A few weeks ago I started a series of posts about the topic of joy. Well, it was sort of a series...I've interrupted myself a few times to post about other things. Those posts actually came from a presentation I did for the ladies ministry at Hot Springs Baptist Church back in February. And many of the ideas for that presentation originated with Nancy Guthrie's books. I've mentioned Nancy in several of my previous posts, because I just love her books and have found them to be so helpful as we've traveled our journey. She and her husband have started holding "Respite Retreats" in the Nashville area, where they live. These are weekend retreats for 11 couples at a time, all of whom have lost a child. We have signed up to attend one over Labor Day weekend. We are really looking forward to it...we have found that talking to other people have lost children is one of the most healing things we can do.
But, back to the "joy" topic. I want to share a little more of what I shared with those ladies in February. If you read my last post, you know that even though I have a deep-down joy, I still struggle. And that's because there are several things that can steal my joy if I let them. One of those is anxiety or worry.
I so clearly remember the intense anxiety I felt in the days before Hannah's brain tumor was found. She was having some very strange symptoms..severe headaches and nausea and vomiting in the mornings...but was fine by the evening each day. I remember standing in the pharmacy section at Wal-Mart, seraching through the migraine medications, trying to find something that would ease Hannah's headaches...and being filled with dread and worry that we were not just dealing with migraines. I remember the anxiety I felt as Hannah lay in the MRI machine for the very first time, and the choking feeling in my heart as the doctor showed Hannah and me the picture of the tumor invading her brain.
But I also remember the release of that anxiety and worry as we prayed together as a family that night, placing Hannah's future in God's hands. That anxiety resurfaced many times over the next year, with each MRI and every meeting with the doctors. There were always so many unknowns...and what we did know wasn't good. I finally had to determine, though God's strength, to live by Matthew 6:34: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Our time with Hannah was too precious to spend it worrying about what the next day held.
Anxiety and worry don't solve any of our problems...they simply strangle the joy out of our lives. Jesus offers to carrying our anxiety and worry for us...we just have to be willing to let him. Sometimes we seem to get a strange sort of satisfaction from worrying about things...or maybe that's just me. But Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6-7, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." And I have found this to be true.
Am I saying that I never have to deal with anxiety or worry? Ummm...no. This very day I find myself battling anxiety and worry. This afternoon I am taking Bethany to the doctor for a health concern...something that is apparently fairly common among teenage girls...but after the past two years, any type of problem is a little disconcerting. So yes, the anxiety and worry are there, but I will not let them steal my joy. If God is good all the time (and I believe He is) and if He is in control (and I believe He is), then what do I have to worry about?
One more thing--Former President George W. Bush was in El Dorado, Arkansas, yesterday speaking to the 2010 graduating class, and he closed his speech with the words "God is good all the time." How cool is that? Those of you who followed Hannah's story through our emails know the significance of those words to us!