Like most women, I have faced many difficult trials throughout my life. What has steadied me and brought me through with hope? The Word of God and the Word made flesh. I cannot imagine what my life would have held if not for this anchor for my soul, this wisdom, and the promised presence of Jesus through it all.
In my previous article, “Women’s Bible Study, Where Are You?” posted on 3/3/23, I expounded on the case for women’s Bible study—how Paul recognized the need for women to teach other women the Word of God for its practical application to their lives. The following is my testimony, partial for sure, of how God used His Word to provide hope in my dire need of divine wisdom.
In my early 20’s, I had four children in eight years. The first time I ever read the Scriptures was at the age of 16, so I was a true novice. I soon discovered that the Bible held the truth I needed about these little humans and what family life should look like. I had joined a weekly women’s Bible study which provided an in-depth look into either the epistles of Paul, the gospels, or one of the major Old Testament historical books. There I learned about being created in the image of God, the fall of mankind, original sin, and how everyone was born into this world with a sinful nature.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” – Romans 3:23 (NIV)
This knowledge helped me navigate through raising little sinners who, to my shock and surprise, did not want to behave like Scripture taught! And in response, I found myself not responding in the right ways to their tiny rebellions and mutinies. The prevailing childrearing teaching of the 80’s was that children were born basically good, and they just needed a healthy self-image to behave themselves. However, these ideas did not bear witness to the reality of what I saw in my own children.
During their naptimes, I had to look up verses about losing one’s temper, being quarrelsome, outbursts of anger, and the need to repent of these weaknesses of character. I saw that, as a parent, I was called to teach my children the ways of the Lord, to nurture and train them with gentle discipline. The doctrine of “original sin” is the only one we can prove by simple observance of human behavior, both ours and that of others.
Do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:4 (NIV)
Yes, we are fallen creatures, fallen from the image of God. But I learned that the Holy Spirit of God is sent to teach, comfort, and transform us into the image of Jesus Christ. By observing other women raising their older children in the ways of the Lord, I gleaned needed wisdom from them and applied it to my own growing family.
Throughout my life I faced threatening health issues. At age 17, I was diagnosed with cancer and went through surgery to remove it. In my late 20’s, it cropped up its ugly head again, so I had radioactive iodine treatment to destroy the remaining cancer cells. During this time, I saw in my Bible that Scripture taught “children were gifts from the Lord,” not burdens. God promised needed strength, and I learned to continually give thanks to God that I was even able to bear four children in-between these life-threatening trials.
“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.” – Psalm 127:3 (NIV)
Drowning in laundry, chores, my kids’ school homework, and sibling rivalry, I found myself again complaining about the tedious workload of family life. “Lord, is this really my calling in life? To fold Nicky’s tiny t-shirts which takes no brains whatsoever?”
Serving Wholeheartedly, As If Serving the Lord, Not People (Ephesians 6:7)
In my mid-30’s, I was diagnosed with a large cyst on my ovary the size of a grapefruit, so I underwent surgery again to remove the mysterious mass. When I woke up, I feared the worst—that I had lost my ovaries and my uterus due to cancer. My petty complaints suddenly turned to desperate pleas: “Lord, if I am not around anymore, who will take joy in folding Nicky’s tiny t-shirts?” Thankfully, it was a non-cancerous dermoid cyst that was easily removed, and one of my ovaries had been spared.
In Paul’s teaching to the church at Colossea, I learned how all work is noble whether tedious or not. He encourages us to perform our work “heartily, as unto the Lord rather than for men” for He sees all and will reward our work done for Him, “for it is the Lord Christ whom I serve” (Col. 3:24, NASB). This promise transformed my attitude toward monotonous labor and freed me from complaining.
Up until my early 40’s, I had been plagued with a wavering insecurity before God. Confidence and boldness did not describe me, but instead I had this nagging feeling that the Lord barely tolerated me. I knew I was saved because I believed the gospel, but I wondered if in Heaven I would be just a wallflower and God would be stuck with me only because I had the golden ticket of faith.
