Consider that Terrible Struggle Joy?

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds”

James 1:2 (ESV)

So many times our postings here on A Widow’s Might are focused on encouragement.

We share with you how to move forward, how to put your trust in the Lord, and how to take the lemons that widowhood has left for you and make lemonade—and maybe even something better than lemonade.  Maybe even a pineapple lemon-drop smoothie!

But I can remember moments, especially in that first year after losing Tom, when that advice was the last thing I wanted to hear.

My moments like this came, at first, in waves—like a roller coaster.

One moment I’d feel this surreal peace, like God had me totally in His grip, and the next moment the entire loss would come crashing in on me like a tidal wave. The night Tom died, I felt a surreal lifting from the Lord—like, even though I lost the best friend and love of my life, Someone was supernaturally holding me, cradling me, carrying me. But just minutes later, I found myself looking at his chair in the living room in disbelief, remembering how earlier that day he sat there, grinning at me.  “He was just here,” I thought.  I found myself grabbing at the empty space where he sat with my fist, over and over, until I exploded in tears.

Then the waves came further apart.

On that first Christmas without him, I found myself too busy with my four boys to get to that miserably lonely point.  Friends and family surrounded me, and I still felt that glow of being loved by my husband—still felt married.  But just two days later, as I finally cleaned out his office, turning paper after paper over, sorting, what memory to toss, what memory to savor. I found little notes I had written to him, early in the summer, weighing the merits of which vacation we’d take in the fall. Little did I know as I had scribbled those thoughts, he’d be gone before we could ever take that vacation. I sobbed my eyes out, wondering will it ever be possible to stop? Wine didn’t dull the pain, sleep fled from me, and I became determined to finish the painful sorting job even as the sun started to climb over the horizon.

The worst wave was at the first year mark.

A year to the very date of his death,  friends and family gathered to help the boys celebrate the memory of their father Tom-style, with a joyful celebration. The boys enjoyed it—it was beautifully perfect.  But that same moment, as dozens smiled and prayed and encouraged with words, cards, letters, and mementos, I was dying inside.  I wanted everyone to just go away. I wanted to be alone.  I hated the attention—I hated that all I had was a memory to celebrate, not the husband that cradled me in his arms night after night.  I left those dozens of cards people gave me unopened. Tucked them away in a box. That was three years ago and I’ve yet to open even one of them.  I just wanted to forget that horrible night where we had to celebrate the memory of someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

Starting out with dating brought new waves.

What blessings the Lord has given me in introducing me to kind fellows, ones with integrity and genuine intentions for me.  But at times grief got in the way, and dating anxiety led to nightmares. I remember after one of my earlier dates dreaming about an  stranger taking me to a scary unknown, and slightly waking to the feeling of my husband’s arms tightly wrapped around me in my bed, only to find that even that was a dream, and that I’m still, indeed, alone. Then sobbing—why do I have to start over when the arms that held me were more than enough for me—they were safe, and I was sure.

Why do I share with you those painful moments?

Because if you’re in that early phase of shock, anger, and desperate loneliness, I want you to know that you’re not alone.  If you’re angry, you’re probably not really blaming God and thinking He’s laughing at you and hurling death into your life to watch you squirm.  But you’re still angry at Him.

And if you’re still angry at Him, you’re probably mad because you know He’s all-powerful, and He could have stopped it.  He could have stopped the car wreck, or the heart attack or the cancer cells.  But He didn’t.  And now you have to be happy with the comfort He gives you?  Arrrgh!!!

So why didn’t I cave to those feelings, and why won’t you?

Because you have to believe, somewhere deep within you, that there is a purpose to allowing pain in our lives.  I love what my pastor told us last week when he spoke on this exact topic.  “We all have had that moment in life when we’re knocked off that wide road in life.  The road that nearly everyone travels. The road of life with family, career, health, wealth. All the stuff that even if we don’t have it all, we have some of it, and enough to at least still have the hopes and dreams to getting it all.  And the whole world is walking that road with you, and you feel like you’re part of it all—until it happens.  Divorce, loss, sickness—and you’re knocked off the wide road and down onto the road less traveled.”

