Whole is my word for this year, a picture of completeness, a world and body unbroken, fullness, goodness, health, and peace.
I had no idea it would be put to the test before I was even ready for it. My husband Eric and I were knocked down for six weeks in late fall by COVID, enduring sleepless nights, anxiety, feeling terrible, and a few weeks scattered in there where Eric landed in the hospital for multiple stays.
When we came out of our storm, time seemed to stop when I was hit with crippling anxiety a few weeks into recovery. In came more restless nights and days, everything blurring together and a dark fog of fatigue and racing thoughts settling in.
I kept worship music on like a lifeline—the ones featuring lament and deep pain, as well as the powerful ballads that stood on the hope and truth of God’s deliverance and healing. When I had no strength at all, I threw up prayers to God and held on to a faith I couldn’t see.
The early weeks and months of 2022 offered no consolation, no assurance that all would be restored, and I wondered if this word of mine meant something completely different than what I had imagined.
How in the world could any wholeness come from what has been completely stripped apart?
A Way Within the Valley
Through the days that dragged on forever, the words of Peter that came to me on a walk one winter night, kept bumping into me—giving me something solid in a sea of uncertainty:
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while,
will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
1 Peter 5:10 New International Version
After a while, – whatever that while is – God himself will restore me. That’s a declaration, Peter says. A promise I can hold to, even if I don’t know how this plays out or what it looks like. Amidst the rolling of my mind and jolts of my heart and body, I look to God’s character and faithfulness, —another lifeline that led me to look for this restoration, this promise, to bring me to whole.
I’ve been expecting it to be an immediate action. When my suffering has reached its peak, and God is ready with his timing, that one day I’ll wake up and have every part of my pain will disappear and I will be fully healed, healthy and restored. This is what I’ve been counting on, as I slog through day by day, counting down the hours until bedtime because that’s where I finally feel a bit of normalcy and peace.
I’ve pleaded urgently with God, asking for him to take me out of my situation and make me better. To supernaturally intervene with immediate effect.
Yet, after months of the same cries for protection and deliverance, trying every method humanly possible to find answers, I understand slowly one Saturday morning that this really isn’t how it works. Instead, he gives me a journey through the dark, a way within the valley.
The Process of Restoration
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV
The definition of restore runs along the lines of bringing something back to its former position, repair or renovate to an original state. My husband is restoring his motorcycle; he’s taken out the engine, headlight, gauges, and practically every other piece. He repainted the gas tank to gray and handcrafted his own tail lights. Bit by bit, he’s putting this bike back together. It’s taken a while, but he’s steadily building and it’s beginning to look more like what he’s envisioned.
God has a vision for me too, that takes seasons of strain and seeking him in new and needed ways. To call on him with all my being, and invite him into these broken, scared places. He sees where I am, and what I am going through. And he knows where this is going.
Beauty in the Slow Build
Restoration takes time, care, and detail. For complete wholeness, there must be work and healing in individual places—my mind, and my body, my spirit and my heart. And in each place, God wants to do deep and lasting work that doesn’t simply cover the hurt or gloss over the past but transforms me as a whole person for authentic growth and greater strength.
My journey to wholeness is a process. I am learning that wholeness is not one fell swoop and all is well, but rather piece by piece, an important renovation that does not merely scratch the surface to get to the destination but is a deep dive excavating the hidden treasures of the dark along the way (Isaiah 45:3).
Do I ask for the way the Lord works his wholeness in me? No. Not in these sufferings, not in the unraveling. But do I trust that he knows the way through and promises to be with me in this? Yes, this I can stand on with certainty.
His ways are not my ways, and his thoughts certainly are higher than mine. So, I let him move in me, in the middle of my situation and pain, believing there is purpose, there is beauty in the slow build of this whole restoration. For a life unbroken, from being brought together again in ways I never could have imagined.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ,
after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
1 Peter 5:10 NIV
Strength in the suffering. Establishment from the brokenness. Firmness from a loving foundation. This is the way among the valley, the process of my restoration.