Tuesday, 18 April 2017

God's grace through hardship and trials - a summary of our experiences

A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to share my testimony at a ladies meeting at church. I thought I will post it here too, as it is a nice summary of our experiences over the last few years and a good reminder of our great God and His providence and grace. Thank you for taking the time to read this!


I have been given the opportunity to share a little bit about God’s grace in my life through hardship and trials. Suffering is part of life – a result of Genesis 3, the fall, and inevitable while we are here on earth. The question is not if you will suffer, but when you will suffer.  This may seem really depressing to some – but we as Christians can know that God is sovereign over everything and that He has a specific purpose with every trial we may face. Rom 8:28 famously says, "God makes everything work together for the good of those who love Him, and are called according to His purposes." I have seen this first hand in my own life, as I will share just now. We can know that nothing happens outside of His purposes. Nothing that happens can frustrate his purposes. He is God! His love, power and wisdom all work together perfectly at the same time in our lives.

When suffering comes, we can know that God is at work. If we want to uproot a tree from the ground, we first need to loosen the soil from around its roots. Just like that, God digs away our earthly comforts to loosen our hearts from this world. Trials help us to cling to God. It helps us to see far beyond this fleeting earthly existence and gain an eternal perspective.  It also helps us not to rely on our own wisdom, ability and strength, but to trust Him.

I am sure that many of you have suffered much worse and endured more than me – but my prayer is that what God has so graciously taught me will be a reminder and encouragement to you. In 2011 my husband and I had our first baby girl, Tabitha. Although the pregnancy was initially easy and healthy, at 30 weeks I suddenly developed pre-eclampsia (hormone-induced high blood pressure) and in order to save me and the baby’s life, she had to be removed immediately via c-section. Unfortunately she had already suffered from a lack of oxygen by the time she was born, but she held on to life for almost 2 months in the NICU, before she passed away. The hospital experience was a rollercoaster ride with new discoveries about her condition hitting us like a ton of bricks every time, mixed with glimpses of hope. We believed she would live, until 2 days before her death, when God, in His fatherly care, started preparing our hearts for what was to come. Throughout this experience, we could see God’s hand at work, orchestrating events and giving us supernatural strength and peace. Nevertheless, this was a very difficult time for us, but the 3 years which followed proved even harder, as we prayed, longed and hoped for another child. During that time I suffered a miscarriage, followed by a heart attack in hospital, and then what seemed to be an endless time of unexplained infertility. I want to elaborate on this story a bit to highlight God’s providence even when it feels like He doesn’t hear us.

The heart attack happened because of an overdose of medication given to me just before the D&C operation when I had the miscarriage. My heart sustained some damage and after 6 months of being treated for it, the doctor declared my heart healthy and fit to try for another baby. But, nothing happened. God seemed to by silent for 2 more years, which felt like 10. Eventually, we started pursuing adoption. During this time we also sought medical help for my unexplained infertility. We were just about to finalise the adoption process to be approved as prospective parents, when I fell pregnant. I was not even 6 weeks yet and the appointment for the final interview with the social worker had already been made for the Friday. So we went through with it, thinking that we will ask the social worker to put the adoption on hold for a while, should the doctor confirm that everything is fine with the pregnancy – the doctor’s appointment was on the Tuesday. As we drove home from the interview, we jokingly wondered what we would do if they had a baby for us before the Tuesday. It seemed like an impossibility, as adoptions can take a long time. Low and behold, on that Sunday we got the phonecall! The birthmother had chosen our profile from the list of prospective parents and she was already 40 weeks. The baby could be born any minute! We didn’t even have time to think this through properly! After a short period of what I would describe as a mild panic attack, we prayed and just knew that this baby was God sent. We just trusted the Lord that everything will work out. A week later our little Yadah was born, and on request of the birthmother she was sent home with us the same day. Three days later my husband heard that he got a job that he had applied for months earlier here in George, and within a month we had sold our house and moved down here from Johannesburg. In hindsight I can see how we had to be in Johannesburg during that time for both the adoption and fertility treatment, and how moving here and being close to family was pure grace with the two babies so close together.  Also, last year I found out that I did sustain permanent damage to my heart and that I’m not allowed to fall pregnant again. Had the doctor in Johannesburg not made the mistake to tell me that everything is ok with my heart, I would not have had Benjamin. And again I can just thank God that the pregnancy with him did work out ok and that my heart was able to cope, as I didn’t know at the time that I only have 32% heart function.

