Our beautiful Beagle boy finally laid calm in my arms after a 30-minute full Grand Mal seizure. He had been in our family since his birth nine years earlier. An injection of valium calmed him down long enough for what was about to come. The cancer had spread to his brain and the seizures he was having daily were unbearable to witness-it had to end today. I cradled him like a baby one last time. The vet asked us if we were ready. Of course not! But out of love and mercy I nodded to proceed. The injection worked quickly, and just like that, this once full of life furry friend lay motionless in my arms as his life came to a merciful end. I sobbed like little boy and continued to hold him until the vet finally took him from me and carried him out of the room. Thus 2017 was ushered in.
In January and then again in February I was served with two different lawsuits stemming from a business I was forced to close through foreclosure in 2014. I thought that chapter had been closed but aggressive attorneys thought otherwise. The amounts of the lawsuits coupled with the legal fee estimates to defend them were staggering. I had received nothing from the business when it closed and had lost my entire savings that I had invested when it closed down. These unexpected court actions left me with little recourse. My finances and credit were now in shambles. And just like that a lifetime of perfect credit history was now, well, history.
The following March, thinking things could get no worse, things got much worse. The love of my life asked for a divorce after a twenty year relationship. What began as a Hallmark fairytale romance that others envied had now been reduced to a signature on a legal document. To save money, with vision blurred by tears, I drafted the legal documents that would terminate my own marriage. Upon their completion and our signatures, I proceeded to the courthouse and waited in line for what seemed like an eternity waiting to file them. Upon the clerk’s stamp, I took them up to the Judge’s inbox and deposited them for final signature, which took just one day. And just like that the air I breathed for twenty years was taken from me. I felt abandoned, unloved and alone.
The following May I was scheduled for my quarterly check-up with my nephrologist. I suffer from Polycystic kidney disease for which there is no cure. I was advised by someone close that with the year I had experience thus far perhaps I should cancel-I should have listened. I was informed the disease had now progressed to stage Four and I was nearing the need for dialysis. And just like that an otherwise health-minded man was forced to consider life-altering choices and my own mortality.
In a mere span of just five months every aspect of my entire being had come under severe attack. I had lost a dear friend, I lost my financial security, I lost my health and most tragic, I lost the love of my life and best friend. I was, and in many ways, still am quite the mess. Any one of these life-changing events would be enough to take down the strongest of men. But seriously , all in one year? I was left alone in a 2000 square foot house with empty rooms having nothing but the haunts of the past as a companion. Funny thing-I never realized that quietness could echo! Few knew of the numerous challenges I faced this year. More than one person, perhaps not fully disclosed, reprimanded me for wallowing in self-pity. My closer friends shared concerns over what I might do. After all, many have pulled the trigger for much less.
It would be at this point in the story that some, just like friends of Job, would ask how I could still trust in a God who had allowed such destruction to overcome me. I will confess that God and I had some serious “come to Jesus” conversations as I wrestled for answers or purpose. If this is what perseverance looks like, I wanted no part of it. But as a long-time believer I knew that faith was not based on feelings or emotions but on knowledge and trust. My heart wasn’t in it, but I forced myself to find words of hope within the Psalms. David and I became close friends. He could cry out and lament to God over his turmoil in one breath and confess his hope and faith in the very next breath. David always went back to what he KNEW to be true even when he was hiding for his life. In a twisted irony He who allowed these things to invade my 2017 was the One who I had to turn to and lean on in order to survive them. I have surely walked this year through the valley of shadows but Christ has been my comfort and His spirit has been my lifeline when I had little sense or worth, purpose or direction.
I can now see some light as I enter 2018. The demise of my marriage prompted me to write a book that has already made an impact in other couples’ marriages. Claiming a promise of healing, my last check-up on my kidneys revealed the progression of the disease had halted for now-I am claiming a miracle. The Christmas and holiday season which had left me with old familiar and painful memories of years past was spent with my children, all alive, healthy and well. And my first gift, the announcement of a new grandchild’s arrival this coming Summer, brought tears of joy, the first in a long while. My faith sustained me through an impossible year and I now see some sense of purpose and a restored reason to continue the race the Apostle Paul describes. I know I am not alone. Many this year suffered tragic and heart-wrenching losses-death of spouses or loved ones, serious illnesses, broken relationships, unemployment and the list is long. When you are shut in by the surrounding thickness of storm clouds it is challenging to see the sun or feel its warmth, but yet it remains. I want to encourage-no, implore you to seek shelter in the hope and promises of God’s Word and the comfort of His Son, Jesus. David understood it while hiding in caves-the Apostle Paul got it while singing songs in prison chains. I’m no David or Paul, but I get it too.
May the hope, the comfort and the love of our Father bring you into a glorious, prosperous and healthy new 2018. May His will and purpose be revealed in your spirit and inspire you to do great things this year! May you find in Him the strength and courage to boldly face and navigate the storms that may pop up out of nowhere with full knowledge that the Son is always there! Happy New Year!