And you sit there on the road less traveled.

You’re angry, sad, lonely.  And you might stay that way, but if you get past that, you begin to look around and really notice God more.  You’re comforted by Him and suddenly you see Him like you’ve never seen Him before.  And you notice fewer people are on this road less traveled.  That’s because many people don’t stay there. It’s so uncomfortable at first that rather than staying and sorting it out in their grief, they climb back onto the wide road before they get a chance to see how beautiful the road less traveled is.

But I encourage you—look around while you’re in that place.

Bear with the grief and trust. You’ll begin seeing it. I promise.  You begin seeing the beauty of this road. And that beauty, my sisters, is the euphoria that you hear us writing about.  When you choose to walk the road less traveled, He gets so fresh in your hearts that you feel him, right there—through it all, and nothing the world has to offer, even the security of a husband, replaces feeling the love of God all around you, of feeling of Him directing your next steps.

I am amazed ladies, as I’ve suffered with crying along with my children this week as they have relived the pain of losing Dad, that I felt such a surge of God’s peace all through the late nights comforting and talking with them.  Yes, it’s euphoria.  It’s as James says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). Every tear is a step towards healing, so yes, I consider even the tears, joy, for as James says, you consider it joy: “because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”

Kit Hinkle is the Founder and Ministry Lead for A New Season Ministries, Inc., and an author and speaker. She has lived through corporate careers as a chemical engineer and a management consultant, but now finds her finest career as a home school mother to four teen boys–one of them launched in college. She loves Pilates and her best friend’s Bosanova Christian yoga-style stretching. Her longing for walks on the beach with her chocolate lab has led her to Charleston where she’s now starting her new season.  To sit with another who is walking through her tough road and show that woman Christ, brings joy and fulfillment to Kit. It’s such an honor to participate in His kingdom.
If you are interested in having her speak, please contact her via email at admin@anewseason.net. 
Other articles by this author: www.anewseason.net/author/khinkle

 

Would you like to read more about joy?  Here are some articles you might try:

Sunshine and Rain by Teri Cox

The Gospel of His Grace by Sheryl Pepple

22 replies
  1. Sarah vR
    Sarah vR says:

    Im sitting here reading this 17 weeks now since my best friend unexpectedly left for Heaven. Im alone in our home without children…only our 3 dogs. He had 2 kids from a prior marriage and they’ve taken their anger out on me so there’s no contact right now. His parrnts live 8 hrs away…my Mom is 8 min away and also a widow after my Dad also died unexpectedly 12 yrs ago. My emotions are all over the place. Christmas has always been my favorite timee of year, and now Im tryimg to focus on the nativity & reason for the season and cant even brimg myself to pull out any decorations. So many good and bad memories (my husband was abused growing up and Christmas was hard for him since he was molested that night growing up…we worked the last few years trying to focus on new happy memories for him instead). I would prefer to honestly skip this whole month and wake up Jan 2. Tired of hurting!

    • Kit Hinkle
      Kit Hinkle says:

      Sarah, I resonate with so many of your feelings. The kids from the previous marriage and their troubles–focusing on the nativity–preferring to skip the whole month and wake up on Jan 2–being tired of hurting. It gets better, I promise you that, Sarah. I’m glad you know the reason for the season and that Christ came not to be a baby in the manger but to suffer and die for us. And not suffer and die just to save us from our sins (which, by itself, is absolutely amazing), but so that we all understand that He suffered too and shares in our suffering. You are not alone in being alone. And your future isn’t filled with loneliness, but fulfillment. On the difficulty with your step children, read my upcoming Sunday articles. I’ve been led by the Lord to identify each Sunday with the struggles of widowhood during this season, and having to deal with those who suffer over the loss of your husband and end up trying to resolve the issues they had with him with you. Hugs to you, Sarah, and blessings as you heal. …Kit