When I look back now I can see how God didn’t just leave me to figure things out on my own, but that he came alongside me and directed my every step, even in the time leading up to this series of events in my life (I suddenly had a newfound hunger for God’s Word), to teach me what I needed to know about Him. Because that’s ultimately what we need – we need to KNOW HIM. His character and attributes are the foundation for our faith. We cannot trust someone if we don’t know who He is. Job, after questioning God about the reason for his suffering were not answered as to WHY? But as to WHO? God simply opened Job’s eyes to see the Almighty God for who He is (chapters 38-40). In chapter 42, Job concludes to say, “I had heard about you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.”

In Exodus 33 Moses asked God to show him His glory. When God answered Moses’ prayer in chapter 34, he speaks again of His own attributes. “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty…”(v6-7).

During my trails, God specifically taught me a lot about His steadfast love, his goodness, his infinite wisdom, abounding faithfulness and sovereignty. If you are going to remember anything during your trails, remember this – God is not only in control, He is also good and perfect in love and wisdom. His faithfulness endures forever. If you believe this, your heart can rest! It will give you stability and peace and help you to see things from the right perspective and to pray in submission to His will. Your life becomes less precious to you.

Collosians 3 says, “Set your minds on the things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”  

As I die, Christ becomes everything – our only rock and sure hope when our earthly dreams crumble beneath our feet. You realise that even if the worst disaster imaginable strikes you – it won’t be nice, but you can know that God will sustain you through it and that Christ, your most precious possession, can never be taken away from you. I have a heavenly inheritance, I have assurance of salvation!

One day God himself will wipe away every tear, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, for the former things have passed away (Rev 21:4).

I can say with Paul, “I am sorrowful, yet always rejoicing, I have nothing, yet I possess everything!” (2 Cor 6:10) These things make no sense to the world. Cheap sentimental clichés I found empty and powerless to provide any comfort. But God, by His grace, through His word, made real to me what it is to have a living hope.

Jeremiah says “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion, says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’”(Lam 3:21-24).

This school of suffering is not something that we, in our humanity and limited earthly perspective will wish upon ourselves or others. But looking back over the past 6 years, I count myself blessed that God, by His grace, considered me worthy to teach me about Him and conform me to His image more and more. He is not an impersonal force, but our Father, who is personally involved in every aspect of our lives, and we can trust Him.

Joni Ericson Tada wrote, “Grace softens the edges of past pains, choosing only the highlights of eternal importance. What you are left with is peace that is profound, joy that is unshakable, and faith that is ironclad."

Through my tears and pain I soon was able to see a glimpse of God’s gracious work in my life on a spiritual level. It is a gift that I prayed for many times, but didn’t realise what I was asking. (“Lord, help me to grow in holiness and to know you more!”). It is not something I will trade for anything in the world. God opened my eyes to know Him more and to see things from an eternal perspective. Without an eternal perspective, suffering does not make any sense. I do not believe that I would truly have been able to learn what an eternal perspective is, without experiencing personal pain.

