It’s been almost two years since I wrote the devotional published today in The Upper Room. My daughter Nicole has nearly completed her second year of Occupational Therapy studies. She has adapted to life in residence, has a supportive group of friends and has risen to the challenge of tertiary education—the very things I prayed for as she set out on this journey.
It hasn’t always been easy. Her degree has a great deal of practical work, where the students go to old-age homes, rehab facilities, hospitals, and psychiatric wards to assess patients and do treatments. Nicole is pushed out of her comfort zone over and over again. I see beautiful growth taking place in her life through the challenges. She is blossoming in confidence and compassion and is indeed—as I wrote in the devotional—growing ‘taller and stronger’.
I realise now that a child leaving home is a season which one foresees and for which one prepares. Long before we moved Nicole into her res. room, we had visited the university, read about the degree and started to prepare our minds for the changes ahead.
Yet, other seasons are unexpected. They sweep into our lives like a wave knocking us off our feet. That’s the feeling I had earlier this year when my father was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer. Nothing prepared me for the shock of that diagnosis, for the grief and fear that gripped me following it.
As an author, much of my processing happens through writing. Flannery O’Conner said, “I write to discover what I know,” and that’s very true for me. Following Dad’s diagnosis, my journal overflowed with my jumbled thoughts, feelings and observations.
Such wrestling—and the spiritual insights gained—inevitably finds its way into my other writing too: blogs, devotionals, even my fiction. This written intersection of my struggles and faith has become a place of ministry for me, perhaps because it gives a ‘voice’ to what others grapple with too.
What I’m learning anew in this season, thrust so unexpectedly on my family, is to keep my eyes on God and trust that He is at work. “The secret to peace with God is to discover, accept, and appreciate God’s perfect timing. The danger is to doubt or resent God’s timing.” (Eccl. 3:1-8 footnote, NLT Life Application Bible).
I’m not sure what season you are in right now, whether it’s a season you had time to prepare for or one that unexpectedly swept into your life, leaving you feeling bereft and adrift. But know this - you are not alone.
Take comfort from the promise of our ever faithful God: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." (Deut. 31:6)
Joan Campbell has been married for 25 years and has two daughters.
Her book Encounters: Life Changing Moments with Jesus takes readers onto the dusty streets of Ancient Israel, to experience Gospel moments from the perspective of those whose lives Jesus touched. Each short story ends with a refection, prayer and scripture verses.
While reading C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, Joan was struck by the power of story to impart spiritual truth. She began to write her own Chronicles then—The Poison Tree Path Chronicles—a Christian fantasy trilogy where characters journey from deception and captivity to truth and freedom.
Free eBook of Joan’s short stories (on subscription to her newsletter).
Amazon Sale on Joan’s Kindle books (ends 15 November)
“Spiritual vitality in our churches stems from our openness to God’s transforming presence, not in anxious striving. Tending the soul of the congregation starts with attending to God’s presence in our lives as leaders, then bringing the same prayerful openness into the meetings and ministries of the church. Our work is to help the people to pay attention to, listen to, learn from, and live in the Spirit.” Read more.