Lemons on Friday
When Ben and I got married, it was ultimately the most life-changing choice we would ever make. As we exchanged vows and rings my mind raced with pictures and hopes and dreams of what those words might mean. Sure, they would mean hardship, as every marriage experiences, but I expected to love and to cherish with death far, far off in the future. I didn’t expect the second half of these promises to come true until much later in life.
And then on a vacation in Palm Beach, Florida, Ben slipped while stepping up onto a fishing boat and crashed back onto a concrete dock. At the ER Ben’s CT scan revealed the need for surgery to alleviate pressure from his brain swelling. I had almost 24-hours with him before he went into surgery. Looking back, I’m incredibly thankful that during that first day, Ben was awake, able to see me and tell me he loved me. After the surgery, Ben remained in a medically induced coma for eleven days. These were longest days of my life, each one haunted by the possibility that death really could “do us part”. When trauma strikes, love goes from being a feeling to being a choice in huge, physical, real ways.
I knew I had to keep choosing love. Choosing to love Ben not knowing whether he’d survive this and choosing to love a God who, though I trusted him, still allowed Ben’s body to suffer multiple strokes that rendered him brain dead. Even after hearing those devasting words, I still felt determined God would fix Ben. But when the final MRI came back with even more neurological damage than the previous ones, and as Ben’s heart started to fail, I signed the papers to take him off life support.
I didn’t know that love could physically hurt until I watched mine slip away. I didn’t know you could feel supernaturally surrounded by God and feel abandoned by him in the same moment. What about God’s promises and his faithfulness and his power to heal? Where was my miracle? Then, the next morning Ben’s cousin called and before hanging up reminded me that Ben had just won the greatest victory anyone could imagine. In his quick phone call, he turned my eyes off all I’d just lost and refocused them on all Ben had just gained. On my darkest days, I strain to refocus on Ben’s elation in eternity—now forever in the presence of his beloved Savior—more than on my pain here without him.
Scripture assures us that in this world we will have trouble. We will suffer. Yet, many of us overlook that God promises we will inevitably experience suffering just as we will blessing. Jesus endured the agony of crucifixion on Friday with the glory of resurrection Sunday in mind. In trying to pacify our doubts and bolster our broken hearts, we often hold tight to the promises’ victorious endings but hush their assurance of painful beginnings. When life gives us lemons on Friday, we rightly long for Sunday just as we long for lemonade.
My hope, and our greatest hope as humans who will all face loss, is that just as Christ promises believers bitter lemons and sorrowful Fridays, so, too, does he promise us lemonade on Sunday. He has already gifted us eternal victory. He has conquered all the sin, sorrow, and death we face. He is the healer and redeemer of all things.
What does it look like to actively choose to love God and others? How do difficult experiences impact these choices?
In your relationship with God, how do you naturally respond when life gives you lemons? Is that reaction in line with how you’d like to respond?
How does the joy God promises to those who love him help you navigate the suffering and pain you may be exieriencing today?
Lord Jesus, I don’t understand why life can be so painful even when I trust in your love for me. Help me to keep my eyes on you as I walk through difficult times and see the joy that can be found even in the midst of suffering. Thank you that in you I can experience a joy and peace beyond my understanding. Amen.