The Wonders of His Love, Part 5
31 Days of Reflection
|Emily Sue Allen||Jan 1|
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
(27/31) - It’s the moment a light turns on; a sudden inhaled breath; understanding; fresh eyes. Discovery. Surprise. Illumination. The moment when the immaterial becomes tangible and alive. This is what has happened to my faith over the past two years.
I have long been a follower of Jesus and faithful church-attender. I have been a student of the Bible, and a seeker of Truth. I had answers to all the big questions, but faith wasn’t alive in me quite the way it is now.
When life goes sideways, things don’t seem to add up quite as easily anymore. Scary thoughts, big emotions, and painful limitations enter.
One thing I have discovered in my roller coaster years: Jesus adds up. He is the substantial enfleshing of God’s kindness, and His word is true. He draws near to those who draw near to Him. Instead of asking, “God, where are you?” I now ask, “God, where are we? What are we doing today?” I know in every cell of my body: I am held. I am loved. I am being sanctified and strengthened.
Ask anyone on the front end of training for an athletic event: the process of being strengthened is not always pleasant. Its resistance, exertion, resistance, exertion…planned rest, meaningful nourishment…resistance, exertion, and so on—repetitively, intentionally putting muscles under duress to build endurance. And endurance is worth its cost.
What does it mean to count it all joy when we encounter various trials? It means we recognize that even in discomfort and uncertainty, something good is taking shape within us as we believe God for what He offers.
Faith becomes alive and dynamic. Trust in God takes the place of doubt and fear…kicks them out, really. A profound sense of purpose eclipses the troubles of the day. Comfort comes in unexpected ways.
The Lord is trustworthy—even with our biggest fears. When the light flips on, it’s like a toddler who discovers they’re able to push a chair to the edge of the counter and suddenly there is a whole new world to explore.
So it is with Jesus when we walk with Him through difficult things. It’s really hard for a while, and then, as grace strengthens us through testing, we surprise-discover beautiful things we didn't know before.
“For our momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
(28/31) - Over the next few days, I will be wrapping up this series. I have heard from some it’s been hard to learn all the details of my story. I have heard from others they’ve been really encouraged to read this testimony. Honestly, I needed to write this for myself. It has been incredibly healing to revisit all the hard and holy moments, to remember just how bad it was, to celebrate and publicly share my private breakthroughs and God’s care for me through all of it. I am sincerely grateful you’ve read along.
As I bring this series to a close, I wish to say: I have not shared anything I am not comfortable discussing further, personally or in my wrap-up posts to come. I’m aware this isn’t typical social media content, and I know it’s been uncomfortable for some of my real-life friends and family to learn of these details post-crisis, when there’s not a thing you can do about it. If there is anything you’d like me to revisit, resolve, or answer for you, please leave a comment and I’ll do my best. If you want to talk about health stuff, I’m here for it. If you want to talk about anxiety, I’m here for it. If you want to talk about disappointment, discouragement, and recalibrating expectations, I’m here for it. If you want to talk about Jesus, the Bible, or navigating faith/church/matters of suffering or counseling, I am here for it all day.
I really mean it, I’m open. So if there is something you’d like to know, ask in the comments or a DM. If there’s something you’d like to share from your own story, I’m here for that too.
Thanks for giving me virtual hearts and hugs and notes of encouragement the whole way through writing this story. I’m grateful for you.
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26
(29/31) - In January 2020, I lost my hearing in one ear following a low-key upper respiratory illness. It was a sudden loss with extreme tinnitus involved and the experience was distressing. I went straight in to an ENT to check things out, having a friend once tell me hearing loss events can sometimes be successfully treated with prompt care. I wasted no time.
The doc prescribed some stuff, and wanted me back for a repeat hearing test a few weeks later. The audiologist reported I regained some hearing in the affected ear, but that I did have measurable long-term hearing loss. It was a bit of an emotional blow. I have since made my peace with it, but continue to live with intermittent tinnitus. It is not constant, but it is daily.
If I can compare tinnitus to other long term conditions for a moment, I’ve observed a few things.
Returning again and again to an emotional wound, physical injury, ongoing disappointment, deep sorrow, or—as it were—tinnitus can feel like the worst kind of Groundhog’s Day. When facing the same challenges over and over and over, it’s easy to become discouraged. Discouragement wears ruts into the road which (reasonably) pull us toward negativity. I doubt I need to preach to anyone about how hard it is to “stay strong” through prolonged tough times. You know what I’m saying.
To this day, the ringing in my ear comes and goes. Sometimes it’s mellow. Sometimes it’s so “loud” I can’t think of anything else. Always, I wish it wasn’t there. After some months of frustration and self-pity, God invited me to cope with it a new way.
This condition has robbed me of both joy and sleep at different times, and it has been tough to stay cool about it. The ringing is there whether I like it or not—but whenever it starts, I pray quietly to myself, “Thank you, God, for this ringing as a reminder of Your presence. Please bring me comfort and clarity about what I need to be doing at this moment.” I might stop rinsing dishes for the moment and lie down to rest. I might call a friend or put on music or read a book to my kids. Does it change the ringing? No. Does it change the way I experience the ringing? Yes, considerably.
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” John 7:37b, 38
(30/31) - It wasn’t until we were through the doors of our new home—boxes unpacked and kids spread out across a home twice as large as our former—that I released my held breath, tense shoulders, and a deep reservoir of tears. As you’ve read, the past two years have been layers of hard I pray I never have to repeat in the future. I am prepared for whatever comes, with the care and companionship of Jesus, but chronic survival mode is not supposed to be a lifelong condition.
We arrived in at the end of October to a new home and neighborhood, and the start of a new season of healing. I’ll spare you the many profound details about how we ended up in this specific home, but in every way, this place was prepared for us. It is God’s provision, and has already been an extravagant blessing. I’ve been unwinding years of stress in the walls of this sanctuary, learning how to laugh and play, rest and retreat, connect and care in ways I never have in my life. Every breath is gratitude.
Things are not perfect, but things are very good. I do cry a lot; I am a river of grief, gratitude, and empathy for the suffering of others. Tears fuel my intercession.
If my experience is any indication, aftershocks come after crisis. I tell you this, because I think as a society, we’re on the front end of a crushing swell of grief from the fallout of 2020. We do not yet know the scope or scale of how this year has marked us all for a lifetime. I suspect all kinds of latent grief will hit, hit again, and revisit often in the coming years—for the disorienting ride this has been, the unspeakable losses suffered; for the bruised and misshapen condition of our country.
With love, I want to ask you to prepare for the swell. Find Jesus and get close to Him. Read the Bible…the words in it are life and hope of a kind that cannot be matched. Do everything you can to be well—substantially well, not the fake kind. Sleep. Eat foods that nourish your body. Move. Worship, pray, and study Scripture. Connect with others. Be kind and let your offenses fall into the ditch. Speak up if you need help. Don’t let fear push you around.
“They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
(31/31) - We’ve come to the end of the series, but not the end of the story. I honestly do have a million more things to share about what I’ve learned, but they can’t all be squeezed into December. As the calendar turns, I will more than likely be writing an email newsletter periodically over on Substack. I say more than likely, because last January I started up a newsletter there and abandoned it after one issue because I wasn’t ready and the world fell apart. I’ve learned it’s ok to start, quit, and start again. I’ve already started moving this series over, and if you want to share it with a friend, it’ll be an easier format than Facebook and Instagram. Thank you for reading along, for your words of encouragement and private messages. Happy New Year, friends.