This past winter has probably been the most difficult I’ve experienced so far in my short time on earth. It was brutally cold, so cold that the office shut down for two days in a row and our furnace couldn’t keep up. My roommates and I hunkered down most of the winter in blankets and restlessness.

The cold seeped into my spirit. Anxiety, depression, apathy, and frustration with myself and life made a messy home among my fragile emotions and hopes for the future. My spiritual life was a battle – it was a fight to have focused times with God and actively stay in the Bible.

My body became my enemy. I was diagnosed with a chronic condition and faced odd complications that didn’t get much of a clear answer. I was shuffled around to specialists and tests. I railed against God, cried often, and relied heavily on my family, friends, and boyfriend for encouragement. I felt lonely.

My struggles with food addiction continued despite desires to stop, pursue obedience and holiness. I had some good days and mostly bad ones. I was unhappy with myself.

Work brought some more stress to contend with. My motivation was difficult to sustain when all these other things were weighing me down.

Most of all, I felt lame. Like, I’ve been following Jesus now for almost 13 years, went to Bible college, work at a church, and am in leadership for a ministry, and yet here I am struggling to have joy and not freak out or be depressed or struggle struggle struggle.

Spring seemed far away. My future–where I would be out of this season, happier, sturdier, brighter–was a desperate grasping, agonizing waiting stone that was settled into my stomach. I longed to be OUT of this.

It was a heavy winter.

Spring has now come. The air is brighter and warmer and happier. The sun is a friend. Layers have been shed and the electric bill is down (praise Him). It’s easier to have joy.

Did my problems go away? Not really. Thankfully, some of the health issues have abated. I’ve got a break from doctors for now.

And, my loving boyfriend asked me to marry him. Life is looking up, looking ahead. I can’t wait to be together.

Did God carry me through? Yes. Is He trustworthy? Yes. Is life hard and dark and sad and painful? Yes, at times.

Is God still present even when we are in fear and pain? My shepherd is kind and gracious and gentle and has my hand even when I walk through valleys. I’m never alone in those valleys, though. We walk through them together. He leadeth me.

I don’t think it’s wrong to want out of painful times. Nobody wants to have to deal with the brokenness and sin in this world in such a personal manner. It’s a reminder that things are not the way they are supposed to be, that Jesus is coming back to rend and remake the world and be with us forever. Our savior is coming back for us.

For the first time, I’ve experienced this feeling in a deeply intimate way. Doctors appointments, physical weakness, fear of my own body betraying me. I’ve leaned into God more these past months than probably ever before. I’ve also realized that life is not about getting through with the least amount of pain or scars. It is much more than that.

Knowing, loving, and following Jesus is my goal, my purpose. He is my all, my source of life and truth and all things.

It’s been a journey of more conflicting emotions and thoughts than usual. I know the future doesn’t mean an escape from all these hard things, but I do know that no pain will last forever. And God uses all things for his good ends and purposes, always loving me through it.

I’ve found great comfort in Paul’s reminder to the Romans:
“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom 8:32)

I have everything in Christ. All I need for life and faithfulness has already been given to me. I have been given gifts of great blessing, God’s presence and family and the church and meaningful work and truth and eyes to see and ears to hear and love. No matter what happens to me physically, I am secure and held fast. He has me. He has given me everything.

The diamond on my finger is a reminder of the sealing, binding love of my fiancee. It points to the immeasurable bond I have with my Savior, who gave Himself up for me and is coming back someday soon to collect His bride, the Church. Hope is not lost, even if winter dulls it or hides it for a while.

Spring is always a guarantee. New life is coming, and in many ways, it is already here.