Sometimes life is difficult.

Sometimes those things we hold on to seem faint, like watermarks on our lives instead of bright new tattoos. Sometimes life is hard.

A few years ago my husband and I walked through something unexpected and difficult. In my mind I knew that suffering in life was inevitable but like some spoilt child I imagined that suffering was not something would have to actually walk through.

There were times in that very dark season of our lives when I thought the lack of light might swallow me whole and never spit me out again. No one could prepare me for the sadness (mine or my husband’s – I’m not sure which was worse for me) and nothing anyone said seemed to penetrate the dark; not their prayers, nor their ‘kind’ words, nor their insistence that all should be well with my soul because of God. I heard none of it. I built a wall so thick that all I could hear were my own tears.

And then a story…

Sometime in the midst of that hardship a friend was praying with me and gave me a picture that only I could relate to – you know the kind that other people would think is bizarre and yet it speaks to you with such clarity that you burst into an ugly cry? (Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about) You see, I’m a story lover. Stories speak to me like few other things do. And in the middle of that awful time where I felt so alone and wretched, God used the one thing that might show me he was there. That picture was as if, standing there in that dark place, I felt the squeeze of someone’s hand in mine; a bigger, stronger hand that knew the way out.

I took that picture and wrote it into a story that helped me work through the darkness. I often go back to it, to remind myself of God’s love for me in that dark time because unlike I did in the past, I know hard times will come again.

I also know that I don’t have to weather those times alone – even though it might feel like I am alone; even though the mark of God on my life might feel faint and insubstantial; even though I am surrounded by darkness.

It’s been a few years since I had to walk that badly hewn path. I still bare some slowly healing scars. Coming through it, I feel new. I feel stronger and I laugh because when I was dealing with all of that ‘stuff’ I would never have imagined I would feel like this. Smiles are cherished things in our house. We feel like victors in a war – things came so close to falling apart and yet here we are, whole… and happy.

Is it easy for me to say that God will be with you (and me) in the dark times to come? Yes and no. Yes, because I know he is there despite the fact that I cannot see him and no, because I know nothing but God can convince you of his presence in that dark place. I have my story to cling to, a story he tells over and over in my life and the lives of my friends. It’s a story of his great devotion towards me. A story of rescue.

Sometimes life is difficult. Today has been one of those days, where the truth is faint and my soul is heavy. It’s nothing like that dark time, it’s just a shadow of it, but nonetheless it was a day of almost forgetting the story, the gospel.

And then the story…

He whispers it to me when I’m least expecting it and I feel his breath on my cheek. My sadness is undone in those moments and my spiritual amnesia is banished. I remember who holds my hand.

Thank you God for stories.