We live in a society that is pain averse. We spend a lot of time and money in often-futile attempts to avoid or circumvent painful situations and circumstances.
If only we would heed the words of Westley in one of my favourite movies, The Princess Bride, “Life is pain Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
Given King David’s tendency for brutal honesty, I am fascinated and confronted by the fact that in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death and surrounded by his enemies, He is reveling in the goodness of God.
I am reminded that my circumstances need not determine the level of my joy. I’m also reminded that my life does not have to be free of pain in order to experience the kind of freedom that David articulates in this remarkable passage of scripture.
My dear husband and I have been married for 23 years. Garth is a cancer survivor, in fact, God is the reason he is alive; but that is another story for another time. The lingering consequence of the leukemia that ravaged his body and the aggressive therapies that ensued is that we are infertile.
I mention this because I have learnt that it is possible to walk in the fullness of joy, with hope and purpose while accompanied by grief. I am living proof that joy and sorrow can co-exist and are not mutually exclusive.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies
David’s enemies were all about him and were, for the most part, people who wanted to kill him! Our enemies are often silent, but no less deadly.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12
During our journey with infertility I have been visited by a number of enemies. Fear, shame and isolation joined forces in their attack and I spent more than a few years engaged in a battle that left me exhausted, sad and lonely.
But then, even as my enemies swirled about me, trying to colour every thought and cloud my vision, I discovered the table that God had prepared for me. I discovered that He had plans and a purpose for my life that outstripped anything I could have imagined or devised for myself.
You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Perspective. I have found that it is a matter of perspective. While I continue to experience loss around our infertility, I am blessed beyond measure and continue to have the opportunity to flourish in ways I never thought possible.
Both Garth and I made a considered decision to push into God and discover what other purposes and plans he might have for us. We continued to seek healing and explore adoption, but kept our hearts open to the possibility of a different path, another way of being in a world seemingly so uncomfortable with this way of living.
For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skilfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
Psalm 139: 13-16
As we sought God, he revealed another path; one that has been surprising, challenging, invigorating, and that has kept us pushing into Him. He has designed a life for us that we could never have imagined. This different life has become a reality because He knows us better than we know ourselves and we trust Him implicitly.
I can say, hand on heart, that He has anointed my head with oil and that my cup is filled to overflowing. God is always, always good.
God did not cause us to be infertile and I don’t know why we have not experienced healing. But I know this with every fibre of my being; God is good, God loves me, and God has blessed my husband and I with talents, gifts and abilities that He is using to bless others and us.
I am reminded of the words Aslan speaks to Shasta in A Horse and His Boy (C.S.Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia)
“Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”
This is my story. God has prepared a table before me in the presence of my enemies; He has anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.