Live With Eternal Perspective Podcast Episode 005 Handling Hardships
Terri Hitt – Live With Eternal Perspective Podcast Episode #005 - Handling Hardships
Thank you for entrusting and investing part of your precious time with me to grow in Jesus together. I am blessed and thrilled to be back with you today to discuss more ways to live with eternal perspective.
At the time I am working on this podcast, several of my friends are experiencing hardships in their life. One will celebrate her first Christmas without her beloved husband; one celebrates her first Christmas without a beloved son; one just lost two family members and has another in the hospital. Others have children in the hospital. Many people I know are fighting battles in this world. Adversity has no schedule. Trials don’t respect holidays, busy lives, or people. Death and affliction sometimes seem to happen randomly, but as believers, we know that God is never surprised. Everything that happens to believers has already been sifted through His sovereign hands. He is with us through every storm, waiting to carry us through.
Ten years ago, I lost my oldest daughter, Jaime. My family entered a season of what felt like destruction. The years between 2009 and 2015 were brutal to live through. After walking through the loss of my child, attention had to be shifted to my parents. My mother suffered from Alzheimer’s and my father, sister, and I made the very difficult decision to move her to a memory care unit. Multiple reasons prompted us to make that decision, but we certainly did not want her to feel abandoned or forgotten.
My father, my sister, my daughter, Marissa (who was around five years old at the time), and I visited her daily. Marissa was at the facility so much that they allowed her to visit random residents in their rooms. It cheered each one of them, as well as the staff, to see her smiling face and hear the bubbly voice of a young child. Marissa also helped with crafts and the physical activity program in my mother’s unit.
Although being around so much illness was often difficult at the time, in hindsight, God allowed the experiences to soften the heart of my daughter toward the elderly. Even now, she feels comfortable around older adults and enjoys conversing with them.
After my mother had been living in the memory care facility for a while, my father began having significant symptoms in 2012 that finally prompted him to see a doctor. In January of 2013, he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. At the time, they gave him one week to a year to live. While we had been seeing my mother every day and devoting large amounts of time to be with her and help with major decisions in her care, Marissa and I now had to divide my mother’s time and share it with my father. He got so sick that we had to lessen the time we spent with my mother considerably, although I still kept in close contact with her caregivers, and my sister was still visiting and helping with her care her as often as she could.
Dad simply needed so much at that time. We took him to doctor appointments, helped with his medicine, finances, errands, and general understanding of his health. After he was rushed to the hospital in June, the doctors knew he would not be able to return home. When he regained enough strength by the end of the week to be released, the generous people at the facility my mother lived in tried to find him a room near her. He was moved there briefly, but since his insurance did not cover the facility, we had to find an alternative. Although he was stronger, he was still weak and needed special care, so his deepest wish to return home and drive his little truck around town would not come true.
For several reasons, my father was not able to live with my sister or myself. The social worker at my mother’s facility found a nursing home near my father’s house that had an opening and he was moved there within the week. We now had our time split between two parents with high needs, who lived in two separate facilities. Spending almost every day battling emergencies with my father was extremely taxing. On top of that, managing cleaning out his house to donate and sell items to prepare his home for market, and helping with my managing my mother’s care and making time to see her, was exhausting and emotionally difficult. I was burdened by the fact that my young daughter was definitely not getting the time and attention she was accustomed to, or deserved. I was juggling too many things, as was my sister, and the needs of my precious daughter were being ignored. I continually prayed for God to sustain us through this storm.
I remember one morning while Marissa was still sleeping, I was putting my makeup on when I received a phone call from the woman I had hired to hold an estate sale at my parent’s home. One of the employees she hired had sold their refrigerator the day before, but had not turned the water off when they pulled out the refrigerator. The house was flooded.
Additional bad news came with that call as well, and when it was over, I was crushed. I knew God was with us. I had seen His hand working in so many precious ways through everything during the last four years, and I had tried through it all to remain optimistic and to notice and be thankful for the ways God was working, but in that moment, all I felt was defeat. I went to my closet, lay on the floor inside, and shut the door in case Marissa awakened. Then I began to cry. Hard.
In defeat, I threw my feelings out to God. Then, my emotions surfaced; they were my subconscious reactions to everything that had been happening with my parents and family. I knew He already understood and was caring for all of my concerns, but I had to talk to Him. So much was intertwined in caring for both parents, and all the hurts and losses over the years had roots that were being exposed as the soil of my parent’s capabilities eroded. For example, as challenging as it was caring for my father, the blessing of loving him in his final days brought him to me in a new way. I knew God understood and I poured everything out in a jumble of words that only He could piece together into the masterpiece He would create through our distress.
My father always told me how much he loved me as I grew up, but his actions didn’t always match his words. I had grown up wanting private time with him, but never got it. I longed for daddy/daughter dates, or even just his undivided attention without him racing off. Through caring for him, I found he was at my mercy. He had to spend time with me. He was so weak and was confined to a wheelchair, so I would take him on “dates” to the physical therapy room to find activities we could do together. Our options were limited, but the act of telling him we were on a date and moving him to a new location was therapy for my soul.
One of my favorite activities was placing a bedside table between us and rolling a small ball across the top for him to bat back to me. Years of hurt and sorrow washed from my spirit each time we played. I was reminded of the numerous pleas I had cried to God for my earthly father during most of my life. My Heavenly Father was now answering in small, unexpected, but perfect ways tailored to my specific needs.
1 Peter 5:7 promises, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”
I wondered if my father had always wanted more time together, too, but because of addiction and shame, had not been able to break the cycle of his life and make the changes he desired. I cherished the deeper talks we began having when he was sick and held them in my heart as I crawled into bed with my daddy on his weakest days, holding him close.