  2. Valerie Solano
    Valerie Solano says:

    Kit, I don’t know when you originally wrote or posted your article “Consider that Terrible Struggle Joy?”, but I just read it tonight, November 22, 2015. January 8, 2016 will be the second year anniversary of my husband’s death. I have been following your and your fellow writers’ posts, articles, and devotionals for months now. I had just tonight texted a good friend about how well I have been coping lately with the holidays approaching, when after clicking the link to this article brought me to the most profound sobbing spell I have had since the second week after my husband’s funeral. Upon reading very early in your article about your encounter with your late husband’s chair, I suddenly realized that the nearly-new mechanical lift chair that has been in my van for the better part of this year (it’s a long story as to why it is there), was the last thing my husband sat in before he died. In fact, though it wasn’t clear to me until some 48 hours later, it was in that very chair that he suffered the hemorrhage that led to his death less than 96 hours after struggling to wrestle himself out of it to go to bed. I share this so that you will know how perfect God’s timing is and how divine it is that you answer God’s call to write the things you write. I am and always will be deeply indebted to the ministry of anewseason and awidowsmight. Were it not for you and the other ladies there, I would still be stuck in my grief and posting angry four-letter-word on my facebook page. Instead, I am trusting God in my grief and in this process of moving forward with my grief. I have made great strides this year towards stepping into a new life that incorporates my loss with ministering and sharing with others and embracing new ways to accept and live out God’s blessings in my own life. Thank uou so much for all you do, and for allowing God to work through you and your experiences. Much love and appreciation.

    • Kit Hinkle
      Kit Hinkle says:

      Valerie, your comment blessed us immensely. Thank you so much! To hear how you have been redeemed from the bitterness of wanting to post angry four-letter-words to making great strides towards living out God’s blessings encourages us to no end! Yes it is fine to comment on this post as even though it was written years ago, we bring the older posts back to the attention of our readers because God’s truth never changes. What was on the heart of a widow a few years ago applies just as well to all widows today and tomorrow. Thank you, sister!

  3. Tess
    Tess says:

    I don’t feel so all alone now having read your post! Thank you Kitty, for helping me to feel normal, on the road less traveled. I hope to stay on this road, the road less traveled, trusting the Lord with the rest of my days, returning not to the former things on the wide road, as those comforts fade. I am comforted, knowing that there is a road as you have described. I’ve been walking on it for almost six years, thinking that I needed to get off, it and join the others on the wide road. Such detail, only God could have brought this to me today. I have come to realize that its okay, it is good to be on such a road that leads us into the loving arms of a God whose love surpasses all human experiences, euphoria! What a joy! What a glorious joy, I have found today, in A Widows MIGHT! Blessings beyond measure and joy unspeakable! With much love, Tess

  4. michelle
    michelle says:

    Sylvia,
    I let out a gasp when I read your story…I so can relate to your situation. my husband died Nov. 12, 2011. from complications from a stem cell transplant. he was 44 and in excellent health prior to being diagnosed a year ago. He ran marathons and completed his life long dream of being in the Ironman race in BC. in Aug. of 2010. right after that he was diganosed with MDS…only chance of survival…a stem cell transplant..and we prayed and prayed for a donor..we had prayer services for him for a match and then for healing. Eight months later, in April of 2011, we got a call that there were 3 10 out of 10 matches. Praise God!!!! not one match but 3..he was going to survive!! So on Aug. 3 , he enterred the hosptial for the transplant. After a week of heavy , heavy chemo and radiation, the stem cells were dripped into his body in a matter of 20 min. We were so thankful, our 3children (18,17,and 14) were there too!! Life in a bag for my husband. We were exstatic for this new life….my husband never came home from the hospital( ok..one day in Sept. but we rushed him back after being home for 12 hours..he was so sick), he stayed there until he passed away on Nov. 12…yes..we were with him when he crossed his finish line into the Lord’s arms and he looked at all of us and told us how much he loved us..he said “let me go”..and then…”Shout it from the mountain top” and then he took his last breath. He finished his biggest race…yet we miss him and yes we question..the match,(3 actually) and then transplant ..yet God still called him home….why? why ?..I know I may never know why…I know that the Lord has a purpose for us and it will bring glory to Him..but I still question why did we go through all this with the transplant etc and then to lose him from the complications of the transplant…that is so hard to fathom..not sure if the anger has come out of me yet..not sure if I am at that point..I am still in the point of this being a dream and I am in a fog..but as I heard in church on Sunday ..sometimes God says no..but He also reminds us “that my grace is sufficient for you”…Sylvia..would love for you to email me if you are interested…mvz@rogers.com..blessings to you and your family as you too grieve the loss of your life partner.

