“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” – James 1:2-4
On October 15, 2011, Gerard and I stood before our family and friends vowing to love one another, “For better or worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.” It was one of the best days of my life. I know it’s pretty cliché, but it truly was. It was something most girls dream of – marrying their best friend. But when I said my vows I was focused only on the good stuff. I mean, marriage is supposed to be all roses, right? (Insert laughing emoji here)
Even though we went to premarital counseling, I wasn’t prepared to deal with the reality that marriage is work. HARD WORK at that. So when the not-so-good side of marriage showed up at my door, I didn’t know how to handle it. Better yet I didn’t think I could handle it. I even contemplated leaving our union behind in my mind. But I knew that was the easy way out. I was just so confused. That was until I started to think about my vows and the promise I made to God.
At this point I found myself clutching the armrest of my counselor’s couch as I sat emotionally numb and broken. My irritated tear ducts were accompanied by red, dry eyes. With Gerard sitting to the left of me all I remember asking her was, “Why me?” At that moment I hated the counselor’s response…“Why not you?” She proceeded to tell me a true story about an amazing little girl that has forever impacted my life completely.
An angel here on Earth, whom I’ve never met, was bothered by a tummy ache. She kept telling her mom about the constant discomfort. But all of her nagging went without attention as her mom thought she was just playing. Months went by and the pain never stopped and continued to intensify. One day, her mom realized she wasn’t playing and was in extreme pain. She knew something wasn’t right. After the doctor performed a thorough examination, the prognosis wasn’t good. In fact, it was a parent’s worst nightmare. The big C. Cancer.
Shortly after completing a grueling treatment, her mom pushed her frail body into the elevator. As the doors closed she began to get sick. Her support system proceeded to clean her up and provided her with comfort. Little did they know, she was about to provide comfort to them. When they finished cleaning her up she looked up at both of them and said, “I know why God gave this to me.”
In awe of her random-yet-profound statement, they hesitantly asked “Why baby?”
With innocence and strength in her voice she replied with the most powerful statement, “Because I can handle it!”
As my counselor ended the story with the little girl’s response, “Because I can handle it,” my ugly cry began. My emotions were all over the place, but that one statement felt like God was comforting me in that very moment. Telling me I could handle my situation. It gave me clarity and strength to face the reason I was sitting on the couch in the first place.
Going through the roughest season in my marriage this past January has been a great teacher. The “for worse” I was experiencing was actually “for better.” Even though I couldn’t see it at the moment since it was camouflaged as pain. But when I shifted my focus it allowed God to heal two broken people from the inside out. Breaking barriers in our lives and allowing us to fix the foundation we were building on.
Of course we would’ve loved for God to wave a magic wand, fixing every broken place in our lives. Instead, we had to go through the fire. A place where we had to be completely dependent on God to get us through. Yes, it was difficult. But when we didn’t think we were strong enough to handle it, God was our strength. He’s brought us through the fire without a stench of smoke.
We say all the time now that we hate the situation happened, but we’re glad it did. Amazing things came from it. For our relationship to span over 11 years, and this being the best one ever is a true testimony. God’s faithfulness was at hand as He restored and reinvented two broken people, creating something beautiful.
At some point, you too will face circumstances which seem impossible to bear. They’ll keep you up at night or cause you to cry yourself to sleep. It’ll feel like your world is crumbling around you. Trust me when I say don’t throw in the towel. There is something greater on the other side. Just ask me how I know.
This week is one of celebration for The Littlejohns. The fact that I did handle the “for worse” is something to celebrate. But the icing on the cake is I’m blessed and honored to get the chance of celebrating six years of marriage to my best friend.
So the next time you feel like you want to give up, think of the little girl’s profound words and know you can handle it!