By Jana White
Staff writer for The Daily Grace Co.
Lately I’ve noticed the lines in my forehead and the few gray hairs streaming from the left side of my head. I jokingly tell my friends that we can thank those people who like to sell products to fix those problems on social media for bringing those imperfections to our attention. Sometimes I’ll try to straighten the lines out or pull out the gray hairs (I know, you’re not supposed to do that!) But we do a lot to try to erase the signs of age, of experience, and therefore, of wisdom. Recently Jen Wilken wrote, “Facebook invites us to count the lines on our faces, but wisdom reads between those lines.” I pondered that sentence over and over again. The first part of what she said is exactly what I’ve been saying to my friends for years, but for the first time, the Lord used those words to have me recall what the years have held for me—those experiences that have likely led to the gray hairs and the wrinkles in my face. He caused me to remember.
Remembrance can be a beautiful thing, right? We remember that time we walked across a stage and turned our tassel. Or we may reflect on a time in our careers when we received a long-awaited promotion or award. Remembrance can also come through the song we walked down the aisle to and married the one our heart desired. We may even remember the moment we first held our child in our arms and was able to see and feel this love that we have never experienced before. Those memories fill our hearts and minds with thankfulness and joy. Remembrance can also have us recall significant spiritual markers in our lives. This, too, often brings us joy. We can remember with grateful hearts, giving thanks to God for such sweet memories. We can praise Him for those good gifts that He has given us. But remembrance also calls to the seasons of sorrow, pain, and sometimes even suffering.
When I look at the wrinkles, it’s not the joyous times that I see in between. But it’s those hard seasons. It’s those hardships in life that we feel inadequate to handle and feel as though the waves will surely cover us. It’s those seasons of such great suffering that we echo the psalmist when he cries, “Save me, God, for the water has risen to my neck. I have sunk in deep mud, and there is no footing; I have come into deep water, and a flood sweeps over me. I am weary from crying; my throat is parched.” It’s absolutely painful and we long for it to be over. We long to see some kind of light at the end of the tunnel. We long to see how God can use this for His good. It is not these times that remember with nostalgia.
But can I be honest? When the Lord causes me to remember, it’s harder for me to remember those sweet times. Rather, it is those seasons of trials and suffering that still sometimes bring back the sting of pain and tears as if it just happened. And sometimes, it’s just easier to try to forget and move on. As a pastor’s wife, there are seasons in ministry that are hard and have carried the weight of great suffering. Those of you in ministry or have come from seasons of hurt in the church can understand. A careful observance of those spaces that lie between my wrinkles are seasons of such great hurt that it’s hard for me to allow myself to remember. Maybe the same is true for you.
But do you know what, dear friend? Those spaces are not just filled with trials and suffering. We do not just have the wounds that are left. No, there are so much more than that. They are filled with wisdom and an overabundance of testimony to the Lord’s faithfulness. Although there are trials and suffering that God allows in our lives, He is faithful in all things. And those spaces testify to the sovereignty and grace of our great God. And for this reason—because of Who God is—we can remember. When I ponder those sorrow-filled seasons, yes, it is painful. But, the overwhelming peace given to me be remembering who God is in the midst of those worst times has brought me great joy.
God has given us our stories. He has given us the joys and allowed the pains. He has given us good things and He has allowed good things to slip through our hands. I am reminded of Job as he said, “You give, and You take away.” And yes, He even allows evil to accomplish His purposes. He can do this both in His way of teaching us through those trials and removing us from places and people and place us in another place among new people. And through it all God is God and He is to be greatly praised. You see, our lives—our stories—are not our own. He has given us exactly what we need to develop us into the people He created us to be and to bring Him glory—both in good and bad. But God has entrusted our stories to us to bring glory to Him.
And we can remember. We can remember because ultimately whatever our lives hold, we can trust our God who cares for us and chooses us to bring Him glory with our lives. We can confidently remember because it’s not just the pain, but it’s His grace. It’s not just the suffering, but it’s His victory. It’s not fear, but assurance of His declaration, “It is finished.” Dear friend, life may hurt, and it may leave us with lots of wrinkles, but with those wrinkles comes the fullness of His kindness and faithfulness to us in His sweet promises that He is with us every step of the way.