Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

Support Foster Kids with a Suitcase

The Truth About the Christian Life

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Last week, I wrote about the battle I’ve been waging in my mind. It’s been a major war between believing God’s promises and the fear of our past mixed with the present reality. Honestly, I didn’t even realize just how profound an effect the first hellacious six months of our marriage had on me.

Please don’t jump to the conclusion that our marriage was bad. It wasn’t. It isn’t. We were dealing (and continue to deal) with the emotional and mental trauma of a child, a child who has profound physical and mental disabilities and has no coping skills for the many changes she was walking through. The pediatrician recently said that even his 34-year marriage would not survive what we’ve walked through, so it’s a miracle we are still standing.

As I have shared the gut-wrenching reality in which we have been living, a writer commented that I seem to be in more pain than before so how can I say that this marriage, this remarriage, is blessed by God. So here’s my response…

Two years ago, my kids lost their dad suddenly. Shortly thereafter, I had surgery, went through drastic changes at work, and my daughter was diagnosed with a life-altering illness.

But in God’s goodness, I did not have to walk through the pain alone. It was then, at the most inopportune and unexpected moment, God saw fit to allow this man, this friend I had known most of my life, to step into my life…and walk through some of the most painful moments with me. Unlike the season of my divorce, I did not have to face the pain and grief alone. What a gracious God we have! He knew exactly when my kids and I would need that strong, father/husband figure in our lives.

A little over a year ago, Roy’s daughter began to have severe behavioral issues. His dad was diagnosed with cancer, and a tumor on his spine left him a paraplegic. As we fought for his daughter, we watched his dad’s earthly body wither away. Eventually, Roy had to say good-bye to his daughter as we left her at a treatment center half-way across the country, and he had to say good-bye to his dad until they meet again in heaven.

But in God’s goodness, Roy has not had to walk this path alone. He’s had the blessing of a companion, of three kids who adore him. He’s been surrounded by love and support from me and from my family. He’s found himself embraced like he never has before.

That’s the grace of God, the God who provides us love and companionship exactly when we need it the most.

It would be nice if I could easily hang my hat on His past faithfulness, on the many ways He’s rescued me before. It would be nice if, in the midst of the chaos and pain, I could keep my mind firmly focused on Him. It would be nice if I could walk forward, never stumbling, always moving in perfect obedience.

Unfortunately, and as much as I hate it…I’m way too much like the Israelites. I see the hand of God rescue me from the Egyptians. I march across the Red Sea on dry ground with the wall of water on either side of me. I find myself in freedom for the first time in years!

Only to forget His miraculous ways and start grumbling about the wilderness, the heat, the lack of provisions, the exhaustion, the lack of water, the cravings for the rich meats of slavery. I forget His faithfulness, of how He rescued me from certain death, and set my feet safely and securely on dry ground.

Yes, I am much like the Israelites.

I’ve seen God rescue me, give meaning to my pain. I’ve seen Him heal all the hurts and pains and betrayals. I’ve seen Him set my feet on a firm foundation, restore everything I lost and more. And yet, as the crushing pain and loss of these last few years have rushed in, wave after wave, washing over me, pulling me under, nearly drowning me…and it seems I’ve nearly forgotten. Forgotten the faithfulness of my Father. Forgotten His tender mercies that are new every morning. Forgotten His promises that pulled me through in the past. Forgotten to focus on Him so His perfect peace will carry me through.

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 2 Corinthians 4:17

Often in the midst of the deepest and most profound pain, it is hard to focus on Him, to get our eyes off the crushing waves rolling in, sweeping over us time and time again. But, I know that at some point the waves will slow, settle, and I will be able to see the beauty, the goodness, the pruning God is trying to work in us and through us in this painful season.

As I’ve thought about this comment, the pain, this season, I have a few reminders about his life:

The Christian life is not trouble free. In John 16:33, Jesus Himself reminded us that in this life we will have trouble. The trials of this life are meant to teach us dependence on Him, to draw us into His presence so we can experience His unrelenting love and His awesome healing powers. Without trouble, we would never understand the joy of seeing Him make all things work for good.

The Christian life is not linear. This life is about seasons, seasons of plenty and seasons of want, seasons of rest and seasons of exhaustion, seasons of miracles and seasons of need. Just like the Israelites, we sometimes find ourselves taking two steps forward and three steps back. It would be nice if this life was as easy as walking a straight line from point A to point B, but instead we often have to zig and zag through points C, D, E and Z before we can reach point B. The key is to let the Father guide our every step, to trust Him to lead us to the Promised Land as we follow His Spirit.

Christian marriages are not easy. Let’s rephrase: strong, solid Christian marriages are not easy. They take work. And patience. And forgiveness. And grace. And love. And understanding. And compassion. And prayer. And work. Lots of work. It takes time to get into the groove of a marriage, to learn to move as one even as we remain the amazing individuals we were created to be.

Neither of us has been in a truly Christ-centered marriage in the past. We are learning. Learning to love each other. Learning to love each other’s kids. Learning to make God the cord that ties us together. And honestly? With all this life has thrown at us in the last year, it’s been hard to get in a groove, to intentionally grow together.

Christian remarriages are even harder. I always imagined that I would just automatically love someone else’s kids the way I love my own. Umm… yeah. Not quite that way, especially when they are teens who are resistant to becoming part of a family. It’s also hard to put your spouse ahead of those kids. I’ve spent the last six years of my life fighting for my kids. You can’t just turn that off and start fighting for this other person in your life. You often find yourself stepping in to defend your kids to the very one who loves you most. And then there’s the emotional garbage from your past. Constantly reminding yourself that he’s not the one who hurt you, who betrayed you, who almost killed you with the emotional pain. At the same time you try to get rid of the emotional baggage, you have to set healthy boundaries while learning to let the walls down. It’s a delicate dance that is learned over time and mistakes and victories.

Perhaps most importantly, the Christian life is about hope even in the darkest of circumstances. This season has been hard, but we are not without hope. There’s hope Roy will see his dad again and hope my kids will see their dad. There’s hope because God has promised us this battle with Roy’s daughter is His, that He will fight for us and the victory is His. There’s hope for our marriage because we are both grounded in our faith, in our relationships with our Father. There’s hope for healing for my daughter because the Great Physician is able. And even if He doesn’t answer our prayers the way we think He should, there’s hope that He will take our pain and use it, use it to make us more like Him, use it to allow us to minister to others walking through similar pain. There’s hope that these light and momentary troubles will work an eternal glory we could never imagine.

As long as we are with our Father, there is always hope for tomorrow. And that is why I continue to cry out to my Father, the One who is our Hope.

Read More Dena Johnson Martin