In a world of continual loss, what can I count on? Can I trust anything to be unchangeable?
For years, I assumed there were things I could depend on. Things that would be there when I grew old. Things like my marriage. My children. My health and independence. My intellect. Financial security. A fulfilling career. Deep friendships. I built my identity around many of these things, certain I wouldn’t lose them.
But I did lose many of them. Often unexpectedly. Losses started piling up in my early thirties and didn’t stop.
Our infant son Paul’s death was a huge shock, as my long-held assumption that my family would somehow be protected from disaster was shattered. Well-meaning people kept assuring me when Paul’s heart condition was discovered during my pregnancy that nothing bad would happen if I trusted God and prayed fervently. It all depended on my faith. So I prayed and trusted and begged God to give me the faith I needed.
But standing at Paul’s grave, I was jolted into the realization that nothing is certain. A strong faith does not shield me from loss. God knows what’s best for me and all he brings into my life is for my eternal joy.
I still hold onto that truth, yet it is only in retrospect that I can find comfort in it. In the moment of loss, I feel overwhelmed. I want to cling to what I had.
I’m currently struggling with health challenges and I often find that I can’t do today what I could do yesterday. Even though I see the deterioration, I keep hoping that I will retain the strength I have. I keep thinking that I can protect myself from further loss. But the sad reality is, I can’t.
While I been dealing with post-polio for years, the slow losses are still difficult to adjust to. Just when I think I can handle the way things are, something new comes up and I am forced to reevaluate. Should I try to leave the house less? Should I stop cooking? Should I stop driving?
This uncertainty feels very unsettling for me. I want a guarantee. That I’ll always be able to walk. Or hold a pen. Or even just feed myself.
But nothing is guaranteed in this life. Nothing in this world is sure. Nothing, that is, but God. God is the only constant in life. He is our Rock. He is the only one that will be with us all the days of our life. And he will not be taken away.
The story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10: 38-42 beautifully depicts this reality. Martha was anxious about many things. The dinner. Being a good hostess. Meeting everyone’s needs. Getting help from Mary.
I understand Martha’s frenzy. Hungry people needed to be fed. Things needed to be done. There was no time to waste. Yet Martha didn’t ask Jesus what he needed; she assumed she knew.
Mary simply hungered for Jesus. She needed his food; he didn’t need hers. Mary had chosen the good portion, which would not be taken away.
This passage has become especially poignant as my body weakens. I often feel like a burden as I need help with the simplest of tasks. I can no longer serve others; I depend on them to serve me. I can’t feed a group of friends; sometimes I struggle to feed my family. Hospitality, which I once enjoyed, can be difficult. I used to be a Martha, but no longer.
So Jesus words are more precious than ever. Even with my failing body, I can sit at his feet. I can learn from him. I can enjoy his presence. It is the best place to be and it will never be taken away.
No one is exempt from suffering. All of us will experience loss in this life. When we do, we have two choices. We can fixate on our losses, get angry and even walk away from God because he didn’t give us the life we wanted. We can assume that prayer doesn’t work and that there’s no point to faith.
Or we can accept that this world is full of loss and turn to the One who can fill our souls. The One who gives us “the good portion.” A portion that will never be taken away. That is consumed with loving Jesus and finding joy in his presence. A portion that far outweighs any loss.
Graham Kendrick’s worship song, Knowing You, keeps ringing in my head. Kendrick saw that knowing Christ was far better than anything in the world. He says:
All I once held dear, built my life upon All this world reveres, and wars to own All I once thought gain I have counted loss Spent and worthless now, compared to this
Knowing you, Jesus Knowing you, there is no greater thing You're my all, you're the best You're my joy, my righteousness And I love you, Lord
I have been given the good portion. And it will never be taken away.