During that time, the women in our church were studying the epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. The truths I uncovered verse by verse in chapter one alone challenged all my wrong thinking. By following a plan of homework in weekly Bible study, we looked up cross references all over the Old and New Testaments. In doing this, we learned how to uncover the whole counsel of God and its endless treasure of promises throughout.
“In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” – Ephesians 3:12 (NIV)
In Ephesians chapter one, I learned that God willingly chose me and placed me in Christ as holy and blameless through the blood of Jesus’ forgiveness. I was not only born again into His family, but also adopted through Jesus according to His good pleasure. I was wholly accepted by Him! God desired to lavish His grace upon me, not just now on earth, but in the ages to come. Forever and ever, He would show me the surpassing riches of His grace with tender kindness (Eph. 2:7). I could never have imagined such an eternal inheritance that awaited me.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” – Ephesians 1:3 (NIV)
God used His words of truth to transform me from a flickering candle to a beloved child with a burning heart for my Savior, Christ Jesus. Studying Ephesians planted truths into my soul that imparted God’s heart towards me, and the seeds bore fruit that still nourish my faith decades later. I can now say with confidence, “I am my Savior’s darling” (J. Keble).
I continued to struggle with whether to believe every feeling that passed through my mind like a storm-driven black cloud. God’s Word stood fixed and shining bright, enabling me to see the truth clearly. Scripture taught me a realistic view of suffering. Isaiah 53 spoke about the anguish Jesus suffered to die for our sins, and so I eventually learned to dispel the lies that God was greatly displeased with me and that was why He sent more trials into my life.
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5 (NIV)
Like Seed Grown on Good Soil, Hearing the Word, Accepting It, and Producing a Crop More Than What Was Sown (Mark 4:20)
So much of personal Bible study is implanting seeds of truth into our hearts that will grow to blossom much later. Often, we might not be in great need of a particular passage of Scripture, but we cultivate its truths deep within, so when the time comes and we find ourselves wilting from the heat, those roots will already be growing deep in order to ground us firmly in hope.
Such was the case in my mid-40’s. I had studied 1 Peter years prior in our weekly women’s study, but the hope I read about was not readily applied until I was diagnosed a third time with re-occurring cancer. After 18 years in remission, I was shocked at the new diagnosis. This time, a massive dose of radiation was ordered by the doctor. My children were now high school and college age, and my pleas were, “Please Lord, let me live to see the fruit of my labors! I want to see them get married, have children, and I want to enter the joys of grandmotherhood!”
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)
The first dose did not eradicate all the cancer, so another massive dose was called for by the nuclear medicine doctors. But as I waited months for the results of the treatment, I watched my twin brother die of AIDS and saw my mom and brother go through chemo for their own battles with cancer. The acute turmoil I suffered can hardly be revisited without tears. My joy and peace were nowhere to be found, so I meditated on the verses penned by Peter in his first chapter, trying to comprehend how I was to rejoice in these various trials as he mentions in verse 6.
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” – 1 Peter 1:6-7 (NIV)
I read his descriptions of fiery trials as being grievous suffering and distressing, causing great heaviness. Such comfort I received affirming the reality of my own experience!
Then I discovered how my joy is based on the truths found in verses 3 through 6, that I have been “born again to a living hope through Jesus’ resurrection, my eternal inheritance is imperishable, reserved in heaven and will never fade away.” I rested my hope fully on the shed blood of Christ to cover me, and that is where I found my promised peace and joy of my salvation once again. I learned the secret to “just lie passive in God’s Hand and know no will but His.” (Plummer).
There are countless times that God used His Word to expand my wavering faith. I found myself “hanging upon Jesus’ every word” (Luke 19:48, NASB) to survive every dark valley I walked through. His promises brought the needed light to take the next step. He nurtures the seeds within my heart to bear fruit a hundredfold. His Word is the life-giving bread that restores my soul and rejoices my heart, just like my twelve grandchildren.
Indeed, the Word made flesh has become my closest Companion.
“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.'” – John 6:66-68 (NIV)