There was a time following a series of losses in my life when I could not pray anything more than, “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love… Establish the work of our hands” (Psalm 90:14a, 17b).
Each day, that simple prayer would focus my mind as I headed for work in a local Sydney physiotherapy clinic. Life felt like it had become as fragile as a flower—springing up just for the day, but gone by evening, just as Moses had contemplated earlier in the same Psalm.
There stood a wall of unanswered prayers as I watched my family struggle relentlessly with grief, including the sudden loss of my husband and father of my children. We faced a continuous flow of demanding problems to solve and skills to learn, which overwhelmed me and seemed to shrink life down to just the difficult parts.
It left me wondering why some people were saying, “next year we will go here or go there.” Did they not realise that everything and everyone could be gone in an instant?
I spent time wondering about characters like Jeremiah, who was asked to bear so much yet somehow kept his faith in God, or Moses who led a rebellious people going nowhere for so many years. I was a widow leading a few teenagers. In Jeremiah 15:18, Jeremiah asks, “Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? You are to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails.”
God was at work in my tears, using his word to dig deep into my pain and to reveal himself as the greatest treasure. As the psalmist says in Psalm 73:25, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.”
God expanded my capacity for compassion as I spent time with people who had experienced all kinds of losses, such as displacement, relationship breakdown and death of loved ones. Our common humanity and powerlessness made it easy to connect cross-culturally, coming together with a shared bewilderment over the events of life.
One couple I know and love in Sydney recently lost both their fathers in Pakistan. But they were unable to travel to mourn together with their extended family. I longed to be able to bring them comfort. So I used the tools I had learnt in a Bible storytelling workshop to recite the Beatitudes, then prayed for a chance to speak to them at the right time. God answered that prayer beautifully.
Another friend, a single mother caring for teenage children, was unable due to COVID-19 to attend the wedding of her eldest daughter in Bangladesh. And no other family member even within that country could celebrate with her. We could cry together as mothers.
For many years, my parenting style swung between being controlling and carefree. Yet over time, my deepest desire was formed: to show Christ to my children and my friends. He is my source of greatest hope, my wisdom, my dignity and my delight.
As I sit in quarantine, preparing to work for several months in a foreign nation in order to be with my own daughter on her wedding day, that is exactly what I want to write in the wedding speech. When we have a hope that endures, nothing can hold us back from wanting to reveal it to the world and pass on the gift of life. Christ is our great high tower. He is our greatest treasure and the brightest light in any long, dark night. His kingdom is the only one that will last forever.
Michelle engages cross-culturally in Sydney as part of Interserve’s work.