To say this has been a challenging year for my family would be an understatement. But it hasn’t been the worst. We’ve had harder years. Years where I didn’t think we would make it out whole.
And maybe that’s why this year, with the choppy, unchartered waters of rare disease and unemployment and a mother waiting for an organ transplant, doesn’t seem as bad: because for the first time in our marriage, Mr. Riehl and I are confidently, completely, and entirely on the same team.
On Sunday our pastor preached on Matthew 9 and he said something caused Mr. Riehl and I to look at each other in swift recognition. He spoke the song of our heart as we try to explain to anyone that is baffled by our faith why we are a little wobbly at times, but never shaken.
He said something like this: “Jesus can heal, and often does. But He doesn’t always. Because sometimes the spiritual gain is greater than the physical. Sometimes He wants to do a greater thing than what we ask for.”
And our hearts cry “YES AND AMEN.” That is exactly what He has done for us.
The last few years, our circle has been surrounded by grieving people. Widows, mostly, although we are learning that grief comes in many forms for many reasons. I am often blessed to have lunch with two friends in particular, that are in the deep and lonely valleys of loss and despair. We have sat together and cried. Cried for their loss. Cried for the unbearable weariness that has seeped into their bones as they try to keep up with a world that didn’t stop spinning when their worlds did.
But we haven’t only cried together in grief. We’ve cried with joy at the things we see the Lord doing, even now. We’ve shared the mysterious and wonderful realization that God is good in all things. Not in our small and pitiful understanding of what is good, but in Hs great and marvelous way that is beyond understanding. We may not understand, but we know our God.
Even when it doesn’t make sense.
Our oldest is having an incredibly hard time with my husband’s disease. She told us weeks ago that she prays every night that God would heal him and fix his eyes. Then she wakes early and waits expectantly for her daddy to wake up and announce he’s been healed and can see again.
Mr. Riehl sat with her for a long time, explaining that he rejoices in this affliction. Because it has changed him completely. My husband was saved a few years ago. Made new in Christ.
But now? Now I’m watching my husband be sanctified as he trusts in the Lord for provision and guidance. It’s the most beautiful season our eleven year marriage has experienced.
A few weeks ago, a local sign company that I follow on Instagram (and happen to go to church with) hosted a giveaway. The random winner would be able to commission a wooden sign for their home in any size with a saying or phrase of their choosing painted on. To my great surprise and pleasure, I won!
And then the torture began. What would it say? It felt like an opportunity to make a statement to our children, ourselves, and any guest of our home. I don’t consider it a coincidence that I won this sign during this time in our lives. We have a story to tell. One of a great, big, powerful God that does more than we could ever ask or imagine. How could I express that? Here were the contenders:
“And if not…He is still good.” (this is a quote that my friend shared often after the sudden death of her husband. I borrowed it this year as I prayed for Mr. Riehl to be healed. I clung on to that truth in our darkest hours of realizing just how much our lives have changed)
“What a BEAUTIFUL, WONDERFUL, POWERFUL Name it is; the Name of JESUS.” (This was in spired by a song that has been on my heart often in the last few months. )
“This desert’s dry, but the ocean may consume and we’re scared to follow You. So we’ll sing to our souls, we won’t bury our hope. Where He leads us to go, there’s a Red Sea Road.” (I truly wanted to find a way to inscribe the entire Red Sea Road album on the sign, but…)
In the end, we decided on what we intend to be our family verse:
Because, to me, this encompasses all that this year has taught us.
That we need not fear–our God is big. He has a plan to accomplish what concerns us and we need not worry about the rest.
We need not be dismayed as the waves swirl around us and must fight against the worry that threatens to darken His marvelous light. We know that not only is He good, but His lovingkindness is everlasting. His ways are true.
And nothing in this world can shake this truth away. Nothing.
So, when given the choice, we chose the big sign–what Claire Court Designs calls the “Statement” size. And we hung that giant sucker above the fireplace.
It’s visible from my desk as I explore what writing can do for our family in this new season.
It’s visible from our kitchen table where we gather to talk about life – our worries and joys. Where we pray for friends, pray for my mom who is waiting for a life saving lung transplant. Where we thank God together for the constant provision He has given. Where we wrestle with the hard and heavy ways of this fallen world.
It’s visible from the entryway where we want guests to see it and feel comforted by the greatness of our God.
And the more we see it, the more it is seared into our memories and branded on our hearts. To me that verse encompasses all that I wanted to say and reminds me again and again:
He is good, He is good, He is good.
Bethany Riehl is the author of Trending, available here.
She also the author of The Earth is Full and The Heavens are Telling, both published under B.D. Riehl and available here.