I recall a teenager who struggled with self-confidence – who wanted to shake off her “restrictive” upbringing for a while and push her boundaries without actually “crossing the line”; she was wrong. Turn the clock forward by a decade and I look back at a woman struggling with the same weaknesses, only then it was the restrictions of domestic life she resented, determined she could grit her teeth and survive the challenges of a crash course in motherhood without asking for help from anyone, least of all her God. She was wrong too. If there’s one thing I have learned, it’s that God may alter the circumstances but He’s showing me the same heart problems, and sometimes there’s no better teacher than experience.
Thankfully, alongside the dark thread of my failures I see the golden one of God’s faithfulness. This was especially apparent when I fished out an old Bible and, dated January 3rd 2017, read this handwritten verse:
“thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee” (Deuteronomy 8:2 KJV).
Most of the dates in that Bible had some significance I could remember, but not this one. At that time, I was right in the thick of raising three children under the age of three. After the birth of my second son I’d had all sorts of plans for the next few years, and then things took a completely different turn when I fell pregnant much quicker than anticipated. Our daughter was an easy birth and a good baby and everyone told me how blessed I was, but I didn’t feel it. Postnatally I began to really struggle. A lot of those months were a haze, living on the brink of tears or rage, feeling anxious and guilty at how much I was failing as a wife, as a mother and, most of all, as a Christian. I felt utterly lost and alone despite being permanently at home and surrounded. I can’t precisely remember but most likely God brought that verse to me at New Year as I made another attempt at a spiritual “fresh start”.
Now another new year has come and gone, and with it another “fresh start”, and I have been looking back on two years where God again had to teach me the need for dependence on Him and faith in His path for me. Two years or so ago I had four happy healthy children and considered my family complete, my postnatal depression left firmly in the past. I began confidently making plans for the future – plans for going back to work, plans for getting more involved in church activities after years on the sidelines, plans for our new house and all the hospitality we would show. Then the coronavirus appeared, and all plans vanished . . . and the same week lockdown was announced I found out I was pregnant.
Much of that two-year period felt similar for me to the description of the Israelites in the wilderness in Deuteronomy chapter 8: not much progress, not much fruitfulness, a fair bit of grumbling and covering the same ground. But I find my God has been the same to me as He was more than five years ago when I first underlined that verse. He has not deserted me. He has led me day and night, even when I have had no impulse to keep going. He has kept me from falling apart, just like the clothes and shoes of the Israelites over those forty years. Despite my best efforts to avoid His Word and His presence at times, He has nourished me through faithful Bible teaching, through the example and encouragement of godly friends and a loving husband, and through verses like this one.
I can absolutely attest that God has brought me all the way. Not 90% Him and 10% me, as I sometimes foolishly believe on my “good” days, but 100% Him. I can look back and see how I’ve failed repeatedly but He has never failed. And right now, after another pregnancy and the postnatal battles it has brought; following exhausting lockdowns with my children which revived old struggles; having felt overwhelmed when “normal” life restarted . . . I have discovered, like Joshua did when he finally led those people out of the wilderness, that He never leaves me nor forsakes me and He never will (see Deuteronomy 31:8 and Joshua 24:2-13).
I still feel unqualified to offer advice (to my younger self or otherwise) but I can offer assurance to anyone else who is struggling – HE has led you all the way till now and it is He and only He who will lead you till the end.
All the way my Saviour leads me
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy
Who through life has been my Guide?
. . . When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day,
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way.
– Fanny J. Crosby
Photo credit: Ricardo Gomez Angel