By Barbara Comito, Director of Marketing and Communications
2015 was a rough year for me and my family. My husband lost his job of 16 years due to a lawsuit and bankruptcy at the company where he worked. Subsequently, he was unemployed for five months and eventually took a job he didn’t love and for which he was overqualified. It was hard. An amazing chef with over 30 years of experience in the kitchen, this was not what was supposed to happen. He’s 56. I’m 55. We’re supposed to be thinking about retirement, not starting over.
This was also my first year in a new job. I had been the UGM staff writer for seven years before I was promoted to director of marketing and communications. I was stre-e-e-tched and challenged in ways that were not always welcome.
One of my sons, who had what actually seemed like a plausible Olympic dream (he’s a discus thrower), pulled a muscle in his throwing arm and then fell ill to a mysterious chronic fatigue. After months of doctor’s appointments and lab tests, no one has been able to pinpoint the cause.
Finally, my youngest daughter, who was so excited for her freshman year in college, ended up with roommates who drank and smoked pot and threw wild parties in their shared space. She was miserable.
I’d love to say 2016 was off to a much better start, but unfortunately, it’s not. So, when I heard this song on the radio this morning, it got my attention.
“When you don’t move the mountains I’m needing you to move, when you don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through, when you don’t give the answers as I cry out to you, I will trust. I will trust in you.” (“Trust in you” by Lauren Daigle)
God isn’t moving my mountains. He is not parting the sea in front of me. And I have been crying out for months now. I love my husband. I believe he is incredibly talented, and I honestly do not know anyone who works harder, is more creative or cares more than he does. So why isn’t God answering? Where is he?
I know well that I am not alone in my struggles or my questions. Good friends have lost their husbands in the past year or gone through divorce. The elderly parents of my friends are showing signs of senility and moving in with them. Friends’ children are in addiction.
I don’t know if misery really loves company, but it is certainly helpful to have friends who see the world as a place where suffering exists and who don’t blame you for being smack dab in the midst of it.
The psalmist is a good friend in that respect. Take a look at Psalm 42: “Day and night I have only tears for food…My heart is breaking…I am deeply discouraged.”
But the thing I love about Psalm 42 is its mix of honest despair and clinging to God. The psalmist, acknowledging a heavy, downcast soul, resolves to remember: “These things I will remember as I pour out my soul…I will remember you from the land of the Jordan…I will yet praise him.”
Resolving to Remember
I am terribly forgetful. Ask my children. They will happily offer up endless examples. Here’s the most recent one. I heard Lauren Daigle’s song as I pulled into the parking lot for work this morning, but by the time I got to my desk, I could not remember her name, the name of the song or any of the specific lyrics.
I can literally re-watch a movie a year later as though I’ve never seen it before, so when I chose “remember” as my word for 2016, I knew it was going to take intentionality on my part.
I don’t think I’m overstating the case when I say my life literally depends on remembering. Maybe not my physical life, but my emotional life, my spiritual life? Most definitely.
Here’s what I need to remember:
- God is good. Jeremiah wrote the following as Jerusalem was being destroyed: “This I recall to mind [remember] and therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses never cease. His compassions never fail. They are new every morning.” (Lamentations 3:21-22) Life is hard, but God is good.
- God is all-powerful. “O Sovereign Lord! You have made the heavens and earth by your great power. Nothing is too hard for you!” (Jeremiah 32:17) He parted the Red Sea. He opened the earth to swallow his enemies. He flooded the earth. He raised his Son from the dead. He can find my husband a job. He can heal my son. He can watch over my daughter at college.
- God’s power is directed toward mercy. The ten plagues had a purpose – freedom for captive Israel. Christ’s resurrection had a purpose – our salvation. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things.” (Romans 8:32) God may not be moving my mountains and parting my seas, but it isn’t because he doesn’t love me.
- My future, my husband’s future, my children’s future, your future – all of those futures are in God’s hands. “My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me.” (Psalm 31:15)
- God has taken care of us in the past. For the first seven years of our marriage, my husband and I were infertile. We did not think we could have children and then we had four – one by adoption, three by birth. He allowed me to stay home and homeschool my children for 16 years. There was always food on the table and a roof over our heads.
- I cannot fix things, and ultimately, it’s not my job to do so. I am a tad compulsive-obsessive. I will go over and over events (especially in the middle of the night) trying to figure out the solution. Big surprise here, it never works. It’s my job to pray, to be obedient and to trust. The rest…not my job.
How I Plan to Fight My Tendency to Forget
Well, that’s all fine and good. Lots of good stuff to remember. Plenty of room for hope there. The problem is that I am a lot like the Israelites of the Old Testament – quick to forget. I need to build sign posts, landmarks, reminders into my life. Here’s the plan:
- Memorize Scripture. I have been working on this for about three years. My favorites are the Psalms. Psalm 23: “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul.” Psalm 25: “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. In you I trust, O my God. Do not let me put to shame and do not let my enemies triumph over me.” Psalm 27: “The Lord is my life and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid?” There’s more. Lots more.
- Sing hymns. They help the truth stick in painless ways. “This is my Father’s World. O let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.” “Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee.” “Our God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.” “Here I raise my Ebenezer. Hither by thy help I come, and I hope by thy good pleasure safely to arrive at home.”
- And speaking of Ebenezers, I love rocks. I think they tell stories. Have you noticed how many times in the Bible God encourages his followers to create physical reminders of his love and providence in their lives? The tabernacle itself is full of symbolism. There’s the act of circumcision and the phylacteries Jewish men tied on their heads. There are the 12 stones the tribes carry out of the Jordan River after they have crossed on dry land. “When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord…So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” (Joshua 4:6-7) I wear stones around my neck and build towers in my garden – all to help me remember.
My tendency is to forget. My tendency is to worry and plot and scheme and become downcast. But I resolve to fight against my natural inclination. I resolve to remember.
Do you know someone going through a difficult time? Provide a little comfort with a card.