  5. Cheryl
    Cheryl says:

    I would like to begin by saying thank you to my dear friend DJ for forwarding this website to me on a day I needed it most. My husband died at our church while serving The Lord. How can that be happening I thought, but who am I to question God? I was never angry with God, I was angry with my husband for working alone.
    With God’s strength we made it through the first year! Praise God!
    After I put my boys to bed, 10 and 6, that is the hardest time for me.
    But it is also a quiet time to share with Him. Katie shared she hated to admit her tragedy made her more aware of her strong faith in God.
    Thank you Katie for having the courage to share that! I thought I must be crazy! I had my faith, but, I relied on my husband…..and not my Lord….
    Thank you so much…..to all of you ….May The Lord wrap His arms around you when you need it most.

  6. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    My husband has been gone now for almost 11 months and I still feel like he is going to walk through the door , but then the door never opens. My 20 year old son says mom it is what it is! I am trying to trust in God and I know He is Soverign but I just can’t seem to hear His voice. I want so desperatly to know what His will is for my life but all I seem to get is silence. Thanks for your words at least I know I am not alone and that I too can get through this and I know that I have to just keep trusting in the Lord.

  7. Betty
    Betty says:

    Thanks Kitty!
    I knew there was a bible reference but wasn’t sure where. It is interesting that I read this this morning because that is EXACTLY what I did ALL night last night with God. I am exhausted starting out this New Year from the wrestling and no sleeping but can’t say that He is more obvious to me today,but I have to trust that He will be.
    From looking at the time of your post, it looks like you were up in the night as well!

  8. kitty Hinkle
    kitty Hinkle says:

    Sylvia, on Betty’s reference to wrestling with God– Jacob said this: “for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved”. This was in Genesis 32:30 right after he had spent an entire night wrestling with an angel who happens to be Christ Himself. It’s only through the struggle–that wrestling match, that God becomes obvious to the individual.

    I will pray for you.

  9. Kitty Hinkle
    Kitty Hinkle says:

    Katie, you have hit James 1:2 on the head. To really make an impact–I mean really be used by God for a purpose to impact the world for Him, you’ve got to learn to relax on the road less traveled enough to know that the pain of being there is a struggle that’s not intolerable. It hurts, but you know you’re exactly where God can now use you to impact others for Him. That’s where the joy comes- real joy- permanent joy And whether you sit on that road less traveled for a year or 19 years, if you get to where you are now, God can finally use you in infinite ways.

    Happy New Year.

  10. Katie
    Katie says:

    It is new years eve…and I dont want a new year to arrive. I let my 2 and 4 year old stay up until 10:30 because I dont want to be alone and because at this time last year I was celebrating with my husband. Sad is…well, it is lonely, isolating, exhausting…it is not something that I ever was generally.
    But I also was never quite as desperate for the Lord. I was never quite so able to surrender because I simply don’t know what else to do and I was never so attentive to developing into the woman that God wants me to become. I hate, and I mean I hate, to admit it but Kevin’s death has in some hidden and awful way made me even more aware of the strong faith that I have always had. God uses that tragedy and suffering. I know, somehow. Thank you for your words, your affirming and faithful message. I long for the support that I find in these posts so thank you, And God bless us widows in this new year…time will not stop, so God use us how you see fit.
    Sincerely,
    Katie

  11. Sylvia
    Sylvia says:

    Thank you Betty for writing. I’m feeling a bit better about the whole thing. Still angry, but what you said makes since. Now, I think I’ll “wait”. Wait and see what God’s next move is. I feel like this now… Who knows how I’ll feel in an hour. Thank you again.

