Last week, my family and I headed out for our annual trip to South Carolina to see my brother and his family. We were somewhat exhausted beginning our trip as we had a lot of details to be figured out and work to be done before we could be ready to leave our home for 2 weeks. In typical fashion, we got everything done just in time, and we were looking forward to a little R & R.
We were having a nice visit with family when we received the call on Saturday night that my horse had been severely injured. As I sat and talked with the vet, I was legitimately worried that my horse would need to be put down. I was a 13 hour drive from home with a little over a week left of our trip. I was helpless to do anything other than make phone calls to people who could help in my stead.
We made the decision to come home a week early, driving straight through to get home in one day. Monday night I was able to see, in person, the extent of the damage. It was bad. It was ugly. It was a little frightening. My horse (Marcy) was scared.
Marcy had somehow crushed the bone structure that protects and supports her right eye. Her eye now sits in a different location on her face than it should. The damage was extensive – the worst injury my vet has seen for a long time. It was obvious that Marcy could see very little, if anything, out of her right eye. She would startle if I touched her from her right side because she could not see me coming. It broke my heart.
I was exhausted from worrying and crying. I had to repack to come home before we had even settled in on vacation. I was worn out from traveling all day with two kids. I was disappointed that we had to leave our vacation way too early and miss out on the extra time spent with my brother and his family. Above it all, I was carrying the burden of not knowing what to do with Marcy.
I asked myself questions like, Do I put her down so she does not have to suffer? Does she have a chance at recovering? If she recovers, will she be able to have a happy, healthy life? This is the first time in my life that I can remember actually being sick with worry.
I was worn out and I felt a huge responsibility on my shoulder to make the right decision. The decision of life vs. death was in my hands. To the non-animal lover, this decision may not seem excruciating, but I have a deep-rooted aversion to taking the life of anything larger than an inch long, let alone a dear “friend” that has been with me for well over half my life.
As I was driving home on Monday, I had plenty of time to think. The more I thought, the deeper my sadness and anxiety grew as I dwelled on what I would find at home and my disappointment over the trip. Amidst the looming darkness, I received a text from a friend (the one who had originally discovered Marcy with her injury).
It read, “My prayers are with you. It’s difficult during times like this, but watch your focus. To spend too much time looking at earthly things ends up disconnecting us from the One who is Peace.”
Initially, I was irritated to receive this text because it felt like a reprimand. I realize now that the only reason it felt like a reprimand was because his words of truth illuminated my situation and clashed with my current focus. I had been dwelling on everything earthly related and I was slowly being dragged by my thoughts away from God, who is Peace. The enemy was succeeding in bring me low, but God used my friend to reorient my focus. Within moments of reading the text, my thoughts began changing and I was seeing clearer and brighter – even though my circumstances had not changed. Even though the words initially felt like a slap, I knew I could trust the person who had said the words. Therefore, I began searching my own heart so I could recognize where I was in error and where I needed to heed his words.
“Wounds from a friend can be trusted” (Proverbs 27:6).
Like my horse that was frightened whenever I would touch her on the side she could not see from, so are the circumstances that touch us and affect us when our sight is skewed. If our focus is on earthly things (an injured horse, fertility problems, relationship problems, financial problems, etc.), will we be frightened or dismayed when things come our way. If, however, we take all of the tough things of life (big or small) to God and talk to him about them and ask him to help us see clearly, don’t you believe he is anxious to answer that plea?
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
Focusing on the problem does nothing to produce or assist in finding the solution. The solution to all of life’s woes is found in leaning on God to uphold you and fight for you. As long as our focus remains on Him, we are safe and nothing in this life can shake us too deeply – at least not for very long.
I do not mean to oversimplify or trivialize the deep, heart-wrenching circumstances that some have to endure. Life is just plain difficult sometimes. My husband was trying to help me process the myriad of circumstances that had been thrown our way recently, as we drove home on Monday. I told him, “I am okay to just acknowledge that life just sucks right now.” I was not interested in looking for the bright side or trying to figure things out. I just needed to acknowledge that life was currently sucky. In that declaration, though, was a hidden trust and resolve to let God speak and guide me out of the muck. I knew that God agreed that the present circumstances sucked, but I found freedom in knowing that sucky circumstances were not the end of the story.
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Calling some of life’s circumstances “light and momentary” can feel like a slap in the face if our focus is solely on earthly things. God knows that these things do not feel light or momentary to us. God enters into our pain with us and offers true healing. He also knows that life is hard, and he knows that we were not made for this world alone. He is committed to bringing about as much good as possible from the awful circumstances the enemy brings (Romans 8:28, Genesis 50:20).
I still do not know if I will need to put my horse down, but I am at peace because I know that death is a part of life here on earth. I have had some time to come to grips with that reality. I know that God will show me the way to go, and I know that he will give me the strength to endure whatever comes my way. I know that I can declare that life is sucky and God understands, but he is also committed to making sure I do not park my mind on the suckiness of life.
As an added curve ball, as I was teary-eyed and driving home from South Carolina this past Monday, the fertility center called to inform me that my chances of getting pregnant WITH MEDICINE are 5-7%. That means that my chances of getting pregnant without medicine are very slim. We are at the end of the line when it comes to using medicine to assist us. We will not be using medicine any longer.
Focusing on earthly things: That sucks! (Sorry. I had to use that word one last time.)
Focusing on things above: God, you know my heart. You know my desires. Help me to want what you want and trust you to do what is best with my life. My life is not my own. You paid an excruciating price to buy my freedom. I am yours. You are good. I trust you.
“Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2).