I can now relate with Peter, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trails, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold, which is perishable even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus.” (1 Pet 1:6)

The writer of Hebrews says in Heb 12, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

James says “to count it all joy when you meet trails of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

Suffering comes in many forms. Some have ‘happy endings’. Like mine. I would not have predicted being blessed with 2 babies, one through adoption and one through biological means, within the period of 7 months.  However, some trials do not have a happy ending. And some trials will only end when we enter the grave. God does not have to restore everything we loose in this life. He will do according to His will, as He knows best. And if he does restore our losses, it’s not because we’ve earned it. Its all by grace. Our paths are all different, but take comfort in this – His grace is sufficient. He is not only sovereign over our suffering, He is also our comforter, peace and joy. Did I say joy in suffering? Yes. Biblical joy only makes sense when it is despite of circumstances, not because of it! As we suffer well, we are conformed to the image of Christ. And we are not alone. Christ himself was “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” (Is 53:3)

Whatever the cross that you have to carry may be, the answer to handling trails lies in the gospel. Again, how gracious is our God, to teach me through my trials what this statement actually means. We tend to hate our misery more than our sin. But God knows that sin, not our relationships, finances, sickness, lack or discomforts, is in fact our biggest problem. And He will use temporary pain for our eternal gain. The gospel teaches us that we have already received so much more than what we deserve. Whatever our suffering may be, hell will be much worse. When you suffer, remember hell – what you have been saved from -  and remember the depravity of your own heart without the saving grace of Jesus. Jesus endured much more than any of us, and by grace, through faith, we have been “born again to a living hope…to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled, and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for us” (1 Pet 1:3-4).

The gospel not only gives us something to look forward to, but also the grace we need to live this life - with its challenges, difficulties, pain, losses, heartache and suffering -to His glory, through His grace that enables us. All we have to do is to cling to Him!

As the old hymn goes, my heart also echoes, “And the things of the earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” 

Here are a few recent photos of our two little blessings. xxx

Thursday, 6 August 2015

When two suddenly become four

We are so thankful to the Lord that the newest addition to our family, Benjamin Ezra, was born safely and healthy on Thursday 18 June 2015. What a shower of blessing it has been for us to welcome not one, but two little souls into our house in only 7 months.

One thing that has become clear to me is that no matter in what stage of life you may find yourself, it all comes with its own challenges! I think God loves us too much to let us just be comfortable. With Tabitha we had to learn to trust God, after Tabitha we had to learn to trust God, and now with Yadah and Ben we also have to learn to trust God. All for different things but ultimately we have learned and are still learning to trust God in all circumstances, for all our needs. Because when we don't have the answers, when we don't know the future and when we just need strength and wisdom we know we can trust the One who brought us so far, who is almighty, all knowing, all powerful, loving and faithful. 

"If humanism were right in declaring that man is born to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Tomorrow would have been Tabitha's 4th birthday. We still think about her, miss her, look forward to see her again and are still proud to have been chosen as her parents. We still feel pain when we think of all the suffering she had to go through. But may we never forget how faithful the Lord has been to take us by the hand and reveal Himself to us through everything. What a joy it is to know Him!

We plan, once again, to fly a kite in honour of Tabitha this weekend. This time the family tradition will include her two new siblings. Yadah and Ben, we are so thankful for you both and look forward to see you grow up, Lord willing, and teach you what we have learned, not only about building kites, but about eternal things. 

Monday, 2 March 2015

The first pictures of our little Yadah

I'm sorry for the delay in getting these up. Here are some pictures of our little Yadah's first 15 weeks...

The first day:

Meeting her for the very first time - about an hour after birth...

The first feed...

First time with daddy
First bath

The first week:

With Ouma Andre

With aunty Minnette

Two weeks old:

One month:

With her little friend, Lourens - trying to sit up!

With aunty Hilde and couz Divan

A little angel sent from above!

First Christmas

With my whole family for Christmas

Love from couz Divan
One of the first captured smiles at 6 weeks

Oupa Herman with his 4 grandchildren - Juan, Yadah, Eze and Divan
Out and about - such a good little girl

Going for a walk on the beach

Two months:

Loving time on Oupa Herman's lap

Sometimes we have cool days here in George...

Noticing herself in the mirror for the first time!

Three months:

Sitting in my chair for the first time at 3 months and 1 week old

Little mischievous balerina!

With Oupa Awie

With Ouma Marlene

I'll grow new hair ok?
We are so very very thankful for every day with our little girl. She has stolen our hearts and the hearts of our families. We thank the Lord for entrusting this precious little soul to us! I pray that we will raise her in the fear of the Lord.