Each day, I thought she would get better. The flu can only last so long, right? But as we approached the three-week mark, my wife still hadn’t improved.
In all honesty, after a few days I – we – just wanted her to get better so that we could go back to our normal lives. But since that wasn’t happening, I figured God might have something for me to learn.
Turns out, he did. A lot. I offer what I learned in the hopes that it will help you in your own challenging circumstances.
Lessons To Be Learned
Here are 7 lessons I learned during my wife’s extended bout with the flu. (By the way, I know some of you are facing far worse, so I want to acknowledge that).
- renewed thankfulness – since we essentially never get sick, I had forgotten how much my wife does… until she couldn’t do it. More importantly, I missed her, my best friend. When suffering takes someone we love down, we can gain a new appreciation for them.
- facing limitations – with my wife down, I had to step up and do much of what she normally does. It was exhausting and I had to say ‘no’ to things and people I wanted to say ‘yes’ to. But being forced to face our limits is good and reminds us that we really are just creatures after all.
- selfishness – there were definitely times where I didn’t feel like doing the laundry, running to the store, or, making another PB & J. I saw my selfishness to a greater degree. Being pushed beyond our normal workload exposes our over-commitment to ourselves.
- fear – as Sharon’s illness pushed beyond the normal limit for the flu and her symptoms morphed unexpectedly, I started to become afraid that things might not get better. That maybe there was a deeper, more chronic problem. Uncertainty helps us come face to face with issues of trust, and, what we’ll do if things don’t improve.
- trusting God, not our circumstances – when our normal life was taken away, I began to see how I usually demand that it remain ‘normal’ as a sort of baseline for my contentment. And that I trust myself to keep it stable. But when it was unstable and messy, I began to cry out to God for help, even if things didn’t change. The Psalms in particular show us that this is one of God’s purposes for our suffering.
- growth – from what I remember, I was able to handle this challenge much better than the last one, which was really encouraging. Less complaining, less anxiety. Challenges give us a chance to see how God has grown us.
- clarity about what, and who, really matters – even though this experience was really unsettling, it forced me to get clear on what, and who, really counts. It’s surprisingly simple: truly trusting God, loving my wife and kids, the people we serve through our work. Not the internet, having a perfectly clean house, or lots of ‘me time’. God uses challenges and suffering to remind us about what’s essential.
So, even though I wish my wife didn’t have to go through those three hard weeks, I’m actually glad that I had to. They turned out to be blessing, a severe mercy from God. (And thankfully, she’s fine now).
What Are You Learning?
At the end of the day, this post isn’t about me. My hope is that the lessons God shared with me during this mini-season will be an encouragement for you as you go through your own challenges and process them more deeply.
If we’ll do that, we’ll experience again the powerful reality of Romans 8:28: ‘we know that for those who love God all things work together for good’.
Question: What difficult circumstance are you facing right now, and, what is God teaching you through it?