Stewarding My Suffering

Since my mother took her first breath in the presence of the Lord on July 8, 2023, there have been times when I have felt as though I were alone in the universe, with no guideposts or pointers like the sun, moon, stars, and most importantly the absence of my mom to navigate me through all of this darkness. Despite how difficult it is to see in the pitch black, I feel compelled to keep on encouraging others. My words of encouragement come from a different place, though. No longer do I desire to be the story of a resilient woman who overcame adversity and returned to aid others. I am amid a life crisis, or as some would say a trauma, that is forcing me to be humble, open, and transparent about my shortcomings. Leadership, encouragement, and sharing my testimony through writing are three gifts I know for sure God has given me. However, I now often find myself asking God how do I serve as a leader, encourager, and writer when I am walking in the depths of my despair?  

How do I lead, encourage, and write while struggling in my heartbroken and darkest place?  

Psalm 34:18 states The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. 


First, let me share a thought I had a few weeks ago. Amid my suffering and your absence God, how can I be a good steward of anything let alone the gifts you have given me? The following morning, I read something while studying the word. I realized that suffering does not mean God is absent. Instead, it suggests God is drawing near. I have always known this, yet when tragedy struck, I felt God was not there in my darkest hour. This is because my emotions insisted that God was far from me when I knew God's word and that this way of thinking was far from the truth. 


Before mom passed, I thought I knew what my calling looked like in that season. Let's be honest, I graduated from business school and seminary. I earned a doctorate for Christ sake so I was determined to do what I wanted to do in this season because I told myself I earned it. I also told myself what I would not be doing, which was I would not teach as a professor for another 10-20 years. Funny how you can plan to be selfish with your gifts and talents while still hitting the nail on the head when it comes to God's plans to use you, but then be off when it comes to timing. Yes, I am complex like that on a regular basis. 


Like my thoughts about my plans for myself, I had plans for me and my mom. Yes, she had health issues, but she was improving. The reports of her improved health were not only encouraging, the news motivated me to plan for the recent changes that needed to be made while making sure everything was ready and in order for her departure from the skilled nursing (rehab) facility. That is what I do, I am the planner in our family. 


Sometimes, things just do not add up, and I had to accept that my plans are not God’s plans. 


On July 8th, 2023, for the first time, I realized how fleeting life is. When she passed, my mom was 67 years old, and I always imagined we would get to spend our golden years together. Lemonade in hand, we would reminisce about the good old days as I sat with her on the porch, in the country. A stunning location, apart from the noise and distractions of the city. Somewhere peace and tranquility could be found. As soon as I heard the news that my mother had passed away, I was completely devastated and in utter disbelief. Once again, I was making plans for us so, this could not be happening, right? Honestly, I can't stop thinking about that morning, and a small part of me is still hoping that I'm dreaming and that she'll call me soon to find out where I am, what I've been up to, and most importantly, what do I have planned for us as we sit on our country porch drinking lemonade together. 


The unexpected gift of suffering 


Yes, my suffering hurts, but I know God has our lives planned out for a reason. I also thought to myself what if my mom continued to suffer the same way she did this past year while she grew old drinking lemonade on the porch with me? If that were the case, would I want her to suffer like that? I know the answer would be no. In fact, for the last year, I prayed desperately that my mom would be relieved of the severe pain she was experiencing, which was causing her excruciating nerve pain daily, preventing her from resting and enjoying life. I think back to how I prayed for God to completely heal her body and restore her health. I just did not realize that it would not take place here, but it would be in heaven. For this, I am grateful and thankful that she is no longer suffering. I am even thankful to God for how mom transitioned peacefully while she was sleeping. 

In fact, I remember discussing the question of passing away with one of my classmates in college about a year prior to my mom's passing. We talked about what a wonderful thing it must be to be able to go to sleep and wake up in heaven with the Lord. My immediate thought was that they must be Christ's warriors, sent out to do battle on earth and now returned peacefully to the arms of God because they successfully completed their assignments. They must be amazing individuals; I thought. Back then, I did not know anyone personally like this, but now I can say I know one of these extraordinary people very well because she is my mother. With the memory of this discussion, looking back at all my mother accomplished for the kingdom, and through worship, I was able to give thanks to God for letting my mother pass away peacefully in her sleep despite the depth of my grief. That does not change the fact that I am heartbroken, but I am confident that God is present because only HE can provide this kind of solace and assurance in my darkest hour. 


When you steward your grief and suffering as a sacrifice to the Lord, you will notice a shift in your behavior. 


I am not going to sugarcoat it; this past year has been incredibly difficult for me. Seven of the rooms in our  home flooded, the exterior sustained the worst wind damage 3 months later, we were displaced for months, we are still fighting with our home insurance company, the costs kept rising (hence the legal action), I struggled to finished my dissertation, Covid, my mother's health and hospitalizations (multiple surgeries), my daughter's health, and my other daughter has some serious issues that need to be addressed. Even my poor husband was exhausted holding us all together (he is such a blessing), and all while my own health has been declining and doctors are still struggling to find the cause. I have received diagnoses of depression, anxiety, multiple heart valve issues, and a mass that was discovered in my right breast. This is just a small part of what we have been through since January of this year. So, I just knew I was at my lowest point, therefore I had hope for what was ahead. I had convinced myself that it could not get much worse, so the only way was up. However, I had no idea that what I thought would be the most beautiful season around the corner (spring) would be the worst season (winter storm) I could imagine. This was when I learned I lost my mom unexpectantly. Not only was it the worst season, but I no longer had my guide (mom) to assist in navigating me through it as she had always done in the past.  


However, as weak as I am, I know that Christ's strength is made perfect in my weakness. I want to encourage others who are at their weakest moments in life to remember you are not alone. God is right there with you during your time of loss, suffering, and despair. I encourage you to join me despite your life challenges as I will continue to humbly, openly, and transparently, put my gifts to beneficial use by serving those whom God places along my path as I continue to travel this painful road called grief.















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