The Holy, Hard Things

I have had the honor of having two Papas on this earth, my father and grandfather. Both were men who loved God, sharing God’s good news every opportunity they had. My father would share the love of God in Sunday school classrooms and hospital halls and my grandfather from the pulpit. The pages of their Bibles were worn and covered with blue ink and highlighting. I loved both these men and they were loved well by their friends and family. My father left us almost 5 years ago and my grandfather left us today.

Both these men had women beside their beds as they breathed out the earth and breathed in the kingdom. These women, my mom and grandmother, are two of the strongest women I know. They are very different, and I believe God placed the best of them inside me. My mom is powerful, in charge, and efficient. My grandmother is scattered and silly and loves to feed others. They both believe in serving their families and their spouse no matter the cost. No matter how hard, no matter how isolating, no matter how heartbreaking. Both of the men in their lives were very sick in the end. I had the privilege of watching them serve past the point of exhaustion. Sleepless nights, doctor’s visits, home health, countless medications. My mother and grandmother fed these men, made sure they rested, and preserved their dignity in the last days.

These women never left. They never stopped. Despite the fear, despite the heartache, despite how hard it was. And I got to see it all. I got to see their tears, their faith, their love, and their surrender.

It seems many of us have lost these qualities—the fight, the faith, the surrender to the hard things. We want to run away or let go or look for a way to ease the pain. Somehow, we bought the lie that God isn’t in the tough stuff, that we shouldn’t have to experience suffering. And if we do, we seek a remedy to make it go away. But God is there, ever present in hard things. Those times are holy times, when you sacrifice, surrender, and find yourself alone with only God, Abba, “Papa.”

What if instead of running away from the struggle in our life, we sat there, served, loved, cried out to God….and found God? What if we found God in the holy, hard things?

A story told in Joshua 3 and 4 strikes me as I consider the contrast of these women’s actions and those I see in society around me. The Israelites are getting ready to cross the Jordan River on their journey to the Promised Land. The priests are asked to go ahead of them with the Ark of the Covenant, which holds the presence of God. Joshua 3:17 states: “Meanwhile the priests stood on dry ground in the middle of the river bed as the people passed by them. They waited there until everyone had crossed the Jordan.”

And in 4:10-11: “The priests who were carrying the ark stood in the middle of the river until all of the Lord’s instructions were carried out. And when everyone was on the other side, the priests crossed over with the Ark of the Covenant.

These priests, these servant leaders, were asked to be brave, to give, to step forward, to endure, to wait, to be last. They held the presence of God while the wandering people, thousands and thousands of wandering people, walked past them. Who knew their doubts and fears and fatigue? The Jordan was at flood stage. What if the water swept them away? What if the people made it through and they didn’t? What if Joshua was wrong? But they endured.

They were carrying this precious, heavy load—the presence of God. And we see that they never let go. They stood until God’s instructions were complete. My mom and my grandmother have done this. They have carried a heavy, precious load because of the presence of God in them, because of their heart for the holy things. They didn’t run away when it got too hard, too much.

Isn’t there a holy lesson here? To stand and bear the burden to not give up, for the sake of the holy things? To serve and endure because the Promised Land is on the other side? I feel so privileged to have observed this through these women in my life.

Stand firm friends; God is in the hard things. Carry God’s presence until God’s instructions are complete.

Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Abba, Father, Papa, give us strength to endure, to press on, to find you holy in these hard spaces.

Kimberly Mcleod is a wife and mother of 3 busy boys and lives in Cumming, Georgia. She loves Jesus, coffee, and good words. Check out her Words Journal and blog, What a Good Word. Her motto is Proverbs 12:25 “Good Words make the heart glad.”

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