“My mother used to say,” the 95-year old church matriarch began (a phrase which usually indicated surprising humor or deep wisdom would follow), “your sacrificing years are the best ones; so don’t complain!” Her eyes twinkled as she gazed into my sleep-deprived eyes of early parenthood. Then she winked and squeezed my hand, because we both knew that there was indeed a right and holy time for some complaining. Especially when lack of sleep is involved.
Still, her mother’s words have stayed with me. Time and again I’ve found that the most beautiful and best moments of life are often tangled up in the hardest and most painful ones.
For many of us, this past pandemic year has been a doozy of a “sacrificing year.” We have been walking through a dark valley, stumbling upon hard moments in life and ministry. We shake with grief as we consider all we’ve lost, all we’ve endured.
And yet…even in the darkest valleys, God nestles pretty meadows and peaceful waters. God weaves beauty into hardship like a master artisan. Into grief and hurt and despair, God weaves joy and kindness, laughter and hope, playfulness and rest, love upon love. So that the final masterpiece of our life, once completed, is a tapestry of grief and joy, sacrifice and abundance, despair and hope, all mingled together, telling a grand, powerful story of Divine Love.
So maybe it’s true after all, our sacrificing years can be our best years. And maybe we ought not complain…at least too much.
Read Psalm 23:1-4
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
Reflect: The Good Shepherd is leading you through your dark valley, providing refuge in green pastures along the way. There the Good Shepherd makes you lie down and be restored by the goodness in life. How has God comforted you in the dark valley lately? And with what beauty and goodness has God restored your soul?
Take Action: Lie down in a green pasture. Literally. Rest for a while, complain to God a bit if it would help, and then give thanks for the miraculous ways God restores your soul, even in the darkest valley.
Center for Leadership Excellence and the Commission on the Status and Role of Women
We are grateful to the Rev. Laura Johnson, Teaching Pastor at Apex UMC, for writing this month’s issue of Encouragements.