I had become the parent, subtly interceding where I felt prompted by God. It enabled any residue of hurt to wash away just as Jesus had washed the feet of His disciples. I now understood sacrifice in a different way that I hoped began to resemble Jesus. Only God knows the purpose of suffering, but I believe our Heavenly Father loves each of His children and intertwines life scenarios for the good of all involved and for His eternal glory.
I knew with a certainty that God was in control, that He would provide and care for my parents, as well as my family, but the process was still so hard!
Dealing with so much at once, especially with both parents, took a lot of emotional, mental, physical, financial, and spiritual investment. I had tried to be very specific about releasing daily burdens to God and letting Him deal with all that was happening. I knew my relationship was strong, yet there were subtle ways I could see Satan creeping in to attempt to distract me.
1 Peter 5:8 warns us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”
I had to purposely look for ways God was working in order to stretch my faith and allow it to penetrate my character more deeply. It was an absolutely intentional mindset, but if I hadn’t forced it, my family would have been devastated by the intense needs and demands pressed on us. While I was surrounded by pain, brokenness, and trials, my Savior called for me to release them to Him. As I placed them in His capable hands, intimate grains of hope and joy blossomed inside me and brought forth gratitude, not for the destruction in this world, but for the way He lifts us above earthly vision and draws us nearer to His eternal splendor. He is enough for our every need.
Despite many ways that hardship was presented almost daily, God carried me as I clung to His word, mindful of His past faithfulness to me, especially during the loss of my oldest daughter. That combination enabled me to keep myself securely focused on Him. I didn’t want to underestimate the devil, but my relationship with Christ promised me that He was greater than Satan and already had the final victory. I didn’t know how long this battle would last, but I had to remain focused on and committed to the only One who could give me the endurance I would need. I certainly couldn’t find it in my own strength.
I’m a very strong and logical person, but I can promise you that my family and I would not have made it through all that happened without God. I’m so thankful I already knew and trusted in Him. I’m also incredibly grateful that He used all of it to draw me nearer to Him and that He has been able to redeem and use all the bad residue from the hardships for His glory.
Trials like the ones we experience through challenging times can make us doubt God. The question most people wonder is, “Why does He allow suffering?”
My first response to that is always the beautiful reminder that Jesus cared enough to warn about persecution. In John 16:33b, Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world,” and in Romans 5:3-4, Paul speaks words meant to encourage and teach. “We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Suffering should be expected in this fallen world. Sometimes, it is the catalyst that causes a person to finally release their life to Christ. Other times, it causes a believer to begin viewing affliction with the mindset of Christ. Suffering can purify our mind and heart, causing us to bow to God’s power and sovereignty.
At times, however, it may feel as though we are being judged or punished when things are hard and afflictions continue. But if as a believer, we are living in upright ways, and are intentionally deepening our relationship with God, we can be assured that our suffering is a normal part of life and that it is within His will. That means God will use it for His purposes and glory, and not to harm or destroy us. The Bible is filled with examples of men and women who also lived in ways that God approved and disapproved of, and they also experienced distress and pain.
Other times, God may allow affliction in our life as instruction or discipline. There are times that God permits it to prove our character and belief, or for the purpose of using what we endured to encourage or inspire others to continue looking to the Lord in their time of need. Other times, God simply allows it to teach us what we could not learn in any other way. Often times, it is for the purpose of erasing or preventing pride in our lives.
I know in my life, I have lived through many lessons designed to craft patience. God also allows trials and hardship to teach us to obey Him. How astounding is it that God can use all of the various ways I mentioned (and I am sure even more) and tailor them so individually to each person and situation, yet also intertwine them with others, to change our focus and our future?
Through scripture and life experience as believers, we know that God allows things to happen in a believer’s life for many reasons. Sometimes the only way we can grow in a particular area is because of – or by living through - the exact situation that occurred. Whether we endured it, helped a loved one through it, or were a witness to someone else fighting the battle, God knows exactly what to use.
Isaiah 48:10 is telling, “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”
Sometimes hardships need to knock us to our knees, and keep us there, as we learn to rely on and completely abide in Him.
As believers, we must always remember that we are meant for more. In order to become more like Jesus, we must allow Him to refine us. Without the purification our souls need, our character will never reflect Christ to a world in need. Change can be painful. It’s not easy, it’s never convenient, and we aren’t able to see beyond our present discomfort to the glorious plan God has created and allowed us to be a part of.
May we beg God to prevent us from falling into or remaining in a lukewarm relationship with Him, causing Him to vomit us from His mouth. May the trials we endure in our lives force us into His arms and deepen our faith roots in robust soil enriched with His plan for growth and nutrition.
1 Peter 2:21reminds us, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.”
Jesus is our example in every way. He told us there would be suffering and He modeled how to endure it.
Jesus allowed God to direct His steps, His behavior, and His attitude, and His gratitude in every circumstance.
This world is not our final destination. As we shift our minds to view every moment of life through an eternal lens, may we remember that we are being prepared for so much more and cling to the perfect example of Christ.
Thank you so much for listening to the Live With Eternal Perspective podcast. God has impressed so much on my heart to share. Living with an eternal perspective affects absolutely everything in my life. I am thrilled to delve into different areas with you. Since everything affects our eternity, we will have a lot to discuss! I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you found value in this podcast, please subscribe so you don’t miss an episode. I also encourage you to leave a review. In order for others to be able to find this podcast, I will need the support of listeners who will invest a few minutes in subscribing and reviewing to lift Live With Eternal Perspective higher on the charts so that the platform shows it to everyone.
Thank you again for sharing part of your day with me. Until next time, keep looking Upward and finding new ways to live with an Eternal Perspective.