaries!   Unreal!   I found a great bible study and think of you every time I go!!!  I am still trying to stop – and just listen!  It is a work in progress – I remember your stories of shopping and talking to God and share this a lot!   Again – hugs – we love you !!!   YOU GO GIRL!!!!!  

  • Jean Brown

    Michelle, thank you for writing with such genuineness the journey you are all sharing with Steve in grieving faithfully as you trust our dear Jesus and His presence in and through all of life. In my own reflections of loss, certainly nothing compared to yours, yet my own, I am reminded of how blessed we are in the body of Christ as we encourage, support, and pray for one another!

    Love you and pray new revelations of hope, joy, and grace in Christ

  • Jean Brown

    …as you continue sharing the journey! From your writings, I feel more loved, comforted, blessed, and hopeful! I praise and thank God for the gift He has given you to write for His glory!

    Prayers abound with thanksgiving!

    Love to you, Steve, and the boys!

  • Betsy

    Am smiling as I picture your kitchen table, full of giggling and love.  My heart is full of thanksgiving for you; for the evidence of His strength in weakness, and for the undeniable working of Christ in you, as you release such precious joys to him, with hope and faith in his great love.  Hugs to the boys, especially from Anya :-)

  • Greggfarah

    Michelle,, what’s the name of the book? who is the author? I’d love to get a copy.

  • Greggfarah

    as always, a beautiful post, Michelle.