  12. Betty
    Betty says:

    My Dear Sylvia,
    I am so very sorry about your sweet Henry! What an awful roller coaster ride you endured through his illness.
    Thank you for having the courage to admit where you are with your faith and your emotions.
    You can trust what you know in the depths of your heart, but I understand that all the outward appearances don’t support that right now. I so get what you are talking about because I am “the reader” that Kitty was referring to in her post asking about the anger. I, like you, know that God is real but some where between knowing that He died for my sins because He loved us and because of that my Bob is in heaven waiting for me some day; there is a whole lot of hurt, sorrow and grief to deal with and where does God fit into all the between stuff.
    I keep reminding myself that it is a relationship with God that I am in and just like my relationship with my husband there were times when he disappointed me and made me angry but the relationship was still there. I keep telling God,” One of us must have the wrong definition of Who are you and I am just guessing here but I assume it must be me. So before I can trust You again I need to know Who You are and only You can show me that.” “Wrestling” with God is okay and sometimes that is the most “intimate” of gestures. Have you ever seen high school wrestling and the “positions” they get into and the “closeness” they share at those moments. I am a visual person so that helps me to “see” it differently. These are just the observations that have helped me in small ways to cope. I wish I had the “answers” for all of us in our pain but just wanted you to know that I appreciate your honesty. Your anger is real and deserves to be acknowledged. Sometimes expressing it helps it to lose it’s power over us and then we can move beyond it. I pray that for us both and anyone else who struggles with that. Thanks for reading my “ramblings”.

  13. Sylvia
    Sylvia says:

    My husband, Henry, died October 22nd of this year. He was diagnosed with CLL (cancer) 5 1/2 years ago. Not to worry they said, this is the slowest cancer there is. 2 years later, we are doing chemo to put it at bay. No side effects from the chemo! Praise God. Chemo is over and my husband didn’t get sick not one day. He not only didn’t lose his hair, he grew some new hair. God is good. Understand that I had so much peace through this whole process. I knew that I knew God had his hand on my husband. A year later… platelets aren’t looking so good. Lets do some more tests. Results came back that the chemo he had from the first cancer had given him a secondary cancer. This one isn’t so good. It’s rare that chemo will give a secondary cancer but it did. So at this point the CLL is under control but he was diagnosed with MDS (which will turn into lukemia) He needs a bone marrow transplant. Okay God, we know that you have a plan. We are believeing in your promises. Our family, our church, our friends… we are all believing. The prognosis for AML is about 2 to 5 years if no match is found for the transplant. No match was found. Henry was what they called a “mutt”. He was mixed races. Hispanic, Irish and Philipino. We honestly believed this was all part of God’s plan. We believed with all of our hearts that the promises we were reading in Gods word were real. They were for everyone. We believed that at that “midnight hour” God would reach down and give Henry new blood and he would be healed. A dr had told Henry that if God healed him she would convert and tell her patients all about it. That was 2 days before he died.
    Am I angry? You bet your life I’m angry. I too have come to the conclusion, why pray? God does what ever God decides to do. Those promises are for the ones that God decides, for what ever reason, are worth the time. My husband was a humble, loving and Godly man. He spent his time playing beautiful music for God. He deserved more. He should still be here. That’s my opinion not Gods.
    I have no clue why some people are healed and some aren’t. I have actually thought about closing my eyes and completely walking away from my faith. (Or my lack of faith). In the depths of my heart, I know God is real. So here I am… but I don’t trust Him anymore. I don’t know how to get that back. I can pretend that it’s all okay. God has a plan and He knows best. But it isn’t okay. I want my husband back. My kids want their dad back. It doesn’t soothe my soul knowing that “someday we will be together again”. That doesn’t help me today. I don’t want to pray… I to ask “why”? Why should I pray. In the end it’s God’s choice on who he heals and who he doesn’t. I really don’t know where to go from here.

