I have been told many times that my family was living a Job story. I don't know about that, but I do know why they think that. You see, the Prairie family has suffered more than our fair share. Actually, that statement itself is not fair, is it? We can't say, "God, use me. You are in control of my life. I want to be who You want me to be. You lead the way & I will follow. I will stay faithful to You", & expect Him to not use us or put us to the test.
I just didn't expect how He was going to use us, how He was going to work in us or what all He was going to ask of us. So, I am sad to say I have felt doubt at giving God free reign in my life at times. As sincere as I was at those times of surrender, would I do it again if I knew what lay ahead in life? Now, I am not saying that my prayers caused the death of my siblings, but, if my parents & siblings weren't so passionate to be used by God, & hadn't exampled that to me encouraging my own passion, would God still have allowed the extent of trials & grief in our lives that He did? Would He have stepped in & only allowed the more gentle trials if we hadn't given ourselves over to His will & surrendered all? When I miss my brothers a lot, I do have some of these thoughts seep in, but one sobering question also comes: "Would I choose NOT to fully give my life to Christ to do with as He chooses if I knew then what I know now?".
No, I don't think I would, at least, I hope I wouldn't. After all, I believe He gave His son to die for me. How could I take that gift, believe He is God, & refuse to allow Him control? God's ways are not my ways, but His ways are perfect & I've even been able to see how perfectly He works sometimes, so even in the things I don't understand, He is worthy of trust. He gave me life, & I want to give it back to Him.
I truly don't understand why I have had to lose 4 brothers, though - or why my parents had to lose 4 children. But, if God wants that to be part of my story, I have a responsibility to be who He wants me to be & do what He wants me to do through it. I don't know if I am where He wants me, but I am going to continue to be open to His molding & willing to serve where He wants. Not only do I desperately want to hear God say 'Well done', but my children are watching me. I have a huge responsibility to example grace & trust (& more) because I do not want to taint or harm their relationship with God. I do not want them to live in a household with bitterness, either. They are a great motivation, but selfishness or anxiety threaten to crumble my resolve at times.
I miss my brothers more than I can say. I miss Mark calling me every day, whether I had time to talk or not :). I miss Steve doing sports, shopping & projects with me. I miss how Philip thought I was worthy to hang out with when I was little & how he was a hero to many. I miss what could have been with Jonathon. I don't understand why there has had to be death, suffering, diseases, job losses, medical bills, certain challenges/hurts unique to a Pastor & his family, best friends who had to move across the country, unfair circumstances, betrayal, abuse or rape within our family. I hurt for my parents who have had to watch their children go through tragedies. Not that they didn't protect us from many of the things they had to live through, because they loved us fiercely & gave us a storybook family life. But, as much as they have undergone personally, I know the worst thing for them is when their kids suffer - especially when they are powerless to fix whatever it is they are suffering from. But, their unwavering faith encourages me to stay with what I know is right, & that is that we are here to fulfill God's purpose & life isn't about me & my wants. That brings me back to remembering that I can choose only this - "I'm yours, God".
In more recent years I have sung Mercy Me's words with trepidatious sincerity, "...I know there'll be days when this life brings me pain, but if that's what it takes to praise You, Jesus bring the rain." I want to mean this & to want what God wants more than what I want, but the fact that I have to continue to say that I choose the ways God has for me is proof that I am weak. I am scared to say this more, because I am ready to be pain free. I am ready for my brothers, parents, husband, sisters-n-law, children, nieces & nephews to be pain free. I do not want any more losses or hurts added to my experiences. And to be brutally vulnerable, I am terrified of the loss of more special people in my life. I am terrified I will be alone without any loved ones. Without the friendship, the relationships, the support, the laughs, the fun....everything. It's a daunting thought to me. It's an insecure feeling to have had your circle of family & friends change so drastically.
But, here's the thing: while some people call us a modern day Job family, I know there is much more suffering in the world than I have had to endure. Even more than my parents have had to endure, I suppose. Maybe even more than Steve who had to struggle for breath for months & face the fact that he was going to be leaving his kids & wife, & saying good-bye to his siblings & parents. Maybe more than my nieces & nephews who had to finish growing up without a father. So, what really has God asked of me?
He has only asked me to be part of a large, incredible family for many years that I loved dearly, & then to have to say good-bye to some of them temporarily. I would never, ever give up what I had, even though it's so hard when I miss it - it was a beautiful gift from God & who am I to say He can't take His gifts when He wants to? And, yes, there have been some pretty hard other trials to face or stand by why my loved ones faced them, but some people have been tortured & martyred for loving God. I don't have that fear as an American. Some people have had abuse by their family or friends - I just have to live without mine for awhile & there's never even been a fear of abuse from them.
There is too much suffering others have had to go through in their lives to even comprehend, but, suffice it to say, "Hasn't God actually been pretty gentle with me?". The faith & trust of other Christians who have suffered for Christ or endured horrendous happenings amazes me & helps dissipate fear & anxieties of future storms in my own life. It also helps to accept the storms that have already come. I thank God for their example & I need to focus on praying more for the tragedies they are going through. Even if I don't know of specific situations, I can be aware of the kinds of things a lot of people are facing around the world. Of course, there are tragedies right next door, as well, & Christians who keep their eyes on Christ through it all.
So, I have no excuse to be selfish with my life. I have God, I have examples other Christians have set before me & therefore no reason to contemplate what my life could be like if I tried to maintain control or reason to think I've suffered too much. For one thing, my control is limited. For another, my circumstances could be exactly the same whether I surrendered to God or not. I would much rather go through the trials with a life that is being molded by God or used by God, than fight against God's will for my life.
Quite a cycle of hurt, trust, fear, selfishness, awareness, trust again, anxiety, surrender, etc., etc.... The anxieties & then the resolve to trust God may repeat itself for awhile yet. One of the two brothers I have left is battling cancer right now. My dad is acting as if he has Alzheimer's or Dementia & he is already different from the dad I could always rely on for answers or to fix things. I honestly don't know what our family structure will look like, even in the near future, but I can remember God's ways are perfect. I can remember my life is His to do with as He wants. I can remember to rejoice in suffering because He is refining me. I can remember with gratefulness all the protection He has provided us & sorrow He has saved me & my family from. I can keep choosing to be used by Him the way He wants me to. I can remember that if we do live a Job story, I should count it all joy & a privilege to serve God. I can remember the trials many people have to go through in this life will soon be replaced with the perfectness of heaven. And, I will remember there is suffering far greater than my own. If I fail to remember these things, please remind me.