PRACTICAL PROVERBS - THREE YEARS AND COUNTING by Karla Evans

Proverbs 19:23, "The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm."

I believe the Word of God is true.  All of it.  To the best of my ability, I strive to honor God in all I do.  Yet my heart has been very heavy lately. Not always, but some of the time.  Overall our family has had a wonderful summer!  Son #1 has been working in the Cities, but took the time to make a visit home recently, which always makes this mama happy!  Son #2 was in South Carolina on the leadership team for a ministry project through Campus Outreach, which also makes this mama happy!  Daughter #1 was a camp counselor at Hidden Acres this summer and had a great experience, which brings this mama great joy!!!!!!! (She likes exclamation points so those are all for her sake.)  Daughter #2 and son #3 joined Mike and I on a great trip to South Carolina, where we visited friends along the way, saw beautiful parts of this country that we had not seen before, and had a very enjoyable vacation.  We had still another trip to Michigan before the kids all started back to school in several locations.  Mike, my husband, and I even had 5 days with no one home while the girls were at a national conference with the Valley Church youth and the youngest was at camp. Talk about a quiet house! Yes, it’s been a good summer!

At the same time, this heaviness has been there. Several years ago my Pastor-husband had an Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM). An AVM can lead to a rupture that disrupts the flow of blood to the brain. Fortunately, the AVM was removed by surgery before it ruptured.  However, this condition resulted in a long time of convalescence for my husband, Mike, and our family.  This past July marked three years since Mike last preached as a pastor. Some things have changed, and some have not.   The heaviness comes because I really thought more would have changed by now.  I want to invite you into my life for a moment to help you understand some of what it feels like to go through what we have been going through.  If you are in the middle of a difficult life circumstance, I want you to know that others are too.  I want you to be encouraged that God is in the middle of it all with you, working on your behalf even if you don’t always see Him.

So what hasn’t changed?  We still live in the same city, so we drive by the church almost every day, usually a couple times a day.  Not only do we drive by, but it can be Still. So. Hard. The memories that driving by the building bring up are not all good.  I probably spent about a year not thinking that anything else but bad memories could come up, and the last two years praying that God would bring to mind the good memories, which in number FAR outweigh the bad. But it’s still hard.

But it’s not as hard as it used to be!  And this is a change.  There are times when we are driving by that I am so involved in conversation, or thought, that I don’t even realize I’ve gone by the church. God has graciously answered my prayer to bring to mind good memories from time to time.  We still have good relationships with many people we ministered to and with over the years, which brings up many good memories.

Mike is still not back in ministry.  I thought he would be.  I thought he would be after a year!  It’s been 3 and still no movement in that area. I don’t know what the future looks like, and I want to.  Three years ago I said that I never wanted to be a pastor’s wife again, but now I think I could do it again.  But that would require my husband to be a pastor, and so far that’s a no go.

God has given both Mike and me many new opportunities to minister to people in ways that are similar to what we did as a pastoral couple.  Mike teaches our Sunday School class regularly, where his gifts are utilized and appreciated and affirmed.  We have spoken together at a couples retreat, which is something we both love to do.  Mike continues to meet with a homebound man, and in a very real sense is his pastor even now.  I have had opportunities to counsel and encourage women, which is a passion I have always had in ministry.  

I had hoped there would be full reconciliation with all that happened that resulted in my husband's leaving the Pastorate, but that has yet to happen.  When I read the Bible, it looks to me like that is what God desires.  And it’s what I desire!  I don’t like conflict or relationships that are not right.  I like to work things out quickly and completely.  I don’t like to get that sinking feeling in my gut when I see certain people, or have my heart race and start to shake.  Yet all those things still happen.

Again, it’s not as bad as it used to be.  I learned years ago that if you pray for people…for a long time sometimes…it becomes easier.  Easier?  Yes! Easy?  NO!  My heart does not always race now.  I am often genuinely able to greet people with a smile, and sometimes even have a conversation. God has slowly but surely worked on my heart to bring healing so that I can honor Him in these situations.  Probably one of the biggest changes was that I was even able to attend a funeral at our former church this spring.  While I did experience all of the physical responses mentioned previously, I did not have to leave and I was able to calm down enough to show love to the dear sister in Christ whose husband had died.  I had an army of prayer warriors behind me that day, so I did not go into that sanctuary alone and unprepared.  And as we sang in a worship song last Sunday, I went in knowing that the God of angel armies was by my side.  (As well as my friend Misty!)  What a powerful picture, the God of angel armies there with me in the midst of a very emotionally hard situation!

So those are most of the things I can think of that haven’t changed.  There are other things that have. Mike and I have been overwhelmed many times by the friendships God has provided. Being asked to do normal things, like meet another couple for dinner to, or go to a 4th of July gathering, or hang out around a fire pit with friends for an evening. With people who like us and who we love to be around. What an encouragement this has been!

Our older kids are all doing great!  They have all had their own hard times as a result of these past few years, but the things I most feared, like them never wanting to go to church again or walking away from the faith, have not happened. It has been evident that God is working in their lives in powerful ways.  So I am able to rest satisfied in God, knowing that ultimately I will not be visited by harm.  But how can I be sure of this?

I can be sure because there is one more thing that has not changed, the most significant thing. Over the past couple months, God has repeatedly reminded me that He does not change. Specifically, His love does not change. Have you ever noticed how many times the phrase, “for his steadfast love endures forever,” appears in the Psalms?  I don’t know how many, but it’s a lot!  I was blown away by Psalm 136 as I read it a few weeks ago.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for His steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods, for His steadfast love endures forever.  Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for His steadfast love endures forever; to Him who alone does great wonders, for His steadfast love endures forever;     (verses 1-4)

It goes on like this for awhile, and then starts recounting events in history, from creation to the plagues in Egypt to the parting of the Red Sea and more.  Each verse ends with, “for his steadfast love endures forever.”  In every circumstance, good or bad, the steadfast love of the Lord endured forever.  And it still does for me.  So my psalm could go something like this.

To Him who created AVMs, for His steadfast love endures forever. To Him who brought together Mike and Karla in marriage, for His steadfast love endures forever. To Him who blessed us with children, for His steadfast love endures forever  And to Him who led us to do full time ministry, for His steadfast love endures forever. To Him who brought us low, for His steadfast love endures forever. And raised us up anew, for His steadfast love endures forever. To Him who delivered from depression, for His steadfast love endures forever.  …for His steadfast love endures forever.

Do you see the only thing that doesn’t change?  It is the steadfast love of God for His people. For me.  And for you, if you are trusting in Him, which sometimes is hard and doesn’t feel like we are doing it very well. He is always loving us well!

Psalm 136 ends like this:

It is He who remembered us in our low estate, for His steadfast love endures forever; and rescued us from our foes, for His steadfast love endures forever; He who gives food to all flesh, for His steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of heaven, for His steadfast love endures forever.

That’s it. It has been 3 long years for us, but God works in terms of eternity.  He has never wavered in His love and it goes on forever.  So when life gets hard, whatever that looks like, I know that I can rest in His love because it has always been and will always be the same.  Yes, I thank you, God of heaven, for Your steadfast love endures forever.

 

Karla Evans has been the wife of Mike for almost 30 years, and is the mother of 5 children, ages 10 to 24.  God has used the circumstances in her life to give her a heart to minister to others, especially women in hard circumstances.  You can check out her blog here: https://howlongolordblog.wordpress.com