  14. Candy
    Candy says:

    I, too, became a widow in 2009 and still wonder “why pray when God is just going to do what He wants to regardless”. I’ve gone from being angry at God to feeling more neutral right now. I still love Him and I know that I have no one without Him. I just don’t know how to take God at this point. I totally understand the “He gets to do whatever it is He wants with my life and I am still suppose to take comfort in His love”.

    This was my 3rd Christmas without my husband and was the hardest one so far. That surprised me as I thought it would be a little easier. I’ve decided that there is no rhyme or reason to this grief journey and to not have any expectations for how I think I am going to feel about certain things.

    Thank you for sharing your heart.

  15. karen seals
    karen seals says:

    What a way to begin my day to read your article. All I can say is–
    you are ‘right one’. My husband died in November 2009. My favorite attibute of God is His Sovereignty & even in pain, I was able to repeat to myself over & over again He Is Sovereign. This ‘seemed’ to ease my pain & enabled me to continue to put one foot in front of the other. Knowing & believing this about God, I must say that I was shocked when I realized that I was mad at Him. What? Mad at Sovereign God?
    How could I? It was real & it was easy to be mad. In His Grace, He
    assured me that He already knew how mad I was & that He was big
    enough to handle this. He also helped me not to ‘camp’ at being mad
    but to move on until I found myself mad AGAIN.

    I am praising Him for connecting me to this site & look forward to reading every article.

    Blessings as you continue to be used by Him.

  16. Pat
    Pat says:

    Dear Kitty, Another Christmas has come and gone. I approach the ninth anniversary of my husband’s death. I held my faith so near for so many years, and yes, there have been blessings. But it has begun to look like God is asking me to spend the rest of my life alone, and I now live daily with resentment that “He gets to do whatever it is He wants with my life and I am still suppose to take comfort in His love”. God’s “love” feels like a prison cell. I cannot see the beauty of this road at all. I do not even pray about it any longer, because I cannot change God’s will. So I ask all of you to please, please pray for me. I really want 2012 to be different. Somehow. Thank you so very much.

  17. Betty
    Betty says:

    Well done Kitty!
    What a beautiful discription of ALL the apsects of this most horrible, sacred journey of Widowhood. You touched on each aspect and as you did you touched our wounds. You validated where we are on this scary journey but at the same time gave us hope as to where this journey can take us.
    Thank you for the time you took to chat with me and for revealing your “scars” to bring about hope!

  18. Yvette
    Yvette says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I read your post through tears streaming from my eyes! I am not crazy! I am not “wrong” for feeling this way! I am not alone! The last discovery was the best: I am not alone! This journey on the road less traveled is hard and very scary at times, but I have hope! I know that God is on this road with me, in fact, He is carrying me, but you, my sister have given me hope: it will be ok! Thank you! Thank you for allowing God to use you, because today, your words were EXACTLY what I needed to hear! God is good!!! His faithfulness astonishes me!

    Happy New Year!!!

  19. Terri
    Terri says:

    Thank you so much for your words today. I can relate to so much of what you have shared. So thankful to have found a place I can come and feel like I belong…where I don’t feel different…where there are those who know what I’ve been through. I have found myself sitting at my computer reading different posts and saying to myself (sometimes out loud) “What! You too? I thought I was the only one”. Thank you, ladies, for saying “yes” when God called you to this ministry. Thank you for sharing your experiences and giving us words of encouragement. May God richly bless all of you in 2012!

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