Life Hurts, But Hope Helps (2)
About a month and a half after my grandfather's death, I was introduced to Kari, my beloved wife. We would soon be married, and we have now been husband and wife for nearly twenty years. We have been blessed with twelve children. This post is not meant to cover our beginning, which is certainly interesting, but to continue in the theme of my last post about finding hope while experiencing life's struggles.
Kari and I had similar backgrounds when it comes to theology and religious activity. We also were not beacons of hope (or holiness) when we met. As someone who had yielded to Christ a few years prior to Kari and I meeting, but was ignorant of biblical teaching, some stern preaching had brought me to my knees in repentance about some moments where I had given in to temptation since then. I was determined to never let anything like that happen again. I committed myself and my family to the Lord. The further I went, the more I realized there was much I needed to "unlearn", and through personal study I began moving away from religious activity to the holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. Of course, holiness comes from walking in submission to the Lordship of Christ.
I am leaving out a lot of the details, but that is because I am trying to get to a certain time in our marriage. I was a preacher. The pastorate can be hard on any family. My views and understanding of the ministry have changed immensely since those days. I believe the powers of darkness began moving against my family. I would go on to work for the prison system which would wreak havoc on me mentally. I was exposed to terrible things that led me to mental vulnerability. I went through darkness as I struggled with mental images, past sins, and utter despair. Hope had left me. As I struggled, other things came to light that took me even lower. Kari had her own struggles. Many of the things we suffered through have since been worked out or been better understood, but the powers of darkness still whisper in our ears at times, trying to drag us down, trying to make us feel like there is no hope. We were down. It was a darkness that I cannot describe and I do not even want to try. After we moved to Alaska we were still dealing with pain and despair.
In Alaska, Kari became pregnant with our final two children. During an ultrasound, a mass was found in her bladder. It turned out it was very early stage bladder cancer. We were devastated. Was I in despair? To say yes is an understatement. I wanted all of life to be over. I was tired of hurting. Tired of the pain. Some Christian friends prayed with us multiple times, anointing Kari with oil and crying out to God for healing. Kari underwent surgery while she was still carrying the twins, and the tumor was removed. She has had two checkups since that time and the new urologist cannot even tell where the tumor was located in her bladder. Praise be to God. I do not want to live without her. I cannot imagine doing so. She is my best friend and my fellow warrior in the battlefield of life.
As I said, I have left out many details, but I know pain. I know mental darkness. I think I know spiritual warfare. How have I made it through? Hope. Hope in Christ my Lord and what lies ahead for Christians. And hope in a precious relationship in which I am the recipient of a woman's love - the woman that God has given to me as my helpmeet, that God has commanded me to love as Christ loves the Church. It is engraved on the blade of a knife I had custom made - Jesus My Lord, Kari my Lady. Though I have failed in both regards in the past at times, I want to honor them both in all that I do, every day of my life, forever.
Suffering will continue to be a part of human existence until the Lord's return. But he will return. One day suffering and evil will be removed from God's universe. What a day that will be.