The Best of Times

I cannot recall a time when the worst of times didn't lead to the best

Last week was the worst. Three trials in my life weighed in on my family, and I was left feeling like I was at the end. But a very interesting sign caught my attention at just the right time. It gave me a good amount of hope, and I hope it gives you hope, too.

I wasn't sure about the "beautiful" part.

I wasn’t sure about the “beautiful” part.

I’m not sure why I hesitate to share that we’re struggling. There is probably a bit of pride wrapped up in it, but it’s more complicated than that. Our problems beg some explanation, but I don’t want to go there. We have tragedy in our life, it appears to be our normal, and I don’t care to revisit the details outside a close, face-to-face conversation.

But here are a few specifics, because I bet a little insight will help you understand how hope is still available in the midst of trials:

  1. On Tuesday, Wendy miscarried. We were hopeful for one more child, but when the cramping started, that hope was lost. Wendy is fine, but our hearts are heavy.
  2. On Thursday, a major business deal fell through. After a year of negotiations and major decisions, we are left having to redirect our family business. It’s like turning the Titantic, and we are unsure what the full impact will be. For now the disappointment is daunting.
  3. On Saturday, we were reminded of a year-long journey our family has suffered. We are still grieving the loss of adult children who have refused communication with us. We continue to pray for reconciliation, but our hope is growing faint.

Loss, disappointment, frustrating relationships — if you’re free from these trials, good for you. We haven’t escaped them. Here is the temptation we fight: close up, shut up, and just let others wonder what is wrong with us.

So there I was, groveling in my misery over the weekend, trying to get simple things done. Then a light shined in and gave me hope.

I was having a bit of an argument with God. Call me sacrilegious, but I was telling him that I did not want this pain in my life. See, I’m a writer, and God was telling me to be more honest and start writing about the trials in my life. It has been growing in my heart like a conviction, and I was rejecting it. My prayer went something like this:

“No, God. I want to write about my trials like I want a bullet through my foot.
Give me something happy and pristine to write about.

Give me a baby, not a miscarriage.
Give me a successful business, not a struggle.
Give me perfect children, not troubled ones.

Give these burdens to others, not me.
You will have to find someone else — I’m done.”

I was praying this prayer on the way to the post office. I was taking care of business, clunking along with my daily routine, feeling somewhat ashamed for telling God to cut me out of his plan. Then I drove by this church sign in Monument:

I am a pen in your hand

Just like God. In my point of despair, he throws me an encouraging word that reminds me that he’s in control, I’m going to be okay, and that I should just let it be. “Let me write this for you. Trust me, it is going to be beautiful.”

I pulled over and took a picture of the sign. It definitely caught my attention. I drive by that sign almost everyday without reading it, and they change the quote every week. It’s rather a miracle that I read it and that it spoke to what was on my mind. Even so, I was doubtful of that “beautiful” part.

I hate to admit it, but I was still feeling a bit raw. The sign seemed cheesy, like “spin.” Not much in my heart was “beautiful.”

Perhaps it was coincidence, but, still, I chose to reflect on the sign’s words. My circumstances were pretty bleak, but perhaps God was working something that I was missing? I started to think of other bleak moments in my life, and I couldn’t think of when those times didn’t turn out better. So I posted this on my Facebook wall when I returned home:

“The older I get, the more I am convinced the worst of times often leads to the best of times. Honestly, I struggle to think of when this wasn’t the case, and knowing this is encouraging.”

I tagged the “feeling happy” emoticon. Now that was spin, because I definitely was not happy.

But I wanted to be. I wrote that which I needed to hear myself. I feel like I’m at the end of my rope, but I must believe the best is near. Past trials have always made me stronger, transforming me into a better person. Tragedy may be my norm, but there is no doubt that there is beauty in the tragedy.

I bet you understand, as many of my friends do. I received many “LIKES” from my “best of times” post, and I took a moment to scroll through their names. I was reminded of their trials:

  • Several friends with children of disabilities, one whose son is dying of a rare disease, and dealing with that is their normal.
  • Several friends have former spouses who decided to start new lives without them, and divorce is their normal.
  • Several friends who are suffering with debilitating sickness that is turning their lives upside-down, a new normal of the most vicious type.
  • A few friends who, like me, have lost contact with loved ones, hoping with all their hearts for reconciliation, but their normal is dysfunction and disenfranchisement from those they love.

I suspect a lot of people understand, you get it. Trials are hard, but they lead to the best of times. I dare say they always do.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Kendra Fletcher

    Such good truth here. Thanks, Chris.

  • Eleanor Katherine Skelton

    But it is okay to grieve and feel sad, even if you are hoping for the best. Forcing yourself to feel happy anyway isn’t healthy.