It’s hard to realize a full year has gone by since my husband passed away January 25th. It’s been a year of learning to live more independently while seeking God’s guidance, relying on wise counsel from others, a year of missing Ed’s wit and wisdom and his big hugs which left me feeling so loved and protected… yet times of missing him so much, shedding a few tears, while savoring precious memories of our 49 years together, thankful for the many blessings through the years and now… and it’s also been a year of knowing contentment and peace realizing Ed is fully restored, able to see, to walk and run without pain or dizziness, absolutely enjoying his heavenly home with our Lord.
Yet, in the past, there were many times when my peace was shattered... difficult storms, painful wounds, major losses... and I was in turmoil. Like December 2019 when Ed was found to be in severe life-threatening diabetic hyperglycemic hyperosmolar syndrome, a rare complication of diabetes type II. We were both overwhelmed with the new diagnosis of type II diabetes, and a new treatment regimen on top of his multiple other health issues. We fully realize countless others have successfully dealt with this diagnosis, but the initial shock left us overwhelmed.
In 2022, Ed was hospitalized twice in July, again at the end of September, in the ER several times in early December for difficulty breathing with severe congestive heart failure and pulmonary edema. Arriving home that night after spending 8-1/2 hours in the ER, I found two “thinking of you” cards in the mailbox from dear friends. What perfect timing! God knew we needed a special reminder of how he uses each of us to bring His love and care to those who need a cheerful lift.
Then just two days after Christmas 2022, Ed was hospitalized for 8 days with fluid overload on chronic congestive heart failure. At cardiac catheterization, three stents were placed to open a fully blocked artery, with more near total blockages and damage throughout his heart with 9 days’ worth of atrial fibrillation. In January 2023, he was readmitted with Covid, multiple pulmonary embolisms (blood clots in his lungs), more difficulty breathing, and major weakness. But the cards mentioned above, the visit of dear friends leading to a special inspiring visit by their friend, pastor and chaplain at Robert Packer Hospital, and the many kind comments of loving care and prayers to my Facebook updates at that time, remind me of the following blog I’d penned based on words written so many centuries ago.
Reading our devotions one evening several years ago, Ed quietly asked me to read Psalm 91. He wasn’t sure what it said, but he had a strong sense God was urging him to have me read this Psalm for a particular difficulty I was facing.
In reading Psalm 91 aloud, I found these words by King David spoke to my heart: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’… He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart… If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the Lord, who is my refuge – then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent… ‘Because he loves me, says the Lord, I will rescue him; I will protect him…’ He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.” (vs.1-2, 4, 9-10, 14-15. NIV)
Despite tears rolling down while reading the entire Psalm that night, I felt a great sense of comfort and peace… that peace which passes all understanding despite the trial. (Philippians 4:7)
None of us is immune to the trials and storms of life, or the feelings of sadness that overtake us at times. Sometimes God graciously allows a storm to pass us by without disturbing our equilibrium, other times He fully heals us in our difficult storm, while other times we have no choice but to wend our way through the storm to understand why we had to walk a difficult path… for neither are we promised a life of ease. As Jesus reminded His followers in John 16:33, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
The one who is ill may not even look ill. They remember their busy fulfilling life of the past, replaced by a limited worth or useless feeling that permeates their days. We’ve learned it is normal to grieve life changes with sadness and frustration, even as Ed’s great sense of humor would pop through despite a difficult day to envelope us in therapeutic hearty laughter.
But I will also admit to a touch of envy knowing most friends can do anything or go wherever they want, not an option for us to enjoy. It can be hard to identify with those who deal with chronic illness… facing health issues and concerns other folks don’t ever seem to encounter. And the grieving process can initially leave you devoid of the joy which James 1:2-3 speaks about as we learn to accept chronic illness.
Guilt may even be felt by the chronically ill person and family when prayers for healing seem to go unanswered. To hear a casual or flippant response, to be told we’re not praying right, or to sense a lack of genuine care can be crushing. As we pray for healing, we especially ask for strength to handle each day… because healing as we want may not be God’s plan. The Apostle Paul was not healed as he desired, but learned that God’s grace was sufficient with Christ’s power and strength evident through his (Paul’s) weaknesses. (II Corinthians 12:7-10) Relying on God for wisdom and strength each day, God’s power shines through us.
I will never forget another hospital chaplain who sat with me when Ed was in the ICU in 2010 for severe life-threatening grand mal (tonic-clonic) seizures. Gradually pulling out our life story, he listened and cared deeply, saying that in 30 years as a chaplain, he’d never met a family who’d dealt with so many difficult issues as we had, and I hadn’t even told him all, as he prayed with me in facing a new major stressor. Six months later, Ed was back in the ER, hearing his favorite ER physician say, “I’m so glad to see you! Not that you’re ill again, but that you survived those seizures and have no damage!” Wow! She truly cared!
We appreciated the support and prayers of family and friends as we faced each new trial. Take time to hear concerns as a new norm is accepted, leaning on God as He walks beside you in the storm. Share your heartfelt hugs. Convey a depth of feeling and understanding in asking “how are you doing.” Friends and family who ask and truly listen to understand what anyone with chronic illness faces bring much comfort. Offers of help are gratefully appreciated, even if they cannot be readily accepted.
While we're inside the storm, though the wind and waves batter our world, we do remember God is still there, still in control. We know we can trust Him to hold us tightly, to shelter and protect… even though we may lose everything, including life itself, as when we lost our daughter, Jennifer, and last year my husband. Yet, through the difficulty, He will make a way, perhaps close one door to open a better one, and shine His light to guide us as we move forward… one step at a time.
It’s where we place our trust that peace will be revealed. And when it’s placed in our Lord’s perfect will, trusting that He has our best interests at heart even in the most difficult times, we see Him help us handle what comes our way as we grow in faith to become more like Christ, our life’s purpose. With such trust, our faith remains unshakeable, and we find a renewed peace… with a joy that passes understanding.
There’s a painting I love entitled “Peace in the Midst of the Storm” by Jack E. Dawson. One story is told that a wealthy benefactor searched for the perfect painting depicting peace. The first two beautiful tranquil scenes were rejected. When the artist returned to his easel, frustrated at his work being rejected, his prayer prompted the design of a riveting scene. On a dark and stormy night, water gushes in torrents over rocky ledges…as a mother bird calmly sits upon her nest tucked under a ledge, protecting her young while the elements rage. Now that’s peace! https://jackdawsontour.com/peace-in-the-midst-of-the-storm/
Studying that painting, I also notice a profile of Christ in the rock formations and a cross created by rocky fissures. Considering how our heavenly Father gently guides and protects us during the storms of life, however fierce they may be, it’s His canopy of love and peace that shelters and comforts us. And I can be at peace when life is in turmoil knowing that “[He] will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in [Him]. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord…is the Rock eternal.” (Isaiah 26:3-4 NIV)
Linda A. Roorda
There is a peace in the depth of my soul
A joy that comes from Your love alone,
For in the midst of storms and trials
My heart is steady when focused on You.
But peace is fleeting when I fail to heed
When I take charge and grasp hold the wheel.
I need to trust that Your ways are best
When through the darkness I walk gripped by fear.
For as the waves relentlessly toss
Your face I’ll seek for comforting solace.
I know You’ll guide me safely to shore
As Your light shines down to brighten my way.
For what is peace without Your mercy
The hand held out to offer refuge,
An ear to hear burdens of the heart
Arms to envelope the soul in turmoil?
Grace beyond measure You pour over me
Yet I don’t deserve riches of mercy.
Prone to wander, to follow my will
Still You pursue to seek and to save.
There is contentment just in the knowing
Whenever I feel the world crashing down,
You call my name and draw me with joy
Out of the chaos and into Your arms.
And like a fresh rain washing over me now
Peace like the sun envelopes my soul,
It covers my life with joy unreserved
Tranquility found